What would be some concrete examples found in todays society that demonstrate Macbeth to be as pertinent today as when it was originally written?
I am trying to understand why many critics consider Macbeth to be a timeless classic by relating the actions or thought processes of Macbeth, the act in the play, to the actions of actual people living today.
The play certainly relates to modern tyrants and despots, but there might be connections much closer to home. Why do Wall Street firms place their own greed and avarice above the good of investors? How far are CEOs and individual traders willing to go in order to satisfy their ambition?
Most of these people start out as responsible, hard working, moral individuals. At what point are they offered an opportunity to "catch the nearest way" (Act I, scene v)? How many lives are they willing to destroy, at least financially, to get more power, money, influence, etc.?
Macbeth is about blind ambition transforming ordinary people into monsters. As much as we want to think this is rare, it appears to be a frequent occurance.
I have no spur
to prick the sides of my intent,but only
Vaulting ambition which o'erleaps itself
And falls on th'other (Macbeth, 1.7.25-28)
One needs look no further than the United States to find examples of the "vaulting ambition" characteristic of Macbeth. While the examples of this cupidity are figurative, rather than literal, they yet serve as instances in which, like Macbeth, there was a total disregard for any decency, fairness, and truthfulness.
One example of this disregard for ruining the lives of others through deception is the recent news about Goldman Sachs, a global banking and investment firm who is currently fighting a fraud lawsuit from the U.S. government. According to an article in Business Week, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., that racked up trading profits for itself every day last quarter, wrote loans to concerns that they clearly expected to fail as a legitimate investment to corporations and municipalities for their 401Ks. Then, Goldman Sachs bet against these bad loans, and profited by others' failures. As a consequence of this fraud, millions of companies and municipal systems have suffered devasting financial losses to the retirement funds for their employees. It is, of course, because of this highly unethical conduct that Goldman Sachs is being investigated by the government.
Just look at any state-induced acts of terrorism sponsored by a totalitarian government. Just as Macbeth has his political enemies murdered (Banquo, Macduff's wife and child), so too have despots killed and taken hostage political enemies of the state. Macbeth does not commit the murders himself, but he sponsors them. Most political "hits" are managed the same way. Macbeth represents a very modern, Machiavellian leader: vindictive, violent, controlling, and paranoid.
Look at how some of the descriptions of the following despots and autocrats:
Vladimir Putin: "As president he gained a reputation as a clever and ruthless political operator with a hunger for Russian power and not too much concern for the niceties of democracy or diplomacy."
Kim Jong-il: "the North Korean system became even more centralized and autocratic under Kim Jong-il than it had been under his father. Although Kim Il-sung required his ministers to be loyal to him, he nonetheless sought their advice in decision-making; Kim Jong-il demands absolute obedience and agreement, and views any deviation from his thinking as a sign of disloyalty. According to Hwang, Kim Jong-il personally directs even minor details of state affairs, such as the size of houses for party secretaries and the delivery of gifts to his subordinates."
Saddam Hussein: "On 5 November 2006, he was convicted of charges related to the 1982 killing of 148 Iraqi Shi'ites convicted of planning an assassination attempt against him, and was sentenced to death by hanging."