Comparing Pride and Prejudice to Macbeth

In the first few chapters of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, Jane Austen portrays Fitzwilliam Darcy as: “so high and conceited”, “a most disagreeable man” and possessed of “shocking madness”. This is conveyed to the audience through Elizabeth Bennet’s eavesdropping and the Bennet family’s first impression of Darcy. At the start of ‘Macbeth’ however, the central character, Macbeth, is portrayed by William Shakespeare as a hero. In Scotland he is loved, trusted and admired: “Oh valiant cousin, worthy gentleman”, “brave Macbeth”.
Nevertheless by the end of both works, the audience’s own opinion of each character has changed to the complete opposite. Their opinion has been altered by the authors who try to confute the audience’s initial understanding of both characters. Many characters throughout ‘Pride and Prejudice’ change in one way or another. They especially change other people’s impressions of them. A good example of this is Mr Wickham. When Wickham is first introduced into the novel, he is portrayed as a good, kind man who was unfortunate enough to have lived with Darcy: “Wickham was the happy man towards whom almost every female eye was turned… As the novel progresses Elizabeth begins to find out about his true characteristics. The way in which Jane Austen changes our opinion of Wickham is initially through the letter that Darcy sends to Elizabeth after she has declined his first offer of marriage. The letter she receives explains why Darcy dislikes Wickham. It tells her of the ungentleman like things that Wickham has done in the past. It explains how he became a “wild one” as one of Darcy’s housemaids told Elizabeth when she made a visit to Pemberley.
On the other hand in ‘Macbeth’, the character who undergoes the most change throughout the play is in fact Macbeth himself. At first, he was a very honourable and noble man, both on and off the battlefields of Scotland. This is shown we he is appointed to becoming Thane of Cawdor: “He bade me, from him, call thee Thane of Cawdor”. Macbeth however, was a very ambitious man as well, and this was part of the reason for his change of character and downfall: “I have no spur…but only vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself”.

It was Shakespeare’s portrayal of Macbeth’s ambition that allowed him to have the ability to change the audience’s opinion of Macbeth completely. Pushed by the idea that he could become king, his growing ambition and misplace confidence in the prophecies and Lady Macbeth, Macbeth begins to become an evil, murderous tyrant lacking any sense of mind. Another way in which Jane Austen changes ideas and characters in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is through the actions and words of Mr Bennet. Mr Bennet undergoes one of the most significant changes throughout the course of the novel.
When he is first introduced he is one of the primary characters offering comic relief and as the beginning of the story progresses, we see that his primary characteristics revolve around poking fun at his wife; “I have the utmost respect for your nerves. They’ve been my constant companion these twenty years. ” He also stays aloof from his daughters, and does not care about serious matters of love. As the novel progresses, most especially after Lydia’s elopement and arranged marriage, we see Mr. Bennet’s character begin to change.
The weight of his careless attitude finally sits heavy enough on his shoulders that he can no longer ignore it. While he still pokes fun at his wife, he understands that his daughters need a firm father if they are to curb their wild natures. With Lydia, it was too late, but he wasted no time in turning on Kitty and immediately laying down the law of his house: “ This shows the audience that he realises that he hasn’t brought up his daughters how he wanted to and her wants to change that with kitty.

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