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Obsession is a feeling, not an emotion. An emotion is a natural and instinctive state of mind based on one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with people and their surroundings. A feeling is the expression of such emotions. In the texts Macbeth, Stan, Porphyria’s Lover and A Rose for Emily, this underlying theme of obsession is shown through jealousy, love, and lust. Each character in the text are still in control of their actions, they still have the power to choose what they are willing to do, and yet each conclusion of the text is ultimately the worst that they could become.
The play ‘Macbeth’ by William Shakespeare, otherwise known as ‘The Scottish Play’ is about a Scottish General called Macbeth, who receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that forecast his becoming as the King of Scotland. He becomes consumed with ambition and with the influence of his wife he takes action murdering King Duncan and taking the throne for himself.
Throughout the text the idea of absolute power corrupts is shown as Macbeth’s power increases, his moral sense diminishes due to his ambition.
‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely’, is a proverb by John Dalberg-Acton saying that as a person’s power increases, their moral sense diminishes. This comments on the knowledge that it is in human nature to crave power, Macbeth in Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ follows along with this rule. Throughout the play there is a clear link to the amount of power Macbeth gains and the corrupt acts he commits.
When Macbeth had no title of his own except for Thane of Glamis which was passed on from his father, he did not display signs of corruption. As he gained more power as he rose through the ranks to Thane of Cawdor his corruption became more evident. When he was first appointed Thane of Cawdor his mindset of becoming king, which had been prophesied was of a positive attitude that what comes will come, ‘If chance will have me King, why chance may crown me’, he was not actively seeking out to become king and was in a similar state of mind. However, later in the play it is clear that Macbeth does have “black and deep desires”. Macbeth’s views have changed. He now desires desperately to be King. This corruption of Macbeth is an example of how obsession is the gateway to corruption his obsession is born from his lust for power, that infiltrates his mind. Macbeth chooses by his own free will to pursue his obsession and let it control him, rather than controlling it. He lets his fixation take him on a one-way path, a path of no return. Macbeth’s obsession is with power and his corruption occurs due to his uncontrolled ambition to get it.
This idea of power corruption was used by the author as it is relevant for readers as anyone can have an obsession, humans are known to be easily corrupted by power this is demonstrated in several psychological studies, notably the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, which was halted when one group of students arbitrarily assigned to serve as ‘prison guards’ over another group began to abuse their wards. These were normal people but in a position of power and it went to their heads, what causes this deep rooted lust for power that plagues a person’s mind when given authority over another?
The poem ‘Porphyria’s Lover’, by Robert Browning is about a man who has fallen in love and has become obsessed with a woman named Porphyria however he is only one of her many lovers. The lover reveals himself to be obsessed with and angry with Porphyria for not being her primary love and murders her. The author Robert Browning challenges the perceptions of the reader in the case of having the speaker spiralling into an insane fit of madness due to his obsessive love for Porphyria. The reader witnesses the speaker’s obsession growing throughout the poem, from sitting in the cold and dark awaiting Porphyria’s arrival, his manipulative behaviour towards her, his desire for more than love from her and his eventual need to possess her. Browning’s skilful use of word choice and imagery throughout the monologue encourages the reader to consider some of the darker consequences of an obsessive love.
From the beginning of the poem Browning hints at the obsessive nature that the speaker feels with the speaker only ever referring to himself as ‘Porphyria’s lover’ and describing himself only using the example of his relationship with Porphyria. Within the first four lines, use of pathetic and faulty reasoning confirms the mood of the lover with description of the ‘sullen wind’ trying to ‘vex the lake’ upset as he has to wait for his lover Porphyria to arrive. He sits alone in the cottage, has not lit a fire or prepared in any way for her arrival. He simply sits waiting for her to come to him. ‘I listened with heart fit to break.’ This shows the level of obsessive love for Porphyria. He is unable to do anything or think of anything other than anticipate her arrival. While the idea of his heart breaking when he is not with her seems romantic, when considering the anxiety and anger he has been experiencing as he waits for her, the author creates a disturbing scene.
Both ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ and ‘Macbeth’ are contrasting in showing the theme of obsession leading to corruption and insanity, however both of their obsessions are lustful. Macbeth being the metaphorical example of lust for power as he is consumed by his obsessive desire to increase his ruling, and the lover being representative of physical lust for Porphyria. It is known that obsession is not born by itself; it is born from the person’s mind and their wants and needs. Both Shakespeare and Browning use a male character to portray these comments on human nature and obsession. Shakespeare’s Macbeth comments on the knowledge that humans are greedy using obsession as and example, as Macbeth’s unfiltered ambition for control and absolute power leads to him becoming obsessed with keeping it resulting in murder, and becoming the absolute worst version of himself in complete juxtaposition to his original character from compassionate to a murderous tryant. Much like Macbeth, Porphyria’s lovers obsession starts from a lustful beginning, in this case actual lust but his desire to keep Porphyria to himself as he is jealous of her other men results in him becoming so obsessed with her that he
The idea that their corruption and insanity is their worst point in existence, in the perspective of both the surrounding characters as well as the reader is shown in both texts. However both the lover and Macbeth do not believe that they are in the wrong ‘And yet God has not said a word!’, the lover says this as a means of justifying himself in the eyes of God, and if he was to have done something truly wrong then God would of said something, this in comparison to the pinnacle of Macbeth’s horrendous acts where he reaches his last realisation on the world and life being meaningless, with the soliloquy, ‘Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.’ both these quotes show the main male characters of the texts at a point of uncaring with the murderous actions they have committed on the brink of insanity, due to their individual obsession.
‘A Rose for Emily’ a short story by William Faulkner shows the theme of obsession through the character Emily who as a result of being treated like an object by her father causing her to become independent and self-sufficient growing up meaning that she becomes so terribly desperate for human love that she murders her lover Homer and clings to his dead body. Using her aristocratic position to cover up the murder and the necrophilia as she lies beside him for several years, ironically sentencing herself to total isolation from the community, embracing the dead for solace instead of surrounding herself with living love like she actually desired. Emily’s obsession in this short story is for company, and love caused by her fathers obsession to keep her pure and preserving his daughter from the world. “We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that. We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.’ Obsession can be dangerous and can only bring out the worst in a person as it begins to take root, Miss Emily’s obsession leads to death and destruction this is illustrated by Faulkner through her psychotic tendencies that developed due to being deprived of human love. Such as when Emily’s father dies, and she is in denial, she refuses to let his body be buried because she believes he is not actually dead. Throughout Emily’s life whenever she takes enjoyment in human company she causes death as she can not cope with the thought of parting from them. This backs up the comment of obsession being the gateway to insanity and corruption. When Emily murders her lover, she is on the brink of insanity and can not cope with the thought of being left by him.
Both ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ and ‘A Rose for Emily’ comment on the possession of women as objects from different views, which leads to the lover and Emily both becoming obsessed. The lover in Porphyria’s lover views women as objects whereas Emily is a woman being treated as an object by both her father and society.
‘Stan’ is a song by the rapper Eminen, featuring the singer Dido. It is about a person named Stanley “Stan” Mitchell who claims to be Eminem’s biggest fan. He writes Eminem several fan letters; over three verses, and with each one becoming more intense and obsessive towards Eminen, and when there is no reply back to these letters he becomes angrier and is pushed towards insanity. He finally creates a voice recording of himself drunk-driving his car, revealing that his pregnant girlfriend is tied up in the trunk as he proceeds to drive into the river, shortly after coming to the realisation that he doesn’t know how Eminem will hear the tape.
The fourth verse features Eminem as himself, attempting to write back to Stan and reason with the troubled young man, only to realise that he had already heard about Stan’s death on the news. Stan in this song is utterly obsessed, which is foreshadowed from his name, with Stan meaning an overzealous or obsessive fan of a particular celebrity. His actions throughout the text show clearly that he is dealing with the remnants of childhood neglect and psychological trauma leading to him being unable to cope with stress and develop trusting relationships, and he has projected this onto Eminem
The characters Stan and Emily are two sides of the same coin, they have a very similar situation in which they are obsessed with someone they believe they need to survive. Emily is reliant on Homer having never had human affection before relying on him to stay with her forever, whereas Stan who had been brought up in an abusive home needed someone that he felt he could relate to which in this case was Eminem.
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