Power is an affliction that has plagued mankind since the beginning of time. It is the source of all our wars, greed and racism. At its core is violence and to what extent man will go to have power. For some of us, our violent tendencies lies dormant, controlled to some extent, but we all have it in us to resort to our truest nature when there is something at stake. William Shakespeare’s, Macbeth and Curtis Jackson’s (50 cents) lyrics to Many Men from his, “Get Rich or Die Tryin” soundtrack offers us a microscopic view of how violence peels the layers of what the role of a man is, their insecurities, fears and the need for power and to conquer it.

The role of a man is synonymous with violence in both Macbeth and Many Men. In the beginning of Macbeth, we are introduced to MacBeth fresh off the heels of a victory against Macdonwald and Cawdor, two Scottish Thanes revolting against the ruling monarch, King Duncan. Macbeth, Banquo and Macduff lead Duncan’s forces into battle and defeat the opposing monarch. Macbeth is highly praised for his prowess on the battlefield where it states,“For brave Macbeth — Well he serves that name — disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel, which smoked with bloody execution.”(Act 1 Scene 2) As a result, Macbeth gains fame and reputation.

In Curtis Jackson’s lyrics, we are introduced to 50 cents who is fighting for fame and reputation, trying to hold on to it and avoiding getting killed by rivals who want him dead. We see this in the beginning of the song where he states, “Many men, wish death upon me/Blood in my eye dog and I can’t see/I’m trying to be what I’m destined to be/And niggas trying to take my life away.”(Jackson) Unlike Macbeth, 50 Cents Many Men embraces his violent nature and makes no apologies for it, with the exception of asking god to have mercy on his soul for his actions. 50 Cents tells the story of a man with his back against the wall who is not going down without a fight because of what he is destined to do. As a result, he is forced to walk around with a gun to protect himself from those he believes are out to get him. While protecting himself is of utmost importance, ultimately, self-­‐preservation turns to bravado as 50 Cents glorifies violence and it becomes an extension of who he is. He does this by comparing himself to Paulie in Goodfellas and Malcom X.

Macbeth, on the other hand is coerced into a life a violence brought on a by the prophecy from the three witches in which they state, MacBeth will be named the Thane of Cawdor and then will become King (Act 1, Scene 1). Lady Macbeth’s thirst for power decides to speed up the process of the prophecy by telling Macbeth he should kill Duncan while he is visiting their castle. When Lady Macbeth reveals her plans, Macbeth seemingly doesn’t want any part of it. However, Lady Macbeth questions his manhood and calls him a coward. When he has second thoughts about killing Duncan, she states. “As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that which thou esteem’st the ornament of life, and live a life of coward in thine own esteem. “(Act 1, Scene 7). As MacBeth grapples with idea of being a coward in front of his own wife he tries to remind her what his role as a man is. He states, “I beg you, no more! I dare do what’s appropriate for a man to do. Anyone who dares to do more is not a real man at all.” Lady Macbeth further goads him by saying, “When you durst do it, then you were a man; And to be more than what you were, you would be so more the man.” (Act 1, Scene 7)

While both MacBeth and 50 Cents are coerced into violent acts for power, however their motivations are different. For MacBeth, he is ruled by a prophecy, his ego and pride to stand tall as a man in front of his wife. On the other hand, 5o Cents in Many Men, doesn’t have a choice. Nor does, he feel powerless or cowardly. He actually thinks death is easier than living where he states, “Joy wouldn’t feel good, if it wasn’t for pain/Death gotta be easy, cause life is hard.” With his back against the wall, 50 cents resort to violence to stay alive. In essence, he becomes a product of his environment where it’s do or die. This is echoed in his, Many Men lyrics where he states, “I put a hole in nigga for fuckin with me/My back on the wall, you gon see/Better watch how you talk, when you talk about me’ ’cause I’ll come take your life away.” (Jackson) 50 cents uses violence as a tool for self-­‐preservation and to further his reputation, whereas Macbeth uses it for selfish reasons perpetuated by his need for power motivated by his insecurities.

In both MacBeth and Many Men, the role of a man is constantly questioned, where there is no room for weakness. For 50 Cents his role as a man is questioned by society. His weakness is the judicial system where he feels like justice will never be on his side. For MacBeth, judgment comes from his wife and his deep seethed insecurities where it questions his nobility. Societal norms for both these men never really gave them a chance. It’s almost as if their lives were made to follow a violent path. For example, MacBeth’s duty is to serve his King and fight his wars. Whereas for 50 Cents, his fate was solidified the day he was born. Respectively MacBeth and 50 Cents societal norms offer no other outcome other to act out their violent tendencies whether personal or at the expense of others. As we see both men grapple with their insecurities, it also becomes their comfort zone. It is where they can hide and be safe and not face the man in the mirror. We are offered a brief glimpse at 50 cent’s insecurities when he states, “I’m the diamond in the dirt, that ain’t been found.”(Jackson) That line speaks volumes into how 50 cents views himself. Though his world is full chaos, there is some beauty that was born from this and that is his lyrical capability. With that, there is some hope that can be gained and maybe change can come about, especially when he tells us how good he is. “When I rhyme, something special happen every time/I’m
the greatest, something like Ali in his prime.”(Jackson) In essence, 50 Cents violent life hopes that it can clear a path to something good.For MacBeth, his insecurities are what make him even more prone to violence. His fear of how his manhood is perceived is the root of all of his actions. It’s self-­‐validating and as he grows into the role of a murderous tyrant who is not above killing anyone who stands in his way we are at a crossroads with the humble servant Macbeth we see in the beginning of the play and the man he becomes after he kills Duncan. This is where the turning point happens for Macbeth, where the fear of insecurity and self-­‐doubt is no longer there and violence has somehow allowed him to stand tall with no fear, as illustrated in Act 5 Scene 7. However guilt and paranoia takes hold of him.

Fear is a constant emotion that never leaves MacBeth until his death. And this goes back to the prophecy of the witches. The many people he has killed in order to attain power and stay in power. This is the new fear that has taken over MacBeth leaving sheer guilt, paranoia and suspecting everyone of ill will towards him. One aspect we can look at is how he handles Banquo. Keep in mind, we are dealing with someone who is very insecure, and it appears by all accounts that Banqou is far more superior and this something that MacBeth grudgingly admits. Macbeth states, “ When first they put the name of king upon me. And bade them speak to him. Then prophet like. They hailed him father to a line of kings” (Act 3, Scene1). Also what drives Macbeth to kill Banquo is that he knows of the prophecy and he is aware that he has no heir to pass on his throne, but Banquo does.

In true Macbeth form, he sends murderers to kill Banquo and his son Fleance and this begins the downward spiral of Macbeth, where he constantly sees ghosts of Banquo appearing which one can deduce to be guilt. Similarly, fear comes in the form of paranoia for 50 cents in that he feels everyone is out to get him. As a result, he turns to god when he is not feeling in control. But his feelings towards god are ambiguous, more like a crutch that he leans on when nightmares plague him or he faces a tough decision. He states, “Every night I talk to god, but he don’t say nothing back.“ I know he is protecting me, but I still stay with my gat.” In this line, he is taking fate into his own hands and not leaving it to a higher power. More like the biblical saying, “Help yourself and I will help you.” Which is in stark contrast to MacBeth who leans on the witches’ for guidance and reassurance that further sends him down the path of moral decline and that dependency on the witches is his ultimate undoing.

Violence is a key theme in both Macbeth and Many Men. However, for 50 cents, there is some form of redemption for him and what he must do. Though he admits that he will take lives if they come his way but he also feels that his survival is paying homage to young men who are in jail or to young men selling drugs like he did. He hopes that his presence can influence them in a way where they see out of the darkness that is their reality. 50 Cent’s feels his violent nature will lend itself to some good, whereas with Macbeth, his choices are based on impulsive, selfish whims of power to support his lack of self-­‐confidence. While there are many similarities between MacBeth and 50 Cents, there is one key message that is permeated in MacBeth and Many Men for each act of violence is another act violence until someone is dead or in jail. In the case of MacBeth, we see it begins with a war, Lady MacBeth’s Suicide and the beheading of MacBeth. Similarly, in 50 Cent’s Many Men he quotes many people dying or jailed and finds himself to be destined or something great as he avoided was able to avoid death.

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