Power Themes In Shakespeare Works

Power is the root of all evil. According to Perry Besshye Shelley, "Power,
like a disease, pollutes whatever it touches." In other words, many characters
in literature become corrupted because of their quest for power. I fully agree
with Shelley that power "pollutes everything that it touches" because having
too much power concentrated in the hands of one person leads to dictatorship and
its bad consequences. "Power is the root of all evil" is another
interpretation of Shelley’s statement. This idea is demonstrated in the plays

Hamlet and Macbeth, both by William Shakespeare, where major characters lead
themselves to their downfall by trying to become very powerful. In fact, in both
plays many major characters die because of one person’s ambition to become a
powerful king. In Hamlet Claudius murders his brother, marries his former
sister-in-law (the Queen), and ascends to the throne of Denmark. These three
deeds are performed by a shrewd and self-serving man. The King will do almost
anything to protect the throne, in spite of knowing that he did not rightfully
earn it. He resorts to underhanded tactics such as spying, manipulation, and
deceit in order to overcome whatever he perceives as a threat to his supreme
position. As a result of Hamlet’s meeting with the ghost of his father,

Hamlet’s behavior changes. Everyone perceives this change as lunacy due to

Hamlet’s inability to accept the death of his father. However, Claudius does
not believe that this is the root cause of Hamlet’s madness. Since he is
uncertain of Hamlet’s knowledge of his secret, Claudius feels that his
supremacy is being threatened by Hamlet. Claudius sends for Hamlet’s childhood
friends Gildenstern and Rosencrantz to assist him with getting to the source of

Hamlet’s "so called transformation". Claudius exercises his power and
plays on their loyalty and respect for his position, in addition to their
long-standing friendship with Hamlet, in order to get their cooperation. When

Polonius presents the idea to Claudius that Hamlet’s madness is due to his
daughter (Ophelia) rejecting Hamlet’s affections, he reserves judgment on this
notion. Claudius needs assurance, and recognizes an opportunity to get to the
bottom of this situation. He proceeds to manipulate Polonius into spying on

Hamlet. Together they use Opheila in a scheme intended to test Polonius’
theory of rejection. The outcome of the test reveals to Claudius that his
concern should be for something other than a rejected lover. Claudius says:

There\'s something in his soul, O\'er which his melancholy sits on brood; And I do
doubt the hatch and the disclose Will be some danger: which for to prevent...
(Act III, sc. i) Claudius realizes that he must resolve the situation with

Hamlet to eliminate the potential threat to his security. However, Claudius is
astute enough to know that there are "two special reasons" why he could not
openly do anything to harm Hamlet. Claudius also knows that any direct action
taken against Hamlet would likely result in negative consequences for himself.

To compensate for this, he uses Laertes to do his dirty work. Claudius takes
advantage of Laertes’ intentions to revenge the death of his father. He is
able to put Laertes’ anger to rest and win over his confidence. He then
succeedes with leading Laertes into a scheme intended to kill Hamlet. Claudius
sends Horatio to spy on Ophelia, which appears to be a show of concern to the

Queen for Ophelia’s safety, but is more likely due to Claudius’ need to
protect his secret. He also withholds information from the Queen concerning the
scheme that ultimately leads to Ophelia’s madness. To protect himself, he
explained to the Queen that Ophelia’s "divided fair judgment" stemmed from
the death of her father. The play staged by Hamlet, in addition to Hamlet’s
wit, agitated the King. His reaction during the play causes a disruption, and
the play is discontinued. His self-conscious struggled with his self-serving
mission to remain in power as "the Dane". Claudius tells us: It hath the
primal eldest curse upon’t, A brother’s murder. Pray can I not, Though
inclination be as sharp as will: My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent;
(Act III, sc. iii) Claudius attempts to repent but realizes that he cannot do so
because the throne of Denmark means more to him than obeying the natural laws of
divinity. Claudius is an individual whose greed and selfishness are responsible
for his rise and fall from the throne of Denmark. The power and position that he
tried so hard to maintain is ultimately destroyed by the same evil methods that
he used to acquire them. In Macbeth, Macbeth is the central