Macbeth was a rebel and runner, a restless young romantic trying to run the big machine. In society filled with sycophants, Macbeth was the 'new world' man, bright enough to win the world, and foolish enough to lose it. He was smart enough to know what was right, but 'young' enough not to chose it. He realized the "even-handed justice commends the ingredients of our poisoned chalice to our own lips." In spite of his foreboding, he had the king killed in order to appease the wishes of his wife and the witches. Likewise, More poured his heart into selfless pursuits. He held his faith in the divine nature of the church above his life and riches. More would much rather be at peace with his conscience than save his life. By failing to sign a document that he felt acknowledged the king's power over the church, More preserved his integrity, but lost his life. Like Macbeth, he put the desires of others above his own.
Selfless desires, however, were not in the repertoire of the society in general. Both lived in societies filled with mindless 'followers'. In More's society, the people were quick to cast themselves upon the mud to mimic the king's accidental fall. The people of medieval Scotland were also quick to join the bandwagon. Their loyalty quickly shifted from Duncan to Macbeth to Malcolm. People's loyalties constantly changed in their quest to curry favor with the aristocrats. If they were the last person surviving on the earth, they would probably starve because no one was commanding them to eat. However, they were quick to degrade another to advance their own ambitions. Cromwell relished the circumstantial bribery indictment of More.
Extremely selfish desires were also exemplified by the kings. The monarchial position quickly transformed the noble causes of Macbeth into an all out quest for personal reward. His consultations with the witches revealed his near-invincibility. He had no difficulty killing his old friends. His past life as a mere thane was behind him; he would not look back. His innocence slowly slipped away as his initial monoregicide spread to the murder of his friends, and eventually to the murder of innocent women and children. Similarly, Henry VIII delighted in using the chopping block. He even went to the extent of executing his wife, because she failed to produce a son. Though executions were more noticeable at the time, his tyrannical selfishness had its longest-lasting impact on the church. After receiving one favor from the church, he demanded another. Since the pope failed to grant him a divorce, he formed his own church. Nobody could tell him what to do. More's refusal to show wholehearted support for the king's dictatorial actions, caused the untimely separation of his head from his body. Likewise, Banquo was murdered because he failed to show complete support for Macbeth.
The borderline was crossed. Changes led to destruction. Like Tom Sawyer, Macbeth and Sir Thomas More couldn't expect to live in open rebellion of society and still survive. One would be corrupted. Both would die very ungracious deaths. Even living in the limelight could not bring about public support for two strong, but different, men.
- Jeremy Hubble October 3, 1991