Joseph Conrad and William Shakespeare are not traditionally paired up for a critical analysis. However, the characters MacBeth and Kurtz in MacBeth and Heart of Darkness, respectively, prove to be worthy of comparison. MacBeth and Kurtz share many common characteristics: both have vaulting ambition that leads both to their success and their demise, a superiority complex, and both make similar sacrifices to achieve their goal. Despite their many similarities, MacBeth and Kurtz differ in many respects. The way the authors present each character varies greatly, and the way each interacts with his surroundings contrast a great deal. The circumstances that follow their actions also differ since the societies in which they live are not similar in any aspect. Through their many similarities and differences, MacBeth and Kurtz prove to be characters filled with evilness, and upon a closer examination, the differing degrees of that evilness are seen.
Both MacBeth and Kurtz's initial actions are dominated by ambition. MacBeth chooses to overthrow King Duncan for the sole purpose of his own political gain. He even admits that he "[has] no spur/ To prick the sides of [his] intent, but only/ Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself/ And falls on th'other" (Act I, sc. 7). Despite many other good reasons for overthrowing a king, such as for the good of the state or if the king is infringing on the people's rights, MacBeth claims only selfish intentions. Like MacBeth, Kurtz, too, starts his road to evil with ambition. Kurtz, in order to earn his Intended's hand, goes to Africa to make something of himself. Instead of going on a "heavenly mission to civilize"(Conrad, 70) the savages, Kurtz's intentions, from the start, are to make money as quickly as possible. And he does. This "vaulting ambition" leads both met to climb the ladder of success at a quick pace. MacBeth is named "Thane of Cawdor" after one brave battle; Kurtz... [continues]
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