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Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Euripedes’ Medea

Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Euripedes’ Medea

Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and Euripedes’ Medea, are both tragic plays in the classical sense. Both Medea and Macbeth lust for the unattainable, and that lust destroys them. It cannot be said which character is a truly tragic figure, because both fit the description. However, if either character deserves more sympathy it is Madea, the jilted wife, not Macbeth the King killer. Macbeth’s lust for power and his willingness to please his wife leads to his downfall. He murders the children of his one time friend, and suffers the consequences of that sin. Medea murders her own children in her quest to win back her lover Jason. She does this to seek revenge, since Jason sees the children not as theirs, but as his. She also, like Macbeth seeks to kill her rival, Jason’s new lover, the daughter of King Creon of Corinth and a ‘real Greek’. Both Euripedes and Shakespeare use the supernatural to enhance their plays. Macbeth is influenced by the prophecy of the three witches. Madea, who is a witch herself, is influenced by the mythological Gods of ancient Greece. Macbeth’s and Medea’s ambitions and lust lead to tragic conclusions in their lives.

Urged by his henpecking wife, Macbeth lusts for the throne. In the beginning of the play, Macbeth is likeable, but we soon see his dark side that will lead to his tragic downfall. The play starts with Macbeth and Banquo as co-leaders of the Scottish army, are returning from battle when they meet three witches. The witches prophesy that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawder and, later, king.

bodyOffer() 1. Witch. All hail, Macbeth. Hail to thee, Thane of


2. Witch. All hail, Macbeth. Hail to thee, Thane of


3. Witch. All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be King here-

after! (Act 1. Sc. III, lines 50-55)

They tell Banquo that he will not be king himself but he will have his descendants as kings:

1. Witch. Lesser than Macbeth, and greater.

2. Witch. Not so happy, yet happier.

3. Witch. Thou shalt get Kings, though thou be none.

So all hail, Macbeth and Banquo! (Act 1, SC. III lines 70-74)

Here we see Macbeth’s ambitions begin to appear. He begins to consider the possibility of becoming king! There is a chance that King Duncan might choose Macbeth, a cousin, as his successor, but Macbeth’s hopes are destroyed when Duncan names his son, Malcolm.

Merchant of Venice: The Effects of Cross-Dressing

Shakespeare challenges the assumption that men hold more power than women do. He subtly hints that the power men posses is superficial when Jessica dresses like a boy, and later when Nerissa and Portia disguise themselves as men in The Merchant of Venice. Masculinity is merely a costume that can be donned or doffed at will; therefore its associated power can be removed and redistributed as well.

Shakespeare emphasizes gender barriers, yet also challenges them to show their inconsistencies. In court, the Duke articulates the common assumption that men represent the educated and professional members of society. As he anticipates the arrival of the “young learned doctor” (IV i143), he asks, “Where is he?” (IVi 144). The Duke has not yet read the letter from Bellario; therefore he infers that the doctor is a man based on a preconceived prejudice that doctors usually are male. Nerissa and Portia are well aware of this discrimination, so they take on the roles of men rather than disguise themselves as other women when they appear in court. They succeed in fooling everyone at Shylock’s trial that they are men, not women, thus dispute the gender barrier that presumes women are not sophisticated enough to be experts. Gratiano suggests that no barriers lie between the sexes when he refers to Jessica as a “gentle” (II vi 51). He puns on the word, which can mean a refined lady or a gentleman, implying that the two can be indistinguishable. In the final scene when Portia questions Bassanio about his ring, he declares, “No woman had it, but a civil doctor”(V i210). He suggests that the two could not represent the same person. As he continues to speak, he reinforces gender differences; he describes Portia as “sweet” and “good” then refers t…

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… influence that Nerissa now has over him.

Shakespeare subtly addresses gender disputes and overwhelmingly proves them erroneous. He allows Jessica, Portia, and Nerissa to cross gender lines and disguise themselves as men. While they are transformed, their actions exemplify masculine deceit. Portia makes Balthasar seem excellent, therefore proves that women can surpass men in intellect. The women ultimately challenge male power and honor with their reluctance to act as men. After proving that men do not always posses more power than women do, Shakespeare concludes the play with a scene that physically shows females with the upper hand. The women use masculinity merely as a costume, and when they “remove it” they retain power, thus prove that the two are not always coupled.

Works Cited

Shakespeare. Merchant of Venice. New York: Viking Penguin, 1965.

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