Macbeth, The Ottoman Empire and My Family: A comparative essay
Social Studies
Macbeth, The Ottoman Empire and My Family: A comparative essay

Sadly, there are too many Macbeth’s in the real word. Macbeth was a character who got corrupted by his desire for power. As a king, he controlled people by fear of violence much like some politicians in our modern world. A reign similar to Macbeth’s was that of the Ottoman Empire throughout the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Europe. While the Ottoman Empire is credited for many advances in art and science, it was also one of the strongest and longest lasting rulers the world had ever seen, beginning in the mid 1300s until the early 1900s. The Empire engaged in genocide of the Armenians, enslaved women and children and eliminated possible heirs to the throne. The Ottoman Empire controlled Greece until 1830 and it was not until the early 1900s that Greece reclaimed the majority of the territories that had been taken. My Greek ancestors were one of the hundreds of thousands of people that got caught in the turmoil of their empire. The Ottoman Empire maintained its power through nepotism while expanding its power through domination and war and just like Macbeth.
The Ottoman Empire saw a total of 41 leaders during its 500+ year many of whom fought with their brothers or sons for complete control. However in 1512 Sultan Selim set some new rules for Empire to simplify that process after fighting to take the position from his father. In order to ensure no one else at this issues, he created a law that “When a new Sultan was crowned, his brothers would be imprisoned. When the Sultan’s first son was born, his brothers and their sons would be killed. This system ensured that the rightful heir would take the throne” ( This form of control is reminiscent of Macbeth’s rise of power. For example, as Macbeth is thinking about his plot to kill King Duncan he says “If the assassination/ Could trammel up the consequence, and catch/ With his surcease success; that but this blow/ Might be the be-all and the end-all here,/But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,/ We’d jump the life to come” (Shakespeare Act 1, Scene 7, Line 1-7). Here Macbeth is saying if he was sure he could get away with killing King Duncan without consequences, he would not hesitate to do it. This connects to Sultan Selim’s behavior because in order to get away with killing his threats to power, he just made it legal to eliminate your rivals.
Though in its 500 year rule the Ottoman Empire fought many wars, this essay will focus on the beginning of the end of the empire’s domination: The First Balkan War. At the time, the Ottoman Empire controlled Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and Montenegro. Greece and the Ottoman Empire constantly fought over the land in between their regions because each one wanted to control the beautiful islands there. However, in 1912 all of the territories came together to fight the Ottoman’s control. They formed the Balkan League, to resist the Ottoman Empire control over their land even though they had less soldiers and were strategically weaker than the Empire, Greece being the weakest of them all who could really only offer a navy to effort. This was the Empire’s last attempt to continue controlling other countries, and much like Macbeth they were fueled by their ambition to have control over lots of land. When Macbeth says “Stars hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires” (1.4.57-58) he is referring to his desire to be superior. This shows how both Macbeth and the Ottoman Empire had uncontrollable desires for power.
In light of the war impending, my great grandfather wanted to escape from Greece. He was working on his would-be wife’s father’s farm at the time. I don’t know what conversations they had or did not have, what plans they made or did not make for the future. I can only imagine how hard it must have been for him to leave her, knowing war was coming for her and her father’s farm in then called Smyrna now Izbir. My great-grandfather jumped on a cargo ship going to America in order to find a better life. I think of him using prayer beads to pass the time on the ship and set intentions for his new life. He arrived in Chicago, an illegal, undocumented immigrant to this country, working as a cook in a cafeteria. At the start of World War I when conscription was law. Even after traveling many miles to escape war, one day as he was hanging out on the street with friends, they will are taken by the military and enlisted. At the time, if you joined the military you could gain citizenship, which was probably an incentive for him to comply. Luckily, WWI was ending when he signed up, so he only had serve a short period of time.
When we got out, now a citizen and veteran, there was bad news about life and love he had left behind. While the Ottoman Empire had fallen, there were remaining tensions over land between Turkey and Greece. One of the most contentious places they fought over was Symnra (now Izbir) where he had lived. In order to gain control over Symnra, the Turks put fire to the city. They burned the entire city, killing not only Greeks, but Armenians as well, people of all religions. In total it is estimated 400,000 people died, including my great-grandmother’s family. The story I heard, was that she was saved people a general wanted to marry her. Now reading the history, the records of sexual assault and sexual violence suggest another story. When my great-grandfather heard the news he requested the Greek-American consult to find her and bring her to America. Together, they lived in a Greek neighborhood called Astoria, Queens in NYC and had 8 kids.
In conclusion, throughout literature and history, the corrupting nature of power is undeniable. Whether it is killing a few people close to you, or killing thousands of innocent people, Macbeth and the Ottoman Empire are grave warning to the present and the future of the destructive nature of immense power.
New York, NY
Ali Haridopolos
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Created on 2019-05-14 at 12:19 and last updated on 2019-05-15 at 18:40.