William Shakespeare wrote several immortal plays about the power and ambition of kings and rulers, and their terrible consequences. In these plays Shakespeare shows us what happens when an ambitious person becomes power-hungry and gives in to the devastating forces of evil.
During Shakespeare’s time people thought that a king had divine power that came directly from God. Therefore, he could do whatever he wanted to—he was always right. This meant that he could do good deeds and improve the lives of the common people; or, he could make their lives miserable and destroy those who disagreed with him.
Let’s take a look at three of Shakespeare’s most power-hungry rulers. Richard III is set in 15th-century England, and is about the evil Duke of Gloucester, Richard. When the Duke’s brother, King Edward died, Richard became Lord Protector and then King Richard III. As King Edward had two young sons, King Richard could only rule until the eldest son was the right age to become king. This disturbed him greatly, so he took his two nephews to the Tower of London and had them murdered! Now King Richard was certain that the throne was his for life. However, to keep his power he continued murdering other people.
Macbeth is set in 11th-century Scotland and is about the Scottish General Macbeth, who was a brave and loyal soldier. He was a powerful man whose extreme ambition and supernatural beliefs were his greatest faults, that destroyed him.
Shakespeare also wrote about rulers from long ago. Julius Caesar takes place in 44 BCE in Rome, during Julius Caesar’s rule. For 450 years Rome had a political system that did not allow one person to have all the power and rule as emperor or dictator. Julius Caesar was a brilliant military leader and a very ambitious and powerful individual. He wanted to become the Emperor of Rome for life. His political enemies decided to put an end to his power and killed him on March 15, 44 BCE—the Ides of March.