During this essay I am going to write about the many diverse ways in which conflict is presented in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Wilfred Owen’s Poetry of World War 1. I will be comparing the ways in which Macbeth and 3 poems written by Owen; Mental Cases, The Next War and Dulce Et Decorum Est, link with each other. Macbeth is a play written in 1606 by Shakespeare who wrote plays to entertain his audience. On the other hand, Owen was a soldier in World War 1 when he wrote famous poems; he wrote them to tell us about the tragedies of war and he expressed his thoughts and feelings about war and conflict. Owen’s poems are influenced by his own experiences of war. In Macbeth the conflict shown by Macbeth and the other characters, gives us an idea of how Macbeth’s rivalry between certain characters in the play depicted the whole play itself. For example, Macbeth’s conflict with King Duncan shows how Macbeth was such an easy target for the witches because they predicted he would be the next Thane of Cawdor which came true, then they predicted he would be the next King, but when Duncan announced Malcolm to be the next heir to the throne, Macbeth become insecure and had the thoughts of killing Duncan.
“I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself” – Macbeth’s excessive ambition is like a horse that tries to jump too high but it falls on the other side of the fence, also Shakespeare uses a metaphor to describe Macbeth’s ambition as ‘vaulting’ like a horse. Shakespeare brings the idea of Macbeth killing Duncan to life. Similarly, Wilfred Owen presents the conflict in his poems in ways which he relentlessly unveils the full scale of the war’s horrors. For example, in Owen’s poem ‘Mental Cases’, the conflict the soldiers have with the violent conditions they had to live in, Owen presents the mental torment suffered by the patients in this poem. He uses the simile “like a wound” to show that their wounds are still fresh and present in their minds. The words such as ‘blade’ and ‘bleeds afresh’ suggest that they have been brutally ripped open by the conflict happening in their minds. Owen’s poem ‘Mental Cases’ shows us the mental anguish the soldiers had to go through during the World War. He uses the simile “baring teeth that leak like skulls, teeth wicked” to describe the soldiers as skeletons because they’re half dead from fighting continuously in the war; this shows how the poems title ‘Mental Cases’ links with the whole concept of the soldiers being half dead because their minds have been taken over by the trauma of the war.
“Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles” – the use of violent imagery to emphasise the way in which the soldiers are continuously surrounded by gun-shots (‘batter of guns’) and dead bodies (‘flying muscles’). “Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh” – Owen uses a simile, also a personified phrase to highlight the way the soldiers wake up to constant violence around them. Wilfred Owen uses words such as ‘skulls’ to show that the soldiers were like skeletons; half dead. Also he uses ‘ravished’ to give more power to the poem, to demonstrate that the horrors have taken over the soldiers’ minds. This poem links with Macbeth due to the way in which Macbeth is mentally tormented because of the crimes he’s committed which are now acting upon him, just the way the patients are mentally tormented because of the tragic war. Shakespeare uses the personified phrase “art thou not fatal vision sensible to feeling as to sight?” to accentuate that Macbeth can only see the dagger in his mind but it’s not really there.
“Here’s the smell of blood still, all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten” – Shakespeare manipulates the use of the senses to show that Lady Macbeth is saying that there is no perfume of this world which shall ‘sweeten’ our sinful hands; which emphasises that Lady Macbeth still thinks about the murder of King Duncan. Shakespeare also uses the simile “that not look like inhabitants o’the earth” to show that the witches aren’t humans; they don’t belong to the earth. “If it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well it were done quickly” Shakespeare presents the idea of past and present; to kill Duncan quickly would be better. “Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold” – Macbeth says to the ghost of Banquo; he has no marrow in his bones, his blood is cold. Shakespeare uses words such as ‘fatal’ to show the mental torment Macbeth is going through whilst he sees the dagger in his mind. Also he uses ‘inhabitants’ to describe the way the witches look; they don’t look like they live on earth.
In Owen’s poem ‘The Next War’ he presents the inner conflict of the war because the poem is based on the idea of not being afraid of death but getting used to the fact that death comes everyday to them. In the beginning of the poem Owen has written a quote from Siegfried Sassoon “war’s a joke for me and you, while we know such dreams are true” – this is an unusual sonnet because sonnets are usually on love and romance, but this one is on war. Owen uses personification like “out there we’ve walked quite friendly up to Death; sat down and eaten with him, cool and bland” to emphasise that mostly all the soldiers are used to seeing people die and when death comes its normal for them. Also Owen describes death as ‘cool’ and ‘bland’ – these are oxymorons because they have an unusual perspective of war. “He’s spat at us with bullets and he’s coughed” – Owen uses personification to show how death has tortured the soldiers. Owen uses many language techniques to bring the idea of welcoming death to the soldiers’ lives. Wilfred Owen uses words like ‘courage’ to emphasise the soldiers’ characters.
Also he uses ‘green thick odour’ to represent the ‘odour’ as the poisonous gas that caused many soldiers’ deaths. This poem links with Macbeth because in this poem Owen talks about the courage these soldiers had and how they got used to seeing their men die all the time, however, in Macbeth, Macbeth is looked at as ‘brave Macbeth’ who has ‘disdaining fortune’ because he won the battle for Scotland and was looked at as a hero. “For brave Macbeth – well he deserves that name – disdaining fortune, with his brandish’d steel” – Shakespeare describes Macbeth as a courageous warrior. However, during the play we find out that Macbeth has planned to kill Duncan, but then feels a slight regret in going fourth with the murder “we will proceed no further in this business. He hath honour’d me of late, and I have bought golden opinions from all sorts of people”. In this scene, Lady Macbeth attacks Macbeths manliness and makes him feel like he less of a man “And live a coward in thine own esteem”. “But screw your courage to the sticking place” – Shakespeare uses a metaphor here to show the power in which Lady Macbeth has; she wants Macbeth to tighten his courage to the limit, so he can go fourth and kill Duncan.
Lady Macbeth tries to convince him by calling him a ‘coward’ and unmanly. Macbeth is convinced enough to murder Duncan which eventually lead to his own down fall. ‘Dulce Et Decroum Est’ meaning ‘Die for Your Country’ is another famous poem of Wilfred Owen’s where it links to battlefield conflict and inner conflict. The poem is based on the whole concept of war, and how the soldiers fight for their country throughout the world war. “Bent double like old beggars, coughing like hags” – Owen uses two similes to describe the soldiers as ‘beggars’ and ‘hags’, due to the way they live in. “Men marched asleep” – this use of characterisation brings to life the way in which the soldiers were continuously marching during their days, and nights. Owen also uses an oxymoron to bring sarcasm into the poem “of gas shells dropping softly behind” – gas shells are usually very loud and dangerous but Owen makes out the gas shells were ‘soft’. “As under a green sea I saw him drowning.” – a metaphor to describe the poisonous gas, and Owen’s persona of his friend drowning in the gas. “Guttering, choking, and drowning” – the use of onomatopoeia gives effect of the way in which Owen presents the conflict of the war. Owen also uses personified techniques to show the inner conflict of how the soldiers’ minds were taken over by the tragic war “If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood” – the effect that Owen uses to ‘hear the blood’.
Owen gives the impression that these soldiers are broken and describes them to be helpless. Wilfred Owen uses words such as ‘deaf’ from the gun shots and bombs and ‘blind’ from the tear gas and smoke; he uses pitiful language to reveal the reality of war. This poem links with Macbeth, because Owen talks about the way in which the soldiers die for their country and linking back to Macbeth, he fought a battle for his country. However, the soldiers in the poem are described as ‘beggars’ and ‘hags’, on the other hand, Macbeth is described as ‘brave’. Macbeth has a higher reputation because he had killed the enemy of King Duncan’s. Shakespeare describes the nature of war as if it is a game or a sport “doubtful it stood, as two spent swimmers that do cling together” – using the word ‘swimmer’ relates to sport and ‘doubtful’ makes them want to try harder and think of swimming where they are pushing the water away racing to the finish line makes the reader create a picture of Macbeth and Banquo slashing away with their swords creating a sea of dead soldiers and blood behind them fighting their way to glory.
It is only at the end of the play that Macbeth finally discovers his fate; after being told that Macduff had been, “untimely ripped from his mothers’ womb”. Macbeth describes the witches as “Juggling Fiends” Macbeth is accusing the witches of deliberately juggling their words so that he could not understand them. This is a clever quote as Macbeth has just realised his life is in ruins, but the audience knew this earlier. The witches have changed Macbeth from a brave warrior to an evil, murderous, traitor, underlining the conflict of good and evil. “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes” – this quote is significant as it illustrates the change in Macbeth throughout the play, now even the witches consider Macbeth to be evil. However, when looking at the path of destruction that Macbeth has left behind him it isn’t very surprising. Just one man driven by his ambition to be king has led to a chain reaction of murders.
There are many important conflicts in Macbeth, like the conflict between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, the conflict between the good which is represented by Macduff and the evil which is represented by Macbeth, and Macbeth versus himself, his inner struggle, and all of those conflicts lead to Macbeth’s down fall. Shakespeare gave a truthful, but interesting effect to show war and conflict in that time and age of Shakespeare. There are also many significant conflicts in the World War 1 which Wilfred Owen wrote about in all of his famous poems, like the conflict between the soldiers and death; the way in which the soldiers have to welcome death because it’s likely they will die. This conflict leads to the soldiers becoming mentally tormented. Owen always revealed the truth about war and conflict.
Courtney from Study Moose
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