evilmac Essay on Evil in Shakespeare's Richard III and Macbeth
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Vision of Evil in Richard III and Macbeth
Shakesperae’s play Macbeth is in some respects a relatively simple play. Like Richard III its’ structure follows a standard conventional form: the rise and fall of a great man. The first part of the play follows Macbeth's rise to power. By 3.1 he has assumed the kingship. The rest of the play follows the disintegration of all he has achieved, a process that culminates with his death and the installment of new king. In that sense, there is very little difference in the structure between Richard III and Macbeth.
But, of course, they are vastly different plays. The key difference is the psychological portrait of the hero. In Richard III there is an amalgam of different theatrical depictions of evil and that the predominant one was the Vice-Machiavel, the Devil incarnate, who is presented in such a way that we are not encouraged to probe very much into his motivation, his psychological response to events as they unfold, and his disintegration. We do have some clear hints at a possible psychological source for Richard's conduct (the opening soliloquy points to his deformity and his inability to love), but I suggested that these are more symbols of his evil than their cause. This approach to Richard's character allows us to develop in more detail an appreciation for how much the effects of this play depend upon Richard's theatricality, on his outward behaviour (which he invites us to admire in a shared understanding of how clever he is in comparison with everyone else), rather than on any inward complexity.
Macbeth is totally different. There is nothing at all theatrical about the presentation of his character. He does not confide in us or seek to e...
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...ll always be such people, often among the best and the brightest – politicians, business and community leaders, entertainers and sports figures. So overcoming one particular person is no final triumph of anything. It is a reminder of just how fragile the basic moral assumptions we make about ourselves can be. In that sense, Macbeth, like all great tragedies, is potentially a very emotionally disturbing play. It does not reassure us that the forces of good will always prevail, rather that the powers of darkness are always present, for all our pious hopes and beliefs.
Shakespeare, William. Richard III. The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1997)
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 7th ed. New York: Longman, 1999.