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The Supernatural in Hamlet and Macbeth

The Supernatural in Hamlet and Macbeth

In both Hamlet and Macbeth, the supernatural plays a very important role. Supernatural elements are crucial to the plot and they also have a more thematic part as well. Shakespeare presents the ghost in Hamlet, and the witches and ghost in Macbeth, as disrupting elements that not only enhance drama, but also tear apart the existing order of things. They force the title character of each play to undergo their own internal struggle that grows from their insecurity of living up to the image of a man.

First, let us consider Hamlet. The presence of the supernatural takes center stage at the beginning with a dramatic appearance of the ghost of Hamlet’s father. Although the ghost does not speak, his presence is seen and already disrupts. It is in later in this first act where the ghost plays it’s first and most crucial part. In Scene V of act I, Hamlet and his father’s Ghost appear together and alone. The ghost says, “A serpent stung me, so the whole ear of Denmark/Is by a forged process of my death/Rankly abus’d”(I.v.36-38). The first seed of disrupting things (both Hamlet’s identity and Denmark) is planted here. The ghost’s words make it clear that his murder was not only a crime against him, but also a crime against the land.

The core of the play then unfolds from the actions and words of this ghost. Hamlet’s revenge against his uncle is certainly fueled by the ghost’s words, but the ghost seems to serve a more subtle and internal part here. In the famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy (III.i.55-88), Hamlet makes it clear his is not only unsure of what action to take, but unsure of himself as well. It seems his father’s aberration confuses Hamlet …

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…e serves as ghosts in the machine of the character’s life. And it is that which really kills them or drives them to their death in the end.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Bloom, Harold. “Introduction.” Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York City: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 1-10.

Bradley, A.C. “The Witch Scenes in Macbeth.” England in Literature. Ed. John Pfordesher, Gladys V. Veidemanis, and Helen McDonnell. Illinois: Scott, Foresman, 1989. 232-233

Goldman, Michael. Critical Essays on Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Ed. David Scott Kaston. New York City: Prentice Hall International. 1995.

The Riverside Shakespeare: Second Edition Houghtom Mifflin Company Boston/New York G. Blakemore Evans and J.J.M Tobin eds.

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Edited by Norman Sanders. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984

A Comparison of Wealth in Antony and Cleopatra and The Tempest

The Importance of Wealth in Antony and Cleopatra and The Tempest

Wealth and it’s relationship to poverty figures in heavily in two of the plays we have read thus far in class. In both Antony and Cleopatra and The Tempest we are treated to characters and situations that deal with wealth and poverty. Specifically however, both plays have visions of an abundance of wealth that seems at times both corruptible and foolish. In Antony and Cleopatra we have their excessive behavior and flaunting, which proves to be a vice that grips them much to tightly. In The Tempest, characters stranded on a deserted island have their own unique versions of achieving that said abundance. Shakespeare treats the topic similarly in both plays, and uses it to expose the very nature of abundance.

For example, in Antony and Cleopatra we are treated to many scenes describing the level of excess the title characters are involved in. In Act 3, scene 6 Shakespeare writes,

Here’s the manner of’t:

I’th’ market-place, on a tribunal silver’d,

Cleopatra and himself in chairs of gold

Were publicly enthron’d. At their feet sat

Caesarian, whom they call my father’s son,

And all the unlawful issue that their lust

Since then hath made between them. Unto her

He gave the stablishment of Egypt, made her

Of lower Syria, Cyprus,Lydia,

Absolute Queen (2-10).

With that passage, Shakespeare (through Caesar) is criticizing the lavishness and public showings of both Antony and Cleopatra. He seems to think it grotesque to have them sitting in front of everyone in “chairs of gold”.

Even earlier, Antony’s abundant behavior is made obvious. Shakespeare writes, “he fishes, drinks, and wastes/The lamps of night in …

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… riches? His want of this abundance is like the others, made worse by the fact that he at first had no idea what it was. He had something better (although some would view him as poor), and now a glimpse of wealth has changed him.

In the end, by looking at these two plays, we can see that wealth can indeed be a corrupting force in Shakespeare’s world. Although wealth may not necessarily be just money. It can come in many forms; power, idleness, etc. And in today’s world where money-winning game shows are what pass for culture and entertainment, it seems all the more relevant.

Works Cited:

The Riverside Shakespeare: Second Edition Houghton Mifflin Company Boston/New York G. Blakemore Evans and J.J.M Tobin eds.

Shakespeare’s The Tempest: World’s Classics The Oxford Shakespeare. Oxford University Press New York/London. Ed. Stanley Wells

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