Macbeth ‘Power’ Essay [Draft]

How does one get an essay done from the entire play? The answer lies in taking key scenes, getting them into a Word document and then highlighting, in yellow, the relevant short quotes that fit the need of the essay when it is done. Once you have the highlighted quotes, you then delete the rest, leaving gaps between the quotes, so you can develop links between the words spoken by one character or another.

I did this and then put an essay together for you, to show you how it is done, but being the creative writer and thinker that I am, ended up with nearly 1300 words. I think it was 1296 words to be precise. So, I had to edit the file and take out relevant bits. What began by using 3 key scenes, then became an essay using 2 key scenes, leading to an essay of 840 words. Now technically, that is 15 words over the 10% limit AQA sets for Controlled Assessments, but if that happens to you, fear not.

Here is the essay in its fullness……..enjoy and try to emulate this.


Explore the ways that power is presented in Macbeth, with reference to the power that Lady Macbeth has over her husband.

Power exists within all relationships and is usually portrayed in fiction as patriarchal, but what the Bard is famous for as a playwright, is subverting the accepted norm and bringing to the attention of the public new ideas relating to the power relationships that exist. His play, Macbeth, about the Scottish tyrant King who is affected by witchcraft and the inward desires of his own wife’s evil intentions, is a good example of this power that exists in such relationships, even regal ones.

In Act 1, Scene 5, after Macbeth has been visited by the three witches on the heath, he writes a letter to his wife back at his castle. When she receives it, the audience begin to see where the power lays in their relationship. When she says “Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be what thou art promised” she is expressing her desires to see her husband crowned King, but there is a problem; the present King, Duncan, is alive and well, so she begins to plot his demise. But as she does so she knows that her husband is a man who is “too full o’ the milk of human kindness” to undertake such a task as killing the King.

Shakespeare is using the language of kindness to describe Macbeth but follows this up with Lady Macbeth summoning evil spirits to aid her in her quest for her husband to become King. She says “come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty!” Never could words uttered by any character in fiction be any more powerful than these, for she is asking for evil spirits to appear before her and make her utterly evil in every way. She wants to kill the King and feel no remorse. She wants to direct and urge her husband in the act of murder and treason because of her lust for power.

When Macbeth returns to the castle and is unsure of the plan to take over the throne, it is Lady Macbeth who tells him to “bear welcome in your eye, your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t” when the King arrives. She is telling Macbeth that he must appear to the King as friendly and unassuming; deceptive so as to gain power. What becomes evident is that power does corrupt, even if it is in the sense of the chance of power corrupting someone who is vulnerable to temptation.

Later, in Act 1 Scene 7, Macbeth doubts if he can murder the King. His soliloquy, spoken to the audience, leaves them in no doubt at all about his state of mind. He knows that he is the King’s “kinsman and his subject,” that he is related to the King as well as fond of him and this makes the act of murder harder for Macbeth to endure. He knows that Duncan “hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been so clear in his great office” and so, says that he “will proceed no further in this business.”

At this point, Macbeth is withering under the pressure of his wife’s plan, so she has to control him. She has to be the driving force in the relationship and asks “art thou afeard to be the same in thine own act and valour as thou art in desire?” This shows the difference between Lady Macbeth and her husband, for just as much as he is unwilling to commit murder, she would take her baby and “while it was smiling in [her] face, have pluck’d [her] nipple from his boneless gums, and dash’d the brains out” in order to summon up the will to kill the King.

Clearly, Lady Macbeth is being controlled and is also the controlling influence over Macbeth in this play. This is further worked out as she then tells him to “screw [his] courage to the sticking-place,” so that they [will] not fail.” At this point the audience hear and see that Macbeth has been persuaded to kill, which will ultimately bring about the downfall of himself and his wife, through tyrannical leadership and revenge from Macduff and the breaking of Lady Macbeth’s mind, leading to suicide.

What is evident throughout this play is the way that Shakespeare subverts the role of the woman, creating a woman who is manipulative of her husband, in complete control of him and someone who can drive him forward, through the depths of temptation to the most hideous act of all; murder. The act of regicide becomes the catalyst for the play to continue through the reign of Macbeth, the tyrant King, to his demise at the hands of Macduff and the subsequent crowning of the next King, Malcolm of Scotland. What Shakespeare has done here is merge history with tragedy; the tragic loss of power and control and the tragedy that awaits anyone in power, for as the saying goes, “power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

840 words