Macbeth Power and Control

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There are always arguments whether someone’s actions are rightfully justified, whether it was done by accident, outside pressure, fear, or mental problems, subject to accusation always occurs. This is a similar debate in Macbeth, a play written by William Shakespeare. Macbeth, a nobleman who falls into wickedness, when he murders King Duncan in order to become king himself, is then killed at the end for committing all his purposeful actions. Readers will point right away that the witches’ prophecies, along with his ambition to become king were the main factors in making him be involved in many murders. But not everything is as it seems, as Macbeth’s actions were motivated by his fear of the supernatural as he interacted with the witches, beings who were completely different than him. They possessed great power in prophesying anyone’s future, as they told him he will become king of Scotland. When expectations do not seem possible for people, they often turn anxious and resort to extreme actions to make expectations happen.

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Macbeth is seen a hero in the beginning of the play, but as interacts with the witches, he has a sense of obligation to become king because he interprets the prophecies as an obligation. The emotion fear certainly has role in Macbeth action’s, as the unexpected appearances of three witches would had scared anyone not knowing of their nature, as it is shown with Banquo’s observations. The emotion fear is shown in the following, “Good sir, why do you start and seem to fear Things that do sound so fair?” (Shakespeare, 1.3, 54-55). This fear can be associated with the fact that he has just seen the witches for a few seconds and they started to state prophecies that were never in his mind. He seems to not comprehend where these statements come from, and this indicates the initiation of his mental deterioration that will continue until his death. As the play progresses, he mentions he fears during his sleep, after he already became king.

As Macbeth starts to say, “Ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleep In the affliction of these terrible dreams” (Shakespeare, 3.2, 20-21). This insists that he is haunted by the actions that he has done, but also the fear he has towards the witches. Nightmares often happen when a person experiences a disturbing or shocking moment, and the first moment occurs with the first interaction with the witches. The statements the witches told, felt like an imperative thing for Macbeth to take into action because the two first ones became true in such short time. Macbeth noticed how they had the power to prophesied his future, and mostly probably thought they had the power to alter it. As the prophecy seemed obligatory to bring about, he killed Duncan for the fear that his fate will be something worse. Fear is shown in Macbeth at the confrontation with the witches, and then still after he becomes king as he is uncertain if the prophecy told by the witches will come back to haunt him.

The fear could have been further provoked by the fact that he already had a mental illness such an anxiety disorder. This is further supported by the fact that trauma causes certain anxiety disorders such as PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This type of anxiety is caused by the experience of a horrible event such as death, as we learn in the beginning is involved in violent events and even slays the head of his enemy. The Captain states this observation in the following, “Which ne’er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him, Till he unseamed him from the nave to th’ chops, And fixed his head upon our battlements” (Shakespeare, 1.2, 23-25). With him killing enemies, there had to be an instant moment where he lost a comrade or saw the deaths of innocents. The possible cause is supported by the book, but also the symptoms of this disorder is supported by the text. Some symptoms include, “Nightmares about the event, response to certain things or situations with fear and dread, intense distress after being reminded of the event, Persistent negative emotions about the event, such as guilt, shame, fear, or anger and feeling hopeless about the future” (Cleveland Clinic, 2019). This is showcased by Macbeth various times, first after he killed Duncan and feels guilt, then again towards the end when he feels guilt for killing Macduff’s family and anger for trusting the witches. But the most relevant is fear the he expresses to certain situations with the first being the interaction with the witches. The format the witches told the prophecy was in a commanding voice as if he already needed to be King soon. With this interaction and the mental disorder he displayed throughout the play, it is clear that his fear made him anxious about his future and thoughts came into his head that the fast way to become king is by killing the king.

The interaction between Macbeth and the witches is unsettling for him, but it can be the possibility that he could not understand the nature and purpose of them and therefore thought they controlled his faith. Phobia of the supernatural is distinct but it is not common, but those diagnosed with it, are often beware of something horrendous that they not comprehend. In this situation, Macbeth feared them because he did not completely understand their place in nature, unless the perception came that they controlled faith. The following about Phasmophobia is stated, “the vivid impression that some immaterial being who cannot be apprehended by the ordinary senses is hovering around” (Souza, 2018). Even after the witches are gone, he cannot get them out of his head, as he is thinking about what they are doing. Macbeth expresses the following idea “Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse The curtained sleep. Witchcraft celebrates Pale Hecate’s offerings, and withered murder” (Shakespeare, 2.1, 61-63). Showing his concern about the nature and location of the witches. As if he is afraid about what their next action will be towards him and uses this thought to kill Duncan in order to become king immediately before they come back to change his fate. Nobody wants a terrible fate, but the fact that Macbeth thought he will be better off killing Duncan and becoming king is ironic as more consequences came towards Macbeth.

Although some might argue that Macbeth’s main motivation was his ambition and the chastise made towards him by Lady Macbeth. It is a weak point as Macbeth did not needed to obey his wife’s wishes, she might had a persuasive lecture about promises, but he had his will and freedom to say he will not use his skills to kill Duncan. Even further, his ambition to become king was caused by fear, as he did not possessed desire to have that position before meeting the witches, unless he feared that the prophecy told by the witches needed to become true otherwise there will be other consequences. Even though ironically there was further consequences even after he became king.

Macbeth’s actions were motivated by his fear of the supernatural as he interacted with the witches, beings which he did not understand. But knew they possess great power in prophesying faith, as he did become king of Scotland. His fear turned into anxiety which later turned into consequential actions. Even though there is argument that most of Macbeth’s actions were motivated by his ambition to have power, fear did play a role in him having to do some of the actions he did, even without a phobia or mental illness. Fear is identified in Macbeth throughout the play, but when taking in consideration the theories of his mental status it further enforces he was indeed motivated by fear.

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Macbeth Power and Control. (2020, May 14). Retrieved March 21, 2023 , from

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