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Essay on Corruption and Ambition in Macbeth

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The Power of Corruption and Unbridled Ambition in Macbeth


Very few producers of art can actually let their works claim the appellation 'classic.' For to create a piece of work - literature, art, or poetry, that stands the test of time, that proves the author's premise relevant not just in the period when he created it, but also in the generations that follow, is not an easy task. The works of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) have, more than once, proved worthy of the title 'classic.' Not only does his work hold up, as he wished, a mirror to his own society, but manages to reflect what is going on much later, and indeed, may be relevant well into the next millennium, if civilization continues to peruse Shakespeare's writing. A study of the character of Macbeth, essentially reveals the parallels that Shakespeare draws with the human condition through the creation of Macbeth, and the consequences of unchecked ambition.

Shakespeare's choice of characters is significant. Steeped in the theatrical tradition, "Shakespeare was a historically minded, backward-looking man, much interested in the memorials of a previous past, as by its chronicles and its folklore." Holinshed's Chronicles and the works of Plutarch provided much fodder for Shakespeare's plots. But though the characters and facts were borrowed, it was Shakespeare's treatment that brought historical figures alive. Elizabethan drama frequently focused on politics, and the audience was used to the tradition of oration, particularly those delivered by kings, generals and figures in commanding positions. As John Palmer points out in Political and Comic Characters of Shakespeare, "...Elizabethans expected to find upon the stage, kings, princes, and gener...


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      Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player

      That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

      And then is heard no more

In Macbeth, Shakespeare succeeds in showing power of corruption, and also of unbridled ambition. The way he chooses to do this is in a brilliant flash of poetic philosophy, giving Macbeth a universal appeal that will remain undiminished in time to come.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, W. Macbeth, (Edited by A W Verity), Macmillan India, 1985

A L Rouse. Shakespeare the Man, Macmillan UK, 1973

Political and Comic Characters of Shakespeare, Macmillan UK, 1962

Dyer, T. Folklore of Shakespeare. Griffith & Farren:London,1883 (First Edition)

Elliott,G.R. Dramatic Providence in Shakespeare. Princeton University Press, 1958 (out-of-print Title)

Bindoff,S.T. Sr Tudor England, Pelican Books.1959


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