Unchecked Power in Shakespeare's Macbeth and King Lear

Essay by point_dexterHigh School, 12th gradeA+, July 2004

download word file, 6 pages 4.3

In many of the plays by William Shakespeare, the central character goes through internal and external changes that ultimately shake their foundations to the core. Numerous theories have been put forth to explain the sequence of tragedies Shakespeare wrote during this period by linking it to some experience of melancholy, anger, despair, and the antagonist's ultimate fall from grace in their lust for power. But such theories overlook the fact that it is in this very same period and in the same tragic works that portray the heights to which human nature can rise and fall in its purest and noblest, if not happiest terms. Surely the creation of so much light alongside the darkness and the perfection of the artistic medium through which Shakespeare gives them expression argues against the idea that the greedy side of human nature is his chief concern. His efforts to portray human life in its rarest form and not only the dark depths, but also the treasure rooms of our being.

He tries to pierce beneath the superficial motives and forces of surface behavior, social, and cultural expressions and to the deeper levels of individual character and human nature. Shakespeare then places these aspects of human existence in their true relation to the wider field of universal life. In relation to the tragic hero, there are many similarities between the tragic heroes in Macbeth and King Lear. However, the differences between the two outline the re-occurring themes in both plays. In Shakespeare's plays the central characters' own weaknesses and lust for power lead to corruption. The unchecked power in Shakespeare's Macbeth and King Lear ultimately leads to corruption, tragedy, and the hero's fall from grace.

In Macbeth, Macbeth's power goes unchecked within himself, his wife, and within the kingdom. The title character...