Power In Shakespeares Macbeth And Related Text - Wallsend - Essay

840 words - 4 pages

An Individual’s Perspective Of Power Is A Reflection Of Their View Of The World
Factors that influence ones decisions are vital in shaping that individuals perspective on both power and the
world that they live in. The views, beliefs and opinions of their time period dictate how they exert and respond
to a sense of power. In William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is aware of the lack of power that she
has due to the beliefs regarding ones gender during the Elizabethan era. Robert Browning’s poem,
Porphyria’s Lover shows a shift of power in a relationship, reversing the typical roles of men and women in
the Victorian era. The characters awareness of the circumstances surrounding their partners, allow them to
use power for personal gain.
It is essential to understand how some individuals acquire power when others do not and why some retain
their power once they have attained it. In Macbeth, Shakespeare’s portrayal of Lady Macbeth presents her
as being menial when comparing her to a society that is predominately controlled by men. She recognises
this, and is able to influence her husbands actions for her own yearning. Within her soliloquy, Lady
Macbeth’s sudden realisation that her husband does not posses the qualities required to act on her behalf
and her attempt to entice him is evident in the lines “That I may pour my spirits in thine ear,” and “Art not
without ambition, but without the illness should attend it.” The idea of Lady Macbeth “pouring spirits” is used
as a metaphor in order to create imagery, showing that her intentions to influence Macbeth are intentional as
she wishes to attain power herself. She describes the necessary ruthless streak as an ‘illness’, suggesting
that even at this stage she knows what she is planning to do is wrong. Her determination to use her power to
influence her husband is distinctively shown through these two quotes. Lady Macbeth is aware that the place
of women within her time period prevents her from using power directly and as a result must use it through
Macbeth. When she calls upon scheming spirits asking to “unsex me here,” Lady Macbeth is pleading them
to rid her of a soft, feminine facade and is asking to obtain a more ruthless nature. She desires an internal
transformation, and later tells Macbeth to do the same when she exclaims, “Look like the innocent flower, but
be the serpent under it,” expressing to him that in order to be productive, he must remain innocent like a
flower while, in reality, being deceptive as a serpent would be. This demonstrates Lady Macbeth’s
encouragement of the “foul” described by the witches. Shakespeare’s view of the world is shown through
Lady Macbeth as she is portrayed as being extremely self observant of how society is downgrading her as a
powerful individual. As a result of recognising this, she understands what she must undertake in order to
wield her way through her husband who is considered a prime example of someone who exemplifies
excessive amounts of power.
In addition, in Browning’s Porphyria’s Lover, whilst it is Porphyria who initially possesses the power within the
relationship, the narrator soon reverses that. Porphyria’s control of the situation is shown in lines, “And made
her smooth white shoulder bare / And all her yellow hair displaced / And stooping , made my cheek lie there.”
The use of the verb “made” indicates force on Porphyria's part. It is as if the narrator is helpless and does not
want to be seduced by this woman. It is also noted that the word “stooped” implies that she is somehow
above or ranked higher than the narrator, who obviously feels emasculated by the situation. He feels
threatened by this woman, and in order to gain his sense of power back, he feels he must kill this seductress
in order to gain control. Emotions engulf him as he learns that Porphyria “worships” him. From fear of the
commitment that this man feels towards Porphyria, he begins to panic resulting in him murdering her, the
weapon of choice being her yellow hair, which is used as a recurring image throughout in order to show the
significance of it, stating “Three times her little throat around, And strangled her.” The narrator believes that
killing Porphyria will preserve their almost expired relationship.. In this poem, Robert Browning addresses
power and dominance along with gender roles within society. He explores how two genders views of the
world dictate the way in which they use power to their own advantage.
Hence, it can be seen from analysing these two texts that an individual’s perspective of power is indeed
shaped by how they view the world, which is a result of factors that influence one to make a decision.
Particularly, in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Robert Browning’s Porphyria’s Lover, a theme of attitudes
towards gender ,reflect the behaviour of the characters. Each characters awareness of both the positives
and negatives of their circumstances allow them to use power to the best of their ability.

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