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In William Shakespeare s two most popular works of art, Macbeth and Hamlet, several parts of the plays are similar. These two plays can be compared easily because Shakespeare used the same formula for each of his tragedies. The tragedies use supernatural incidents to intrigue the reader s interest and included in the play is a hero who has a tragic flaw, which eventually causes him to make a fatal mistake. Throughout both of these plays, Shakespeare uses the left motif of poison, death, ambition, and appearances can be deceiving. We are first introduced to poison in Hamlet in the very beginning of the play. King Hamlet is killed when his brother, Claudius, pours poison into his ear while King Hamlet is asleep in his apple orchard.
This causes a fast but excruciating death. Poison is later brought back into the play when Claudius will try to slip a poison into Hamlet s drink of wine. His plan backfires when his wife takes a drink from the cup instead of Hamlet and the poison eventually kills her. During the time of that incident, Hamlet is fencing with Laertes. Laertes sees that Hamlet if far beyond him in his fencing ability, so he decides to wipe the blade of his sword with a cloth soaked in poison. As the fight goes on Hamlet is cut on the arm, causing the poison to slowly seep into his blood.
While they are fencing Hamlet is able to switch swords with Laertes and when he stabs him he unknowingly poisons him with the blade of Laertes own sword, eventually leading to his death. Although actual poison was used throughout the play, the poison of the mind was just as important. When Hamlet had learned that Claudius had killed his father for his own greed, Hamlet s mind was poisoned. All he could think of was a way to avenge the death of his beloved father. Later when Hamlet had accidentally killed Polonius thinking he was Claudius, Hamlet had also accidentally poisoned two separate minds; Laertes and Ophelia. When Laertes had learned of the actions of Hamlet, he was poisoned in the same fashion as Hamlet when he had learned of the incident involving his father.
Ophelia was weaker against the poison and let it pull her into insanity. Ophelia escapes the poison when she takes her own life by drowning herself. In Macbeth, Shakespeare uses the left motif of poison in the same manner. Although there is no actual poison being used, the mental poison is being used frequently. The first instance would be when the witches had told Macbeth that he would eventually become the king.
He instantly became infatuated with what would happen to him. He believed that he could confide in Lady Macbeth, his wife. To speed the process of Macbeth becoming king, Lady Macbeth creatively devised of some way to murder the king. When Lady Macbeth learns that the king will visit her house, she said, Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty Come to my woman breasts, and take my milk for gall. (Act I Scene v) She said this for the spirits make her stronger, but alas, it was to late because the poison had already taken its toll on her mind.
The theme of ambition also plays a key role in both of Shakespeare s plays. Although in Shakespeare time, ambition was seen as wrong, he was still able to fit it into his plays. In Hamlet ambition is the cause of the downfall of two of the major characters; Polonius and Claudius. Polonius ambition to be trusted and all knowing led him to a life of spying.
He would spy on people to learn the truth of private conversations and other important events. While he was spying on Queen Gertrude and Prince Hamlet, Hamlet made the mistake of stabbing at Polonius when he was hiding behind a curtain. Claudius is the entire reason the story of Hamlet is even told. His ambition to become king was overcome by greed. He wanted everything and he was not willing to let anything stand in his way. He was over come by his emotions and killed his brother, thus the cause for the entire story.
In the play Macbeth, ambition was the downfall of two more characters; Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. When the witches had told Macbeth of their prophecies, he instantly thought of murder, treachery, and deceit. He wanted everything for himself and no one else. He wrote a letter to his wife about the meeting with the witches and explained their prophecies to her. When she had read the letter her ambition and darkest side had been released. When her husband returns and they learn of the visit from the king, Lady Macbeth thinks this is the perfect time to kill the king so that she and her husband can rule the land.
After they had killed the king, she thought that they could just wash the blood off of their hands. Eventually, her wicked deeds had got to her head and she went insane and died. Knowing that his queen was dead, Macbeth went partially insane because he felt that Lady Macbeth was the only one he could confide in. This made him careless in his fight and almost welcomed his own death.
Things are not always what they seem, is another theme shared by both of Shakespeare s great plays. In Hamlet, things seem to be true and honest but in reality they are infested with evil. Four characters in Hamlet are hiding behind masks of falseness and they are Polonius, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and the king Claudius. From behind their masks they appear to be sincere people but they are sinister.
Polonius always wants to keep up the appearance of a loving and caring person. Polonius will speak to his son with advice that sounds sincere but is really rehearsed, hollow, and without feeling. Polonius also hid his daughter Ophelia from Hamlet and told her that Hamlet only lusted for her. Throughout the play Polonius pretends to care for people while he lies, manipulates people, and eavesdrops on people during their conversation. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern lied to Hamlet telling him about England. They eventually told him but when they did they had to hide behind a different mask to lie to the king.
Claudius hides behind a mask when he talks to Hamlet, Gertrude, and everyone at his presentation. He talks to Hamlet to try to ease the pain of his father s death. Then he seduced Gertrude so when he killed the king she would come to him so he could have a queen. When he talked in front of everyone he gave a great speech about how much he missed his brother and how great he was, but in reality in all of these situations, he was hiding behind a mask of falseness and was appearing to be a good guy. In Macbeth, almost everything was not as it seemed. When the witches told Macbeth that he would become the king he instantly thought of the benefits.
Unbeknownst to Macbeth his entire life would fall apart and he would eventually die. Also his wife had the same goals in mind and she also perished in her greed. After Macbeth killed the king, he would see spirit like daggers appear before him, while his wife would see blood stained permanently on her hands. The illusions were obviously not there, but they helped each character go insane. It is evident that Shakespeare used a strong similar story line in all of his tragedies.
Clearly, Hamlet and Macbeth are similar stories because they share several themes. In the end, when these plays are perceived, all that is left to be found is death.
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