Consequences of corruption
Former US president, John F. Kennedy, refers to the acquisition of power through immoral behavior in his inaugural speech: "in the past, those who have sought power by riding on the back of the tiger have ended up inside". This explores the concept of power and greed resulting in corruption. In Macbeth by William Shakespeare, many references to the consequences of corruption are made. The consequences are displayed through several sources. Macbeth becomes corrupt in his quest for power due to misguided decisions, and Lady Macbeth displays corruption through her ambitious and unethical behavior. The consequences are made clear through the immoral acts committed by Macbeth, and his wife, provoked by their ambition and pursuit of power.
In the play Macbeth, prime examples of the compromise of good moral values leading to consequences often relate to events revolving around the title character, Macbeth. When the story begins, Macbeth truly is a "peerless kinsmen" to the king (1.4.66); however, as the story progresses others refer to him in this way only because they are oblivious to his true desires. The corruption of the principles which Macbeth initially appears to value is first made clear during a meeting with the king.
The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step.
On which I must fall down, or else overleap
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 (1.4.56-61).
Here, one can see that Macbeths loyalty to the king changes after his hearing of the
witches prophecies. Furthermore, the fact that he realizes that his desires are dark shows that he understands what must be done if he wishes to seize the throne. His corruption is most evident when he successfully attains the throne after murdering the king, thus attaining his position of power through unethical means. Macbeth's first major consequence is common amongst those who fail to cope with their power crazed actions. The insomnia he develops following the murder of King Duncan is the result of the paranoia and fear over which he now obsesses. This is shown through the few times he does sleep, and his nights full of nightmares of his crazy actions, but also of his paranoia of losing the throne despite all he has done to seize it.
As a result, Macbeth essentially surrenders his life to his obsession with retaining the throne. He initially believes that in seizing the highest authority, he would gain immeasurable amounts of happiness. Unfortunately, things do not go accordingly to plan. Macbeth not only gains nothing, but also loses everything in his life which at first made him happy: society's respect, his wife, peace of mind and the benefits of relatively sound moral values. Macbeth himself acknowledges this.
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing (Shakespeare 5.5.44-48).
Macbeth's nihilistic views are significant to his immediate situation in that he realizes that he becomes the witches puppet. Also, he understands the situation and the possibility of death in his near future. Macbeth makes all his decisions in hope that they will put his mind at ease and rid him of his misery. All of Macbeth's tragic consequences clearly display the eventual penalties of corruption.
The concept of corruption resulting in consequences is not only specific to Macbeth's character. Shakespeare uses Lady Macbeth's lust for power and the extensive lengths she goes to in order to achieve it to display her corruption. The fact that corruption is present from the start is shown when she first learns of the witches' prophecies and Macbeth's new rank as the Thane of Cawdor. We see that as soon as she becomes more powerful due to her husbands new title, she lusts for more. She also expresses that she would be willing to go to any lengths for it:
Come, you spirits