Need feedback and differing opinions. Is political assassination like the one in Macbeth ever justified? Why?Need feedback and differing opinions. Is political assassination like the one in Macbeth...

Need feedback and differing opinions. Is political assassination like the one in Macbeth ever justified? Why?

Need feedback and differing opinions. Is political assassination like the one in Macbeth ever justified? Why?

Asked on by roqman

4 Answers

sagesource's profile pic

sagesource | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

It is incorrect to characterize the killing of Duncan by Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as a political assassination. The motivation for the action had nothing political in it; it was simply the seizure of power for personal advantage and advancement. Macbeth admits this to himself when he is turning over the idea in his mind in Act I, Scene 7:

I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself
And falls on the other—

The only change he wishes to make to the state is to replace Duncan with himself as its ruler.

The emptiness and selfishness of Macbeth's plot is thrown into relief by the characters in another Shakespeare play that deals with the killing of a ruler: Julius Caesar. We need only quote a few words from Brutus to show the difference between Macbeth's plan of assassination for personal profit and Brutus' reluctant consent to murder for the good of the state (or so he believes):

It must be by his death, and, for my part,
I know no personal cause to spurn at him,
But for the general. He would be crown'd:
How that might change his nature, there's the question.
It is the bright day that brings forth the adder
And that craves wary walking. (Act II, Scene 1)

As the line I have emphasized above demonstrates, Brutus is driven by fears for the welfare of everyone, not by his own selfish desires. We can thus say that in his case, we could at least argue that what he is planning is a true political assassination and that it can be justified, though perhaps not successfully. It is an action of entirely different quality than the murder of Duncan by Macbeth.

Thus, political assassination may sometimes be justified, but Macbeth is a poor example of this, since his action is not properly classified as a political assassination.

drmonica's profile pic

drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

I am of the opinion that political assassination is justified in very limited circumstances. Macbeth's assassination of Duncan was murder, pure and simple, and there can be no justification for this act. However, Macduff's killing of Macbeth was not an assassination per se. Macduff wanted revenge on Macbeth for the murders of Macduff's wife and son, so he would have killed Macbeth regardless. Macduff's killing of Macbeth for that reason would therefore have been fully justified under European common law. The killing of Macbeth was a political assassination in the sense that the rightful king amassed supporters who sought to kill Macbeth and restore the true king's heirs. The justification for this act would be debatable, depending on the audience's political sympathies.

epollock's profile pic

epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

I wouldn't say that it was political assassination, because Macbeth did it for his own personal gain as opposed to the policies of King Duncan. But, I do have to agree that political assassination would be acceptable if it prevented the policies of a dictator or other authoritarian leader responsible for causing misery and suffering for millions of people. The needs of the majority outweigh the needs of one.

kc4u's profile pic

kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

It was Shakespeare who coined the word 'assassination' in Macbeth.Since Duncan, the king of Scotland, was the head of the state, his secret killing should be treated as a political assassination. May be, Macbeth, in collaboration with Lady Macbeth, killed Duncan to fulfil his ambition for power, but politics is, after all, a game of attaining power & of retaining it. By this standard, the killing of Macbeth by Macduff is also political, may be more political because  Macduff beheaded king Macbeth in a combat to take a revenge & to rescue his country from the yoke of a tyrant.