The prince is a political treatise authored in the 16th century by Niccolò Machiavelli, an Italian political theorist and diplomat. It is claimed to be initial works of the modern philosophy, particularly modern political philosophy, whereby truth is more valuable than any other intellectual ideal. The book brings different controversial characteristics concerning what a Machiavellian ruler should be like. Macbeth seems to share most of the characteristics of a prince or Machiavellian ruler in The Prince.This paper critically argues the extent to which Macbeth is a Machiavellian ruler.
The most stressed characteristic is that a prince needs to have no other objective; neither takes any other profession except war (Machiavelli 37). Having war as the focus, the ruler is able to protect the nation that he governs from different forms of attacks. In The Prince, Machiavelli offers an analogy that proves the importance of war. In the book, Machiavelli speaks of two men, one who is armed, and another who is unarmed. Machiavelli tells the audience how it would be very impractical to believe that the equipped person would obey the weaponless one (Stjohns-chs.org 2016). In addition, he notes that it unreasonable imagining the unarmed man to feel secure and safe when his servant was in possession of a weapon that may cause death. Another feature of the prince is been feared instead of been loved. The reason for this is that fear leads to respect and submissiveness hence reduced chances of revolt. Any individuals who do not agree with the style of running of the prince will not likely to show it for fear of been dealt with. Even though love is a great attribute for leaders, it does not apply during chaos and wartime (Machiavelli 45). During this time, many people are likely to go against the will of the will of the leaders because of anger. In such case, the prince will be susceptible to attacks because his subjects and the rivals do not fear him.
Machiavelli principle applies to Macbeth in different ways. To begin with, Macbeth is ruling his people with an iron fist through murdering people often. For instance he notes that “All causes shall give way: I am in blood Stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o’er.” (Shakespeare185).
InThe Prince, Machiavelli provides that the prince should try his best to get rid of all the antagonisms and this is what Macbeth is doing (Roe pp. 362-365).Macbeth rises as a very brave leader after getting prophesy from three witches that one day he will rise to the throne of Scotland Kingship. Expended with the ambition and inspired to take action by his wife, he murders the current king and starts to reign in Scottish. However, he is wracked with guiltiness and paranobia. He is forced to continue with the murders for purpose of protecting himself from both mistrust and enmity. Soon, Macbeth graduates to a tyrannical ruler (Shakespeare 17). The resultingatrocity and the resulting civil war speedily take Macbeth and his wife into the unfathomable realms of madness as well as death. His also murders Duncan in order to keep his position. He states “Whence is that knocking?—How is’t with me, when every noise appals me?
What hands are here! Ha, they pluck out mine eyes. Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood? (Shakespeare 146).
Secondly, Macbeth and The prince relates in that Machicavelli holds that princes are not supposed to deliver unusual and cruel punishment. Most people would say that murder is a little cruel and uncommon, so in this perspective in Macbeth, the approach through which Macbeth handles the oppositions is incorrect but reflects the basic concept. In this case, Shakespeare insults Machiavelli’s perspective since he shows that with tenaciouseliminating of characters. Shakespeare takes the teachings of Machiavelli literally saying that if he has to get rid of all the oppositions, he will basically kill all of them in order to grip the status (Roe pp. 358).Therefore, this makes the play highly satirical while referring to the Machiavelli’s prince piece. In the case of Macbeth, this starts in an effective way since the sons of the murdered king fled away. However, this later bits him back since he is murdering so many people including the high-ranking officials. For this reason, the high ranked officials including Macduff are not comfortable and they conspire to murder him (Machiavelli 89). In this way, Shakespeare is insulting the whole ideology of Machiacelli showing that causing fear to have great fear for you is not long lasting at all. This is because the people made to fear are likely to create a strong uprising and opposing you later in the day.
Contrarily, Macbeth is not a Machiavellian ruler because he lacks the foresight that is with most of the Machiavellian rulers. Unlike the Machiavellian rulers who have had great insight, Macbeth lacks the ability of foreseeing the ruins of his principality (Grady 56). Instead of bringing together most of the potential competitors to the throne and the likely accusers of immoral action into one point and murdering them at one time, he prolongs war, killing one competitor after anotherhence, not eliminating his enemiescompletely (Stjohns-chs.org 2016). The string of killings, which Macbeth perpetuates, follows the pattern that Machiavelli had warned would result when cruelty is misused. This is what Machiavelli tried to prevent. In the prince, Machiavelli almost foretells the development in Macbeth’s life.
It is clear that Macbeth is a typical Machiavellian ruler. To begin with, Macbeth is cruel just like the Machiavellian rulers described in The Prince. To rise in power, he conspires with his wife to kill the current King. Furthermore, after occupying the throne he continues to kill his opponents. Throughout, Macbeth is portrayed as an angry man and his cruelty does not stop. Contrarily, Macbeth is not a typical Machiavellian ruler since he does not heed to warnings highlighted in the Prince. He was supposed to kill all the opponents once for him to survive the political opposition.
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Roe, John. “Shakespeare and Machiavelli: The Prince and the history plays.” Seeking Real Truths: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Machiavelli. Brill, 2007. 357-388.
Shakespeare, William. The tragedy of Macbeth. Vol. 2. Classic Books Company, 2001.
Stjohns-chs.org. (2016). VictoryPomaryonShakespeare. [online] Available at: http://www.stjohns-chs.org/english/shakespeare/victorspaper/victorspaper.html [Accessed 19 Dec. 2016].