Macbeth Motif Paper ~ Desire In life, power means control. Control over what you want, what you love and to get rid of what you hate. However, the control that you long for seems to always be one step ahead of you, taunting you. It leads you on time and time again, frustration boiling up inside of you. Suddenly you snap. You force yourself forward toward the desire hanging just out of reach, pushing others out of your way and doing whatever it takes just to achieve the carefree life of power and control. Similarly, in Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, many characters are taunted by power. Some let the desire overthrow their souls and others shake it off as a mere distraction. The desire for power in Macbeth, characterizes the person who is affected by the desire and helps define the overall theme that selfish desire for power weakens you and causes your downfall.
Although power can be taken for granted or abused, power can be used for good in the world. Your intentions are what define your character the most. Malcolm desires power not for himself but rather intended for Scotland’s freedom. Malcolm tests Macduff’s loyalty by confessing to Macduff that he is more interested in self gain than gain for the kingdom and that he is filled with sexual desire. After Macduff admits that Malcolm isn’t fit to govern, Malcolm takes it all back, saying, “What I am truly is thine, and my poor country’s, to command” (IV, iii, 131-132). This passage shows his dedication to his nation and his true intentions of helping the people trapped under Macbeth's ruling. Although he possesses desire, Malcolm has the desire of helping others with his power, highlighting his selflessness. It is clear that Malcolm has good intents for power, but Macbeth is quite the opposite. Macbeth is changed throughout the play because of the building desire within him. At first, Macbeth is seen as a brave yet very manipulable person, yet as the play goes on, Macbeth is viewed as selfish and power hungry, taken over by desire. When Malcolm is given heir to the throne, Macbeth is furious. He says to himself, “The Prince of Cumberland; that is a step on which I must fall down, or else o’erleap, for in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires, let not light see my black and deep desires, the eye wink at the hand. Yet let that be, which the eye fears when it is done to see.” (I, iv, 48-53). At this point in the story, Macbeth reveals his changing emotions based upon the building of desire. Although his new persona hasn’t yet erupted, Macbeth is in a transition stage, just now feeling how powerful desire is. It is also one of the first times you catch a glimpse of the greedy, selfish side of Macbeth because the desire comes with the greed and selfishness. Although Malcolm doesn’t make a transformation like Macbeth, Malcolm is able to hold back and stay true to himself and his country, highlighting the lesser effects of selfless desire.
Desire characterizes certain people a great deal through the intentions of the desire, but Macduff, in particular, shows how the lack of desire gives you an upper hand. Macduff doesn’t allow himself to succumb to desire so he can stay focused on the matter at hand. Macduff is not afraid to feel emotion although taunted to seek revenge and have his masculinity threatened. In response, Macduff explains, “I must also feel it as a man; I cannot but remember such things were that were most precious to me.” (IV, iii, 224-226) This expression of emotion before feeling need for revenge or desire shows that Macduff is almost exempt from desire. This passage brought up maleness and femaleness, and defined a male as someone who is