William Shakespeare is arguably one of the greatest playwrights and poets of all time. This is due to his intelligent sonnets and plays that are divided into the genres of comedy, tragedy and history. Many great poets have acknowledged him as a pure genius in the way he presents his work. English novelist D. H. Lawrence stated “When I read Shakespeare I am struck with wonder that such trivial people should muse and thunder in such lovely language”. Alchin, online) English poet Robert Graves once described this poetic genius, claiming that “The remarkable thing about Shakespeare is that he is really very good – in spite of all the people who say he is very good. ” (Alchin, online) Shakespeare’s work has the reputation of being the one of the greatest in English language and Western literature. It has been translated into every major language and is still being preformed all around the world today. Many of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets have similar characteristics relating to themes, motifs, and symbols.
These recurring images and ideas not only portray how he really feels, but they also have a personal connection with Shakespeare as they have had some significance in his life. The theme of death and reappearing ghosts appear in many of Shakespeare’s works, especially in Hamlet and Macbeth, and are used to connect with the reader and present an important aspect that helps develop his works as a whole. In the time of William Shakespeare there was a strong belief in the existence of the paranormal activity and. Thus, the theme of the supernatural is a recurring aspect in many of Shakespeare?s plays.
In both Hamlet and Macbeth, the supernatural is vital to the development and structure of the plot. It provides a deeper understanding of each character, and increases the impact of important events. The supernatural appears to the audience in many varied forms. In Hamlet there is a ghost, the most common supernatural form. However, in Macbeth, not only does a ghost appear but a floating dagger, witches, and prophetic apparitions make appearances. A ghost, appearing in the form of Hamlet’s father, makes several appearances in the play. It first appears to Marcellus and Bernardo, along with Horatio.
The ghost says nothing to them and is perceived with fear and apprehension. However, the ghost gives the reader important information that helps them understand the development of the plot. The conversation between the ghost and Hamlet serves as a reason for Hamlet’s later actions and provides insight into his character. However, Hamlet is not quick to believe the ghost. “T’ assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps, Out of my weakness and my melancholy, As he is very potent with such spirits, Abuses me to damn me. (Shakespeare, Act 2, Scene 2).
This reveals another aspect of his character and helps the reader understand Hamlet. This ghost is portrayed as a subconscious, and he uses it as a guide when he takes the ghost’s advice to seek revenge for the King’s death. The supernatural occurs four times during the course of Macbeth. It occurs in the forms of the witches, in the appearance of Banquo’s ghost, in the apparitions, and in the “air-drawn” dagger that guides Macbeth towards his victim. The witches are the most important supernatural aspect in Macbeth. They represent Macbeth’s evil ambitions and are the reason for his evil aspirations.
Macbeth believes the witches and wishes to know more about the future so after the banquet he seeks them out at their cave. He wants to know the answers to his questions even though the consequences are violent and destructive to nature. In Hamlet and Macbeth the supernatural is a vital part of the structure of the plot. It provides a catalyst for action by the characters and supplies insight into the major players. The supernatural appeals to the audience’s curiosity of the mysterious and thus strengthens their interest. Shakespeare had his experiences with death throughout his whole life.
During the 16th century, waves of plague swept across England. John and Mary Shakespeare had eight children, including William. Joan, the first born sibling, died at the age of two months old due to the Bubonic Plague. Margret was the second born child and only lived for one also due to the plague. Anne Shakespeare was the sixth child born. She died at the age of eight. William was very fortunate to live a full life as three out of seven of his siblings died at an extremely young age. He also had to witness much of his family suffer with illness from the plague that swept Stratford uring the hot summer months. The plague was not the only tragic aspect of Shakespeare’s time. Smallpox, Syphilis, Typhus and Malaria mainly from infected rats all drastically affected Shakespeare’s life and caused copious amounts of death. These type of aspects and experiences all have influenced his writing (Amanda Mabillard, online). It is also a key motif and vital theme in Macbeth and Hamlet, as well as many other plays. Each major character in both plays has a famous soliloquy that discusses the topic of death and leads the character with a lingering feeling of despair.
They both wonder if embracing death would be better than living in a world full of corruption. “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! … Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing. ” (Shakespeare, Act 5, Scene 5). Macbeth, feeling guilty after committing killing the king and sad after the death of his wife, sees life as meaningless and insignificant.
He wonders if life is truly worth living anymore. Hamlet’s famous soliloquy displays a similar tone as he also ponders between life and death. “To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? … With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action. –Soft you now! The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons Be all my sins remember’d. ” (Shakespeare, Act 3, Scene 1).
His despair, sorrow, anger, and inner peace are all justifiable emotions for this troubled character. Hamlet’s feeling of despair towards his life and to the world develops as the play moves on. With the burden of avenging his father’s death, Hamlet thinks that perhaps it is better commit suicide, except that there is no knowledge of what comes next. Therefore, although he thinks death should to be embraced, it cannot be pursued. (Schoenbaum, 49) Shakespeare’s life and thoughts are portrayed, reflected, and interpreted throughout his plays. Hamlet and Macbeth’s speeches both suggest that
Shakespeare himself dealt with the question of life over death and possibly had thoughts of suicide. He uses these characters to reflect his feelings and thoughts and develop the plot of the story. Shakespeare’s plays have influenced many people around the world. He is one of the most known playwrights. His style is so unique and distinctive and excels beyond the expectations of great writing. Although his plays may seem as just a great story merely for entertainment, each and every single aspect of his writing has an incredibly deep meaning that adds style and feeling to the plot.
The supernatural in many of Shakespeare’s works and have contributed to plot development by foreshadowing events later in the novel and shaping the characters attitude throughout the play. Death has been a lingering aspect through most of Shakespeare’s plays and is usually the fate of the major character. It helps develop the plot and places emphasis on the fatal flaw of the major character or theme of the play. They both have played an important part in Shakespeare’s life and have been essential to the success of his work as they help the genius express his feelings and shape the scheme of his writing.
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