The "Flip-side" of Power An essay on the conflict of power and safety in Macbeth

Essay by 123showtimeHigh School, 12th gradeA, November 2002

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Recently I read an article which talks about a German physicist named Werner Heisenberg. He discovered an analogous phenomenon with his uncertainty principle. Studying matter at the atomic level, quantum physics, he realized that the act of measuring affected the object being measured. As a result, one could never accurately determine both position and momentum of an electron with precision. The attempt to reach one of these goals hurts the other, and a similar phenomenon is found in our everyday lives. This relates to William Shakespeare's Macbeth. The protagonist is lured to murder King Duncan by the desire for power, an appetite whetted by the witches' prophecies and his wife's encouragement. But when he obtains the thrown, he finds himself insecure. He attempts to remove threats that decrease his security. In the play Macbeth, despite appearances of paradox, Shakespeare uses the motif "safe" to illustrate the theme that men's goals to have safety and power are almost impossible to attain simultaneously.

The power from knowledge causes discomfort, and as it has often been said, ignorance is happiness. After Macbeth is promised the throne, Banquo asks why Macbeth is less than ecstatic. "Good sir, why do you start, and seem to fear, Things that do sound so fair?" (Act I, Scene 3, ll54-55) Being King of Scotland makes Macbeth uncomfortable, as he can senses the implications. His first thoughts of considering murdering Duncan make him scared. Also, knowing that he has committed such a vile act makes him uncomfortable. He soon realizes that it will be difficult to act innocent and to deal with his guilt. At the end, Hecate sets Macbeth up for his final fall,

As by the strength of their illusion

Shall draw him on to his confusion.

He shall spurn fate, scorn death, and bear

His hopes...