Do you think that the message of Shakespeare's Macbeth is as relevant today as it was in Elizabethan Times?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lord Acton once said, "Power tends to corrupt.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely."  This idea that there is a corrosive element to the acquisition of power and within the concept itself is highly relevant in Macbeth, and is very meaningful in modern setting.  MacBeth's ambition, the influences on it, and the lengths to which he goes to realize it represent some very human elements when we examine how power can feature a morally and spiritually rotten element.  All types of leaders have to struggle with the fundamental element of how to control one's ambition.  We have seen multiple examples of business leaders and corporation executives make decisions where ambition was unregulated and material desire unchecked.  These decisions might have been beneficial in the short term, but featured economically tragic conditions.  There have been numerous examples of elected leaders assuming power and acting on their own sensibilities of unchecked ambition.

Even on a personal level, MacBeth's downward spiral to moral oblivion is relevant.  One of the most powerful elements of the play is how the main character finds himself on a type of ethical slippery slope, where moral degradation becomes more evident with each passing act.  There are many situations where individuals in their own lives face such scenarios and must either prevent their own participation, or try to stop the syndrome from greater escalation.  One interesting component in all of this is how we, as individuals, accept and take counsel from those with whom we share the most intimate of bonds.  The relationship between MacBeth and Lady Macbeth, where the latter plays a role in instigating much of the former, is something that is also relevant.  The idea of accepting counsel, but also engaging in reflection to decide if this is actually the right or correct form of counsel is essential.  Here again, we see through the play, that the decisions are one's own, and while other factors may influence it, the individual has to assume sole responsibility for their actions.  Certainly, MacBeth does, and we do also.