Macbeth and Machiavelli Comparison
John C. Maxwell, a famous speaker and author, once said, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. ” This quote shows how leadership has been interpreted differently through the years. Niccolo Machiavelli would approve of this quote by John C. Maxwell because it shows that a leader is always in control. One interpretation of effective leadership is how well a ruler is able to lead a country and how successful the outcome is. Niccolo Machiavelli’s book, The Prince, set rules on how to be a good ruler. Shakespeare’s character Lady Macbeth followed Machiavelli’s rules in the supernatural play Macbeth.
Lady Macbeth would be considered an effective leader by Machiavelli because she did not worry about being moral, she gave up her good qualities, and did whatever was necessary to benefit herself so she could maintain her authority and power. One idea Machiavelli addresses in The Prince, is that a ruler should not worry about being moral or following what the church the church tells them to do.
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“Being often obliged, in order to maintain the state, to act against faith, against charity, against humanity, and against religion” (Machiavelli 15).
An effective leader must not be moral to gain power. In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is shown to be a character who is controlling and does not worry about morals. She would be considered an effective leader by Machiavelli because loses her morality to get what she wishes. Come to my woman’s breasts, And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers, Wherever in your sightless substances You wait on nature’s mischief! Come, thick night, And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, To cry ‘Hold, hold! ’ (1. 5. 46-53). This quote expresses Lady Macbeths effective leadership because she lost her sense of morality to maintain power. She is willing to have her motherhood taken away from her if it meant she was going to get what she wanted. This is an example of Machiavelli’s rule that states a ruler should not worry about being moral. Lady Macbeth lost all of her morals by saying the dark spirits could take over her. In Machiavelli’s rule, alliteration is being used by the words “against”.
It is meant to show how far a ruler must go against anything that he previously believed in to receive the title of power. Lady Macbeth showed she was willing to go against anything that was remotely close to being moral. Shakespeare’s personification of Heaven peeping through the blanket of the dark, shows no one will expect Lady Macbeth’s loss of morality except for the people she is betraying. Machiavelli would consider Lady Macbeth to be an effective leader because she follows the rule of not caring about morality. She no longer cared about being moral, so she did what was best for her so she could benefit from it.
In another one of Machiavelli’s rules, he explains that in order to maintain power, a ruler must be ready to give up any good qualities and replace them with bad ones. “And, therefore, he must have a mind disposed to adapt itself according to the wind, and as the variations of fortune dictate, and, as I said before, not deviate from what is good, if possible, but be able to do evil if constrained” (Machiavelli 15). This is another example of how Lady Macbeth is an active leader because she gave up being passive and was ready to commit evil acts if it meant she would remain in control.
Infirm of purpose! Give me the daggers: the sleeping and the dead Are but as pictures: ‘tis the eye of childhood That fears a painted devil. If he do bleed, I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal; For it must seem their guilt (2. 2. 53-57). This quote from Shakespeare shows when Lady Macbeth took over control to kill King Duncan. As soon as Lady Macbeth found out about the witches prophecies, it seemed like she was going to let Macbeth take care of it by himself and watch him try to figure out how to gain power.
Once she started realizing Macbeth would not be able to handle killing King Duncan, she decided to step in. This made her an effective leader because Macbeth went along with it and it showed Lady Macbeth used control and manipulation. Lady Macbeth was able to put aside being passive and start to take control over the situation. She convinced herself it was okay to kill someone to help Macbeth to receive the name of King. This also showed how easy it was for Lady Macbeth to turn herself evil, which is a prominent example of following Machiavelli’s rules to leadership.
Shakespeare used a metaphor to express the amount of evil qualities Lady Macbeth gained after she found out that she would be involved in a higher level of royalty. Lady Macbeth was able to hide her evil action by blaming it on the servants so it looked like she was innocent. Lady Macbeth was able to get away with doing such destructive deeds because she was a woman. Women in the 11th century and beyond were not taken seriously by men. They would not treat Lady Macbeth the same way as they would treat a fellow man. This made it easier for Lady Macbeth to be deceitful.
No one would expect it because they were used to her having innocent qualities. Lady Macbeth was also able to not care about killing someone who she had a friendly relationship with. This is an example of the Machiavellian rule to give up good qualities to do evil things if gaining power was involved. Lady Macbeth was able to give up her good qualities to gain power by becoming manipulative and practicing evil. An important Machiavellian rule verbalized, in order to stay in power, a ruler must do whatever is necessary, good or bad, to benefit himself or his state.
“A certain prince or the present time, whom it is well not to name, never does anything but preach good faith, but he is a really great enemy to both, and either of them, had observed them, would have lost him state or reputation on many occasions” (Machiavelli 15). This is important because rulers needed to do whatever it took to maintain the current state of power at which they were enrolled in. Lady Macbeth was eager to do whatever it took to take over power. By doing so, she was benefitted by her actions. When Duncan is asleep- Whereto the rather shall his day’s hard journey
Soundly invite him- his two chamberlains Will I with wine and wassail so convince That memory, the warder of the brain, Shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason A limbec only: when in swinish sleep Their drenched natures lie as in a death, What cannot you and I perform upon Th’ unguarded Duncan? (1. 7. 61-71). When Lady Macbeth and Macbeth plotted the killing of King Duncan, it triggered something in them which made them both more dominant. In this particular scene, Lady Macbeth is the more controlling figure which leaded her to seem more manipulative and powerful.
This is an example of an effective leader because she drugged King Duncan so she could kill him. She was also capable of convincing Macbeth to actually go through with killing him, which showed she had less feelings than Macbeth, and in this situation, it benefited her. This is following one of Machiavelli’s rules because it shows Lady Macbeth could do whatever it took, good or bad, to benefit her. King Duncan was a truly good person and leader. Killing him showed Lady Macbeth had no sense of compassion for others.
Shakespeare used both a simile and metaphor to describe how easy it was for Lady Macbeth to drug and kill both King Duncan and his guards. Shakespeare expressed the guards would be easy to manipulate because of the overpowering drugs Lady Macbeth sneakily gave them. This shows it was so painless for Lady Macbeth to do this to both King Duncan and the guards. She was willing to take control over the guards lives and blame the murder of the King on them. Lady Macbeth rightly followed Machiavelli’s idea that a ruler must do whatever is necessary to gain power.
Machiavelli’s rules to be a successful leader were used as guidelines to maintain power among kings all over the world during the 15th century. Shakespeare created his characters in Macbeth to follow these rules to keep power and control over the people around them. Machiavelli’s rules related most to Shakespeare’s work in the way in which every ruler seemed to only care about their own actions and what benefitted them. Machiavelli was focused on his rules being beneficial to the leader and not as a whole nation. Shakespeare showed through Lady Macbeth and how she did whatever it took to maintain the power and control over Macbeth. The most intriguing aspect of Machiavelli’s rules is how accurate they were to both Shakespeare’s characters and leaders all throughout history. These guidelines were almost predictions as to how leadership would turn out over time when people began to stop trusting others and do what benefited them the most. Overall, Shakespeare accurately composed Lady Macbeth to follow Machiavelli’s rules, and she was able to continue her effective way of ruling over the people around her.