In Shakespeares Macbeth, the main character, Macbeth, can be compared in many was to a Machiavellian prince. Macbeths ambition to be king and his desire for power are the basis of Machiavellis ideas, but when examined more closely we find many flaws in Macbeths character that Machiavelli warns will be destructive. Although Macbeth has many Machiavellian characteristics, Macbeths rise to power without true fortune or virtue leads him to his downfall.
The character of Macbeth is a classic example of a Shakespearean tragic hero. Macbeths achieves his long time desire to be king, but his tragic flaw brings him to ruin. His character changes drastically during the play. At the opening of the play, Macbeth is considered strong and noble. As the play progress he is corrupted by many factors including: his wifes manipulation of his judgment, his curiosity about the witchs prophecy, and his ambition to be king. At the end of the play, Macbeth's own subjects bring him to his death because of his cruelty and weakness as a king.
Macbeths character has many of the qualities that Machiavelli considers necessary to be a prince. Most importantly, Macbeth is an excellent fighter. He has gained much of his power through his recognition for his admirable skills at battle time. Machiavelli would praise this quality of Macbeth; in that a princes priority should always be war and that it is a necessity that the prince is a skilled fighter. In order to become prince, Macbeth turns on his friend and kinsman, King Duncan. With encouragement from his wife, Lady Macbeth, Macbeth is able to murder Duncan to become king, although Macbeth has always been considered a noble man. Machiavelli writes that in order to keep power a prince does not have to be loyal to his friends and subjects. He also states that it is necessary for a princeto learn how not to be good. Macbeth seems to be capable of having these qualities.
A lot of Macbeths actions in the play are led by his desire to be king and idea that his fate to be king is predetermined. He hears the witches prophecy of his future, which gives him confidence to kill Duncan and follow his ambition to be king. These two drives can somewhat be compared to Machiavellis idea of fortune and virtue.