Power is the root of all evil



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