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Characterization in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and “Macbeth” Essay

William Shakespeare is regarded by many as one, if not the greatest writer of all time. It is interesting to note that his success is due to his tragedies. “Hamlet” and “Macbeth” are two of his best known work. Both titles deal with the tragedy of aristocratic people. Though, it appears that Shakespeare is fond of representing only one part of the society, he is actually talking about a very human flaw. Through the characters of his protagonists Hamlet and Macbeth, Shakespeare is suggesting that the real tragedy is found within one’s self.

Initially, Shakespeare had characterized Macbeth as a brave warrior. The wounded captain tells the audience that Macbeth was wounded in the battlefield, suggesting that he had fought bravely. But as the plot progresses, the audience discovers that he is less admirable. This is immediately noticeable when Macbeth had met the witches. The witches told them that Macbeth would be the thane of Cawdor. Although, Macbeth says he does not want to think of the prophecy because the thane of Cawdor is still alive, he seems to ponder on the thought, “the thane of Cawdor lives: why do you dress me in Borrow’d robes?”

There is a hint of irony in Macbeth words. It is like he wants to be thane of Cawdor but says he does not. Aside from mere false modesty, the audience would learn that Macbeth harbors within himself some self-doubt. If it was not for Lady Macbeth, Macbeth could have not done anything that he is certain he wants to do. On the other hand, Hamlet seems to be a more flawed character than Macbeth. He is constantly thinking about how to kill Claudius and exact revenge for his father. However, when he got his first chance to kill Claudius, he made a pass on the chance to do so.

When Hamlet caught Claudius in prayer, he did not kill Claudius be cause he thought his father’s murderer might go to heaven. Perhaps a helpful quote to use is the famous “to be or not to be? ” That line is a succinct description for Hamlet as he always contradicts himself. Shakespeare’s talent for being able to describe the complexity of the human brain, had made his works classics. Shakespeare seems to be more fond of the flaws of the thought process rather than physical flaws. That is in opposition to earlier works by other authors such as Oedipus Rex, where the protagonist has a deformed foot.

Shakespeare’s protagonists are most of the time described as well-to-do. Both Hamlet and Macbeth are even admirable in the initial portions of their respective stories. But Shakespeare reveals that their flaws is on how they think. With Hamlet and Macbeth always contradicting themselves, a tragic conclusion seems inevitable. But their real tragedy is not because one would go insane and the other would be mortally wounded. Hamlet and Macbeth’s tragedy is that they themselves are the antagonists to their respective goals.

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