A Comparison of Macbeth and Cr

Topics: Existentialism, Albert Camus, Fyodor Dostoyevsky Pages: 7 (1724 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Shakespeare's "Macbeth" and Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment explore the psychological depths of man. These two works examine tragedy as represented through the existential beliefs of many philosophers. Existentialist theory expresses the idea that man can satisfy his own needs, regardless of social codes, if he has the energy and ambition to act. Both Macbeth and Raskolnikov have the ambition to act, but each struggles internally with their actions, frightened of the consequences. Although these works examine the tragedy and remorse of Macbeth and Raskolnikov, the idea of a driving force within each character remains evident. Ultimately, William Shakespeare's "Macbeth" and Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment present similar aspects of the existential philosophy that examine the thoughts and actions of the two protagonists. The existential principle remains apparent within these works. The themes of existentialism vary, but one main focus is that man appeases himself by acting on his desires. Ignorance and hollowness penetrate human existence, creating anxiety, reverence, and dejection (Moore & Bruder 503). And man faces, as the most prominent fact of human existence, the need to decide how he is to live within this "absurd and irrational world" (Moore & Bruder 504). "Macbeth" employs many existentialist concepts. Macbeth's murdering of Duncan to obtain his kingship displays a basic existentialist philosophy in that he eliminated his obstacles in order to fulfill his ambition (Gellrich 17). The witches who constantly taunt Macbeth drive him to his ultimate goal (Craig 255). Dostoevsky also employs an existentialist philosophy in his novel. The "set of unconscious drives" (Cox 42) that propel Raskolnikov to commit his crime reveal that "human nature is not entirely definable by its rationality"(Jalava 1). This relates to existentialism by virtue of people occasionally performing certain actions that cannot be explained (Jalava 6). Both the works of Shakespeare and Dostoevsky suggest "existential approaches to tragedy"(Gellrich 257) that ultimately determines the protagonist's fate. The two protagonists, Macbeth and Raskolnikov, possess tragic flaws that lead to their downfalls. Confronted with numerous alternative courses of action, the tragic hero agonizes in his intentions and understands that he is going to suffer no matter which choice he makes (Gellrich 17). The tragic hero is recognized primarily because he "is a free and responsible agent whose extraordinary stature is established in a refusal to accept the limitations posed from without," (Gellrich 256) moreover exhibiting existentialist concepts. Existential tragedy remains elucidated within the works of Shakespeare. The problems of a tragic hero tend to come out into the open and lead to his demise in that every tragic hero's rapport manifests itself in its own way such as the hallucinations of Macbeth (Honigmann 69). The virtue and bravery shown in Macbeth are overcome by the evil force of the witches who draw him to his demise (Somerville 33). Similarly, Raskolnikov evinces himself as the epitome of a tragic agent. Raskolnikov commits the murder because he was "drawn by a power over which he now has no control," (Goddard 14) thus once again exhibiting the existential philosophy that man has no control over his actions. Tragically, Raskolnikov struggles internally wondering why he committed such a horrible deed, further illustrating the point of existentialists in that man's conduct is unexplainable (Bradbury 38). The existential theory explains the motivation for both protagonists. The philosophy of existentialists stresses man's determination to satisfy his aspirations. The bases for their belief stems from the "conception of the human condition," (Stone 1) referring to the manner in which man's actions are justified. The existentialist ideas focus on the irrationality behind man's behavior (Jalava 1). Furthermore, Macbeth demonstrates his motivation...
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