Macbeth, the power of evil and the evil of power.

“And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s  In deepest consequence”

William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616), Macbeth“, Act 1 scene 3 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare)
 Macbeth
Macbeth is one of William Shakespeare’s  great famous plays and tragedies.   There’s murder, battles and the foreshadow of things going to happen. Macbeth is considered one of Shakespeare’s darkest and most powerful tragedies. Set in Scotland, the play entertains in sustained ways the corroding psychological and political effects at a particular time when its leading person, the Scottish lord Macbeth, chooses the deliberate killing of his King Duncan of Scotland, – as the only single way to fulfill his ambition for power. Considering the options  both he and his wife reflected on, this was frankly the most evil choice, – driven only by blind ambition at all costs. It starts all with choices with sometimes huge implications as we will see.
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Shakespeare’s Macbeth has been for centuries a worldwide famous play. A play often still performed, not always completely understood, but giving an insight in the power of evil and the evil of power where they meet together by choice. Though not always well liked by students who have to struggle with the concepts at eg secondary school it is still an actual theme as the nature of people does not change and Shakespeare had a talent to bring his insight in the nature of some people in power up as a play, with all the required drama. If you tell a story as such it has not such an impact, however if you make the story into a dramatic play as Shakespeare did it resonates through the centuries, – if people understand both “the play ground” and the concept.
Shakespeare knew his time, including the dynamics of power at times. Obviously Macbeth was a play but who knows Shakespeare observed more of the political circumstances of his time than we know. How often indeed in the real world before and after Shakespeare’s creation of Macbeth do “those characters” occur and recur in different identities and circumstances?
Well if we look around, history is full of betrayal and murder, killings and evil powers often at the background. Powers represented by characters who played their own role in the days they existed. History tends to repeat itself time after time. Sometimes when people stand up to do good at the highest levels of power they get assassinated under brutal corrupting powers who either collaborate to keep the things as they are or alternatively want to change the way history evolves in different ways. Sometimes people affected by “evil spirits” indulge themselves in the games of power with catastrophic results. It may start positive or reasonable harmless but during the events as they evolve people make choices by which they show their true nature, their identity and destiny.(We can see this eg with Idi Amin in Africa‘s Ugandahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idi_Amin ).
We can see this in East and West, both eg in Russian and American history, but also in the history of the Middle East, Africa, China and many other countries until recent days. It still happens and it will always continue to happen, – unless certain powers are stopped at an early stage. A more recent example is still evolving in Syria, the holding on to power of President Assad http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bashar_al-Assad )
The Macbeth story goes back in time where Scottish Kings went to war on local battle grounds, fighting their ground in frequent fierce battles with often many casualties, War and battle grounds have often been themes through the centuries. The difference now is that they are fought on a larger scale and the  strategic Generals have been always important in various war’s, as we know. What happens in Shakespeare’s most powerful Macbeth drama is that Macbeth and Banquo, both brave Scottish Generals, return one day from their battlefield. They fought for their Scottish Head of State, King Duncan. Whilst on their way back to their military camp through forests dark and deep with miles to go before they sleep, they meet interestingly “three witches” in the dark. Meeting witches (sometimes the dark side of our conscience) means often trouble, sometimes double trouble because this may bring you in contact with evil, or potential evil. It’s the old story of temptations and the question whether you can resist them if they are bad . A matter of conscience indeed. However it would seem pleasurable stuff is on offer in this case, a prediction for the future. Pleasurable for those hungry for power. The witches do not kill Macbeth. No they tell him convincingly he will get a special title which is the “Thane of Cawdor” (an extra dimension of influence)  and that afterwards he will become the new King of Scotland. Too good to be true for Macbeth! For Banquo the witches had “something special” in mind as well, but he would never become King himself. The last was true! Whether his special treat was on earth or in heaven they did not say…The two men (friends perhaps) continue their journey but are sufficiently skeptical about those prophecies. They kept talking about it as somehow what was predicted bothered them. However, when the two come closer to their military base, they meet a messenger from King Duncan who announced that Macbeth has been made the “Thane of Cawdor”, a reward for the General’s bravery and success. Well, – there you go! With the prophecy immediately being put into perspective, Macbeth started to wonder how he might become King of Scotland. A real temptation now.  It seemed to start pleasantly and he invited Duncan to dine at his castle that evening and goes ahead to tell his wife of the day’s events. Macbeth however still doubts his future and the 2nd prophecy but his wife, Lady Macbeth, is very certain of her husband’s future. Lady Macbeth is well-respected like Macbeth. King Duncan calls her “our honored hostess.” She loves her husband but at the same time she is very ambitious, and she wants Macbeth to be King of Scotland as soon as possible as such an outcome would both benefit her and her husband. She decides not to wait until King Duncan gets ill or dies in battle but her assessment is that “the fastest way” for Macbeth to become King of Scotland is by murdering King Duncan. They discussed the matter and Macbeth simply listens to his wife in her wish to take initiative and murder Duncan that same night after dinner. Macbeth strongly influenced by his wife can’t wash his hands in innocence. As we can see bravery in battle does not guarantee principle centred decisions when it comes to reaching or holding on to power, – and the moral spectrum when it comes to this can be overwhelmed by blind desires. It shows here the more than significant flaw in Macbeth’s character and with his choice it sets the scene how his future and those of others unfolds.What happens is that the two plan to get Duncan’s higher officials (being present)  drunk enough that they will not remember the evening and blame them for the murder. In other words they “frame” those not being responsible for the murder. Interestingly “framing someone else for murder” is not only a theme in eg the recent American TV series “Revenge”, – it happened both on many occasions in the past as it still happens at the moment. It has been and still is widespread used eg in the name of “National Security” on many occasions, anywhere on the world, – both in democratic countries and non-democratic states. Obviously however used as well in any crimes at times, – the last not always being high-profile.
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Anyhow, when the body of Duncan is discovered in the morning, Macbeth quickly kills the “culprits” and assumes the Scottish Kingship, as if justice was done. The King’s government supported investigations, in retrospect, do support the higher officials being responsible for the assassination of King Duncan. Obviously the truth was wiped underneath the carpet.
Meanwhile, Duncan’s sons flee the country, afraid for their own lives. No need to be surprised about this. Most likely they sensed that no justice was done and likely they distrusted the facts as they were presented. We see a domino effect now as what happens is that Macbeth’s misgivings and trust in the prophecies force his hand in the murder of Banquo and his son Fleance as well, afraid that his heirs will seize the throne eventually.Besides this he does not like the idea that Banquo would dig into the murder plot of King Duncan perhaps, as Banquo was very familiar with Macbeth (and his nature perhaps). What happens is that Banquo gets killed, however the murderers fail to kill Fleance.
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The night of his murder, Banquo’s ghost appears to Macbeth. Macbeth was perhaps sensitive for those things or the injustice of also Banguo’s murder brought him to feelings of guilt, paranoia and extreme hysteria, – scaring “the hell” out of his guests and angering his wife. His very presence as the King of Scotland had infuriated some of the other nobles and further provokes Macbeth’s misgivings and paranoia. He feels he needs support as he gets fearful and visits the witches again, – who offer him more prophecies. It gets a bit complex. People are complex at times, as shown in Macbeth. People in positions of power are very complex at times.
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Coming back again on Macbeth (as this is the topic) the witches told him to be aware of Macduff, a chief opponent to Macbeth taking the throne. He should be killed. This happened and still happens all over the world. Get rid of your opponents, one way or the other. The evil of power and the power of evil at times. The witches told Macbeth interestingly that he cannot be harmed “by any man born of women” and he is safe until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Castle. He feels he really has to go after Macduff, as implicated by the witches. He returns home and finds that Macduff has fled to England to join Malcom. Malcom is the eldest of King Duncan’s son’s who fled after his dad’s assassination, because of fear of his life.  Macduff now sensed the dangers for himself and made wisely a  timely move  to prevent his own assassination.
Macduff went to Malcom, – a risky move as Malcom did not surprisingly suspect  Macduff for treachery in the first instance, as Macduff was in a way sided with Macbeth. However Macduff was favourably tested by Malcom in the circumstances which followed:
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In fear, Macbeth seizes Macduff’s castle and makes sure that Macduff’s  wife and children are murdered by a hired team of assassin’s, – provoking as such Macduff to further rage. I guess we can understand Macduff’s situation. With Malcom now, the two raise an army now and travel to Scotland to fight Macbeth as part of an all over revenge, with the support of the Scottish nobles who had enough of Macbeth’s tyranny and murderous ways. Macbeth became aware obviously and waited confidently for his opponents, – however this time not with the witches on his side. They had not warned him about the extra (but vital) “dimension” of Macduff, which was the way he was born.
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Lady Macbeth meanwhile was not doing too well at all and became insane, unable to wash her hands of all the blood it took to keep her husband in power. In a deeper sense she felt possibly a huge guilt leading to her sudden suicide. This last news reached Macbeth just before the English forces arrived led by Malcom and Macduff, and created major despair for Macbeth. He trusted however the prophecy of him being invulnerable as “he could not be harmed by any man born of woman”. Macduff confronts Macbeth with his own truth that he was “ripped off from his mother’s womb” through surgery, which gives an interesting twist to the play as the power of Macbeth invulnerability was based on the fact that “nobody born of women” could harm him”.Apparently Macduff appeared to be an exception which the witches did not tell Macbeth. We don’t know about the reason behind this, one of Shakespeare’s secret’s perhaps. Macbeth therefore loses at this stage his invulnerability and became decapitated when caught. What happens then is that  Malcolm became the new King of Scotland in a rightful way, some time after the assassination of his dad, – former King Duncan of Scotland.  At his Coronation at Scone the play ends…
Evil gets defeated somehow in this dramatic Macbeth play. Does not happen everywhere or at any time, – however it still happens both in Macbeth and at times in the real world.
Obviously this play at the time did honor the English system of nobility against the evil of ruthless powers with “spirits” working at the wrong side of the moral spectrum. The struggle of power being evil at times and the occasional evil of power as such has been an ongoing theme in history, with some implications we all know.  Life is very different now since the days of Shakespeare and Macbeth, but what never changes is that we have the gift of conscience and a free choice, the last being the baseline of everything. If conscience takes over control of people’s actions the world may change into a better place. The opposite is true as well. If evil at the darker corners of the heart takes over control within the dynamics where we live, things will change and people will influence each other interdependent in the more negative, – and at times for the worst possible actions.
We have however a free choice, we can resist or coöperate. Doing nothing at times of crisis is the same as supporting crisis, whatever the nature of the crisis. We can assist chaos or resist chaos. In times of anarchy and killings we can support it or resist it. Again, – doing nothing is the same as supporting it. The best way to resist is  “non coöperation”  ( http://aeinstein.org/).  As Dante once wrote:”The hottest places in hell are reserved for those in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality”.
It is good to put  Shakespeare’s Macbeth play in a broader context. It’s a “drama” with historic dimensions and the dynamics of those dimensions are touching base on the moral high ground of either “taking the high road or the low road”, – as the Scottish tend to say. It’s a matter of choice and character.

Thank you!

 Paul 

Paul Alexander Wolf
Below some additional information,
if interested>>
>>”For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence–on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations.Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed. It conducts the Cold War, in short, with a war-time discipline no democracy would ever hope or wish to match”. <<  (US President John F. Kennedy – assassinated in Dallas 22/11/1963)
 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_assassinated_people   (List of influential assassinated people all over the world)

 

2 thoughts on “Macbeth, the power of evil and the evil of power.”

  1. when i read about Macbeth, my mind automatically goes to LBJ -the man who wanted to be US President more than anything. I am sure he played his role in the murder and coverup of JFk. No one can convince me otherwise.

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  2. Reblogged this on Opera, my love and commented:
    Here’s a nice article by the author of the blog “Macbeth, the power of evil and the evil of power. | We dream of things that never were and say: “Why not?”

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