Adithya Shekhar Macbeth Paper Power and Comfort- Incompatible People often find it tough to achieve things that are usually incompatible with each other. Even Werner Heisenberg, the German scientist who discovered the uncertainty principle, realized that the act of measuring things at the atomic level affected the object being measured. As a result, one can never measure both location and momentum of an electron. The attempt to achieve one of these goals hurts the other and a similar phenomenon is found in everyday lives.
In William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the protagonist is lured into killing King Duncan by his desire for power, an appetite which is fueled by witch’s prophecies and encouraged by his wife. But when he reaches this power, he feels insecure and attempts to get rid of possible threats such as Banquo and his son, who was prophesized to be the future king. Macbeth’s lords eventually revolt successfully after the witches lure Macbeth into a sense of false security with another prophecy. In Macbeth, we see that man’s goals of comfort and power are forever opposed. This can be seen through the recurring motifs of knowledge, power, and comfort.
Similar to the phrase, ignorance is bliss, the power from knowledge causes discomfort. When Macbeth is promised the throne, Banquo questions him for he is not excited at all. “Good sir, why do you start, and seem to fear/ Things that do sound so fair? ” . Macbeth’s new knowledge makes him uncomfortable because he understands its implications. This is where he fosters the idea of murdering Duncan and is frightened by the thought of his consideration of killing his friend. After he commits the crime, Macbeth says, “To know my deed, ‘twere best not to know myself. Knowing that he has committed an inhumane act makes him uncomfortable. At the same time, his power had increased, which shows the relationship between the two; as one increases, the other takes a fall. The witch, Hecate, sets Macbeth up for his final fall and explains her strategy, “As by the strength of his illusion, Shall draw him onto his confusion. He shall spurn fate, scorn death, and bear his hopes ‘bove wisdom, grace, and fear. And you all know security is mortals’ chiefest enemy”. The security mentioned in the second prediction is transient.
Because Macbeth believes that there is not threat to his power, he acts wildly and brings his own downfall along with the loss of both comfort and security. Shakespeare shows that the problem with knowledge is that it results in a decline of comfort. (Stirling, Brents) It is also apparent that the most comfortable characters possess the least amount of power. The Porter delivers a speech on drinking, explaining, “Lechery, sir, it provokes and unprovokes: it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance/ equivocates him in a sleep, and giving him the lie, leaves him”.
While drink may cause comfort, it is contradicted by its other effects. As the porter says, it takes away the performance, the power. This also brings up the guards, who were comfortably asleep and drunk. As a result, they were unable to fulfill their duty and provide the protection necessary to protect the King. After the murder, Duncan’s son, says, “There’s daggers in men’s smiles; the near in blood/ The nearer bloody”. He realizes that his father was murdered because of the power he had. It was much safer to not be king, despite the loss in power; because he would be more comfortable knowing he was safe.
Power serves as both a blessing and a curse. Gaining power also causes discomfort. When trying to gain power, characters find themselves wrecked in guilt. After the murder, Macbeth realizes how lucky Duncan is when he says, “In restless ecstasy. Duncan is in his grave; after life’s fitful fever he sleeps well”. Duncan has no power, but faces no threats either. As of his current position, Macbeth now lives in fear because he may lose the throne. When he says, “To be thus is nothing,/ But to be safely thus” he implies that his power as king was not as great as he had hoped.
This is because of the constant feeling of threat. The dead, powerless Duncan can lay with comfort because he no longer has any power. This idea is continued when Lady Macbeth says, “Nought’s had, all spent, Where our desire is got without content. Tis safer to be that which we destroy than by the destruction dwell in doubtful joy”. She finally believes that everything they had done to gain the power they so desired just led to greater discomfort. Even the dead, were happier than them. After the murder, Lady Macbeth is paranoid because of the guilt which makes her uncomfortable. Hell is murky. What need we fear, who knows it, when none can call power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him? ” Lady Macbeth is suffering from a self-inflicting illness. Through her pursuit of power, she ended with suffering and trouble. (Kirsch, Arthur) Although people in this novel seek both authority and security, the two necessities are in conflict. The power of knowledge and the pursuit of power lead to a decline in comfort, while those without power find the most comfort and security.
Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth appeared to lose their comfort during their stride towards power. However, even the people they killed are more relaxed than them. Similar to the uncertainty principle, trying to reach two goals to the highest degree is impossible. I believe that a perfect balance should be found between the two. Citation Page Kirsch, Arthur. Macbeth’s Suicide. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press Shakespeare, William, and Eugene M. Waith. The tragedy of Macbeth;. [Rev. ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1954. Print. Stirling, Brents. The Unity of Macbeth.