Macbeth Quotes About Power

What quote shows that Macbeth is power-hungry in act 3 of Macbeth?

A quote that shows that Macbeth is power-hungry in act 3 of Macbeth is in scene 1, where he says,

For them the gracious Duncan have I murdered;
Put rancors in the vessel of my peace
only for them; and mine eternal jewel
Given to the common enemy of man,
To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings!
In this quote, Macbeth demonstrates his anger at the fact that his power will one day pass to Banquo's sons.

Expert Answers

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In act 3, scene 1, Macbeth shows how power hungry he is in the way he turns on his former close friend, Banquo. His fear of Banquo's "genius" and daring courage challenging his power overrides any feeling of friendship or loyalty he formerly had. Because he fears Banquo knows too much and might suspect that he murdered Duncan, Macbeth is determined to get rid of him. He exercises his power by hiring assassins and says he will
wail his fall
Who I myself struck down
Ironically, having the crown, which Macbeth thought would be the the very thing to make him happy and fulfilled, has not turned out that way. He has the power he craved, but with it comes the constant fear of losing it. Macbeth is beginning to wonder if being king is worth the price, and he feels bitter that all he has will go to Banquo's heirs. He therefore wants to undo any chance of Banquo's heirs having any of his power, even after he is dead, saying,
No son of mine succeeding. If ’t be so,
For Banquo’s issue have I filed my mind;
For them the gracious Duncan have I murdered;
Put rancors in the vessel of my peace
only for them; and mine eternal jewel
Given to the common enemy of man,
To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings!
In act 3, scene 4, Macbeth thinks he sees Banquo's ghost at a banquet. After this banquet, he shows his increasing arrogance and desire to be obeyed. He expresses his outrage to Lady Macbeth when Macduff won't see him, saying:
How say’st thou that Macduff denies his person
At our great bidding?
The power-hungry Macbeth is becoming a tyrant, expecting everyone to jump at his command.
Finally, although steeped in blood, Macbeth feels there is no gain in stopping, as it would be just as hard to turn back, stating,
I am in blood
Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er.
This shows he is committed to hanging on to his power, even if the price is more blood.
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An additional quote that shows how power-hungry Macbeth is comes when he speaks to the murderers he's hiring to kill Banquo and Fleance. He tells them that Banquo is their enemy as well as his and that he "wear[s] [his] health but sickly in [Banquo's] life, / Which in his death were perfect" (3.1.119-120). In other words, Macbeth claims that while Banquo lives, Macbeth is sick, but he will be healthy when Banquo is dead. In other words, he doesn't feel that his power and authority are complete while Banquo still breathes (as a result of the witches' prophecy), and so the only way to acquire more and more secure power is to get rid of Banquo, his former best friend.

Macbeth also claims that he could kill Banquo himself but that he doesn't want to lose the friends whom he shares with Banquo. He says, 

And though I could
With barefaced power sweep him from my sight
And bid my will avouch it, yet I must not,
For certain friends that are both his and mine,
Whose loves I may not drop, but wail his fall
Who I myself struck down.  And thence it is
That I to your assistance do make love,
Masking the business from the common eye
For sundry weighty reasons. (3.1.134-142)

In other words, Macbeth does not want to lose any power, something he believes would happen if he were to kill Banquo himself. He is afraid that if he kills Banquo, although it is currently in his power to do so, people who care for both him and Banquo would lose their love for him. In other words, it would diminish his power over those individuals.

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To build on the quote the editor above uses, in Shakespeare's Macbeth, Macbeth's worries about Banquo and Fleance become more concrete and lead to plans to murder them in Act 3.2.

Macbeth is upset again, and his wife tries to calm him down.  He tells her to give Banquo her special attention, because they need to fool Banquo.  She tells him to stop talking like this, that Banquo and Fleance won't live forever, and he responds:

There's comfort yet; they are assailable.

Then be thou jocund.  Ere the bat hath flown

his cloistered flight, ere to black Hecate's summons

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums

Hath rung night's yawning peal, there shall be done

A deed of dreadful note. (Act 3.2.40-44)

Lady Macbeth, then, trying to reassure him, says not to worry, Banquo and Fleance can't live forever, and Macbeth turns that to something like:

  • You're right, we should be happy.  They are reachable.  Before night falls, something dreadful will happen.

The something dreadful is Macbeth's assassins trying to kill Banquo, and succeeding, and trying, but failing, to kill Fleance.

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By the time we get to Act III, Macbeth is the King of Scotland. He has gotten there by killing Duncan, mudering him as he slept.  So you would think that he would have all the power he needs.  But he doesn't.

In Act III, Scene 1, I think you can find some lines that show how Macbeth continues to want to have more power.  Specifically, he wants to make sure that the power will remain with him and his descendants rather than going over to Banquo's descendants as the witches predicted.  I would use this quote to show that:

They hail'd him father to a line of kings:
Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown(65)
And put a barren sceptre in my gripe,
Thence to be wrench'd with an unlineal hand,
No son of mine succeeding. If't be so,
For Banquo's issue have I filed my mind,
For them the gracious Duncan have I murdered,(70)
Put rancors in the vessel of my peace
Only for them, and mine eternal jewel
Given to the common enemy of man,
To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings!
Rather than so, come, Fate, into the list,(75)
And champion me to the utterance!

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