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A Comparison of Time in Macbeth and As You Like It
In Shakespearean drama, a dynamic and explosive fusion of jealousy, pride, anger and ambition is characteristic for heroes’ behaviour. The tragedy was caused by the excessive flaw in character - self-respect and dignity combined with the feelings of hate and revenge. A disaster usually occurred to lead to destruction of the protagonist. Due to divine justice, punishment is inevitable and therefore no happy ending is possible. Therefore, time is the hero’s main enemy, mercilessly working against him. The mystery of tragedy is that once the protagonist has learnt a lesson of how to renew the order in himself, death is the only outcome /no memento mori, however/.
Comedy differs in the mood it approaches and addresses life. It presents situations which deal with common ground of man’s social experience rather than limits of his behaviour – it is not life in the tragic mode, lived at the difficult and perilous limits of the human condition.
In “Macbeth” the first scene presents a meeting of three witches during stormy weather. Shakespeare shows disturbed, angry nature - thunder and lighting represent light - daytime and dark – night-time. Light is the metaphor for innocence, purity, truth, and goodness as opposed to dark - evil. It is also a suggestion that the innocent will suffer as well as the guilty. The fog and filthy air signify moral and spiritual obscurity and “the set of sun” means the end of the reign and kingship. The sun appears only twice – when Duncan sees the swallows flying around the castle of death and during the army gathering to purify the earth of its shame (traitors).
There is very strong sense of predestination (‘when’ instead of ‘if’) while in “As You Like It” Orlando’s flight is pathless and the meeting of lovers – an act of Fate. In both plays the succession of the scenes is very swift; in tragedy the impression is that longer time elapsed than provided for because passage from thought to a critical resolution is difficult. The outcome of the comedy is obvious while Macbeth enters the spiral of decline within his imagination. Sleep has been banished – the protagonist is aware of the nightmare; his only one dream is the murder which would break the cycle and show the way out of the nightmare – liberation.
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“ Rebellious dead, rise never...
... and our high-placed Macbeth
Shall live the lease of nature, pay his breath
To time and mortal custom” /IV.i.98/
Therefore, in tragedy there is conflict of two realities – not only opposed but irreconcilable; illusory freedom and the main outlined goals in life are lost in the past or asserted before their time. In comedy, on the contrary, the heroes’ ideals are real and the power of the opposing forces – illusory.
All is left is contempt – the concept of man was crumbled to pieces in “Macbeth”:
“Time and the hour runs through the roughest day” /I.iii.146/
while in “As You Like It” time was the main factor which contributed to a resolution of all the problems posed and overcoming the difficulties.