Good and Evil in Shakespearés King Lear and Macbeth

Good and Evil in Shakespearés King Lear and Macbeth

eBook - 2014
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The concepts of good and evil, which can be understood and defined differently, are two broad and sapid concepts because of its diverse interpretations. The two abstract notions have been discussed throughout the centuries since the human existence and continue to be a dispute today. However, the meaning of good and evil was especially interesting in the middle Ages and Renaissance that will be introduced in the first part of this thesis. It will present the different origins of good and evil and examine how variously these concepts were perceived in the middle Ages and Renaissance. It should be pointed out that there was a great contrast in defining of good and evil in both centuries. Additionally, the second part of the thesis will explore the problems of those concepts in terms of King Lear and Macbeth. It will deal with the problems of goodness of Cordelia and Banquo, evilness of Edmund and Lady Macbeth and badness of Lear and Macbeth. It will also identify how the characters turn to good, bad or evil side, whether they become creator or victims of evil, and finally reveal who of them can be called good, bad or evil person. Finally, the third part of the thesis will present the interpretation of the final scenes where both tragedies end with the coronation of the new king. It will explore the conflict of both forces and reveal what kind of force can actually win the struggle between good and evil in both plays. It will also deal with the problem of ambivalent depiction of the characters and examine the question of what is actually good and evil and how to define it in Shakespearés plays. So, the aim of the thesis is to explore the problems of the concepts of good and evil in terms of the tragedies King Lear and Macbeth and to identify to what extent the characters can be seen as good and evil.   Auszug aus dem Text Text sample: Chapter 3.2,
Forces of Evil: Edmund and Lady Macbeth: Edmund who, on the first sight, seems to embrace many traits of an evil person for the sake of power is a great villain in King Lear. The enticement to call him evil person is big, because he undoubtedly can be compared to Machiavellian Prince who had an evil reputation in Renaissance era. Edmund reveals his Machiavellian qualities by the way he manipulates virtue and truth for his own profit. He shows his greedy, self-interested desire to attain power by deceiving his father, Gloucester, and brother, Edgar. It should be said that Edmund, illegitimate son of Earl of Gloucester, knows that his legitimate son Edgar, will succeed all fatheŕs properties, and being jealous of him, uses his intellect in order to get the throne. He manipulated his father's good nature by showing him Edgaŕs false letter directed against Gloucester (cf.1.2.55-60). He also cheated Edgar saying that his father is against him and persuading him to flee from kingdom (cf.1.2.170-5). He betrayed Gloucester and Edgar, seeing them as mere objects for manipulation: A credulous father and a brother noble; Whose nature is so far from doing harms; That he suspects none- on whose foolish honesty; My practices ride easy (1.2.176-180). So, Edmund successfully uses his intellect in order to get the crown. So, there is no doubt that Edmund is the Machiavellian character in King Lear for the reasons discussed above. However, the temptation to call Edmund evil may be misleading, because the Machiavellian tactics he uses can be seen as not evil at all. It is true that Machiavelli was a disdained evil figure in his age; but Machiavellian tactic is not evil as Renaissance thinkers assumed. Modern critics explain that to be Machiavellian does not mean to be evil. For example, Tung emphasizes that 'A Machiavellian hero is simply a successful hero, a hero
who can win power and hold it" (74). Roe has the same opinion indicating that 'Machiavelli at no point advocates the practise of evil as acceptable in itself despite what his many detractors then and now have said; he concedes rather that evil sometimes has to be used" (15). So, the Machiavellian Prince who wants to maintain power has to be prepared not to be virtuous and use tricky tactic according to circumstances. Edmund is successful to a large extent as he uses this tactic with a high intelligence, and it works to get what he desires. So, on the one hand, it seems to be true that Edmund is selfish, cruel, deceitful and wise. On the other hand, he practically achieved a high position with these qualities, like Machiavelli's Prince with all these qualities would. Moreover, villainous Edmund also has some positive qualities in his personality. He shows some good nature by trying to justify his Machiavellian traits which were motivated by some reasons. He was born as an illegitimate son of Gloucester, and his elder brother Edgar had acquired all heritages. He is humiliated by his own father for his bastardy. In Edmund́s presence, Gloucester openly speaks with Kent about his bastardy and asserts that his illegitimacy embarrasses him: 'His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge. I have so often blushed to acknowledge him that now I am brazed tó it (1.1.8-10), he continues saying that 'the whoreson must be acknowledged" (1.1.22-3). As a consequence, Edmund expresses his anguish in his first soliloquy: Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy law; My services are bound. Wherefore should I; Stand in the plague of custom, and permit; The curiosity of nations to deprive me? For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines; Lag of a brother? Why bastard? Wherefore base? Now, gods, stand up for bastards (1.2.1-22). His speech reveals that Edmund blames the
nature for his illegitimacy and sees no fault in his bastardy. Thus, he sees his bastardy as justification for his villainy and his bastard feature becomes the starting point for his wicked actions. As considered a bastard, he decides to act as a bastard, the way as Machiavelli acts, manipulating his father and brother for his own sake. Moreover, it should be said that Edmund́s driving force is not a passion for revenge, but is a self-interest, greed and egoism. Edmund does not seeking revenge, because he does not hate his father and brother. He has no reason for hatred which is expressed in Gloucesteŕs words: 'But I Have a son, sir, by order of law, some year elder than this, who yet is no dearer in my account" (1.1.19-20). Gloucester seems to love his both sons equally, but his statement 'by order of law" suggests that only Edgar will get the heir. Edmund is simply jealous toward Edgar, who by law succeeds all fatheŕs property. So, he has no certain wish to hurt his brother or father. It again confirms the fact that Edmund thinks rationally simply regarding Gloucester and Edgar as his nuisance to become an Earl. Moreover, Edmund acts individually denying the traditional society view of the early Renaissance which implicates that society is held by family bonds. In his dialog with Edgar he talks about inequality between parents and children and how the ties of social bonds break: '…the unnaturalness between the child and the parent…banishment of friends… dissipation of cohorts, nuptial breaches…" (1.2.144-7). His speech implies his understanding of the importance of human actions and individuality. Thus, he decides to act individually by denying traditional bonding, respect and virtue for his father and brother. It seems that there is no standard virtue for him, which determines the values of good person. He only wants to get a better position
in life, which means for him prestige and power. Edmund can be characterized as a new individual of Renaissance, who does not acknowledge a natural order in society. Moreover, Edmund shows his positive trait by trying to repent in order to justify his immoral actions. It should be pointed out that Edmund, who also desired to get the power of Leaŕs Kingdom, in the battle against Leaŕs forces captured him and Cordelia and gave an order to execute them (cf.5.3.29-35). However, Edmund decides to do some good before his death by revealing his order to kill Lear and Cordelia, saying: I pant for life. Some good I mean to do; Despite of mine own nature. Quickly send; Be brief in it- to the castle, for my writ; Is on the life of Lear and on Cordelia; Nay, send in time (5.3.240-245). He seems to feel compassion for his father, who by the word of Edgar died 'passion and grief" (5.3.197) because of knowing the truth about Edmund́s deception Although some critics such as Lökse and Coe are convinced that Edmund cannot repent augmenting it by the fact that he is unfeeling and cold villain (cf. Lökse 1960, 114; cf. Coe 1972, 60). Edmund is not cold at all even if he gives such an impression. He tries to repent because he seemingly feels pity for his dead father. So, Edmund is not an evil person; evil is too strong word for him. Edmund has no intention to kill somebody and he even reveals his order to kill Lear and Cordelia. Edmund just acts immorally throughout the play because he neglects traditional bonding, respect and virtue for his family for his own advantage. On the other hand, he also shows some positive traits by trying to justify his actions through his soliloquy and repentance. So, Edmund can be characterized as bad son and wicked person in King Lear. Moreover, his Machiavellian tactics that he used successfully and that is morally wrong implies that
Publisher: Hamburg : Diplomica Verlag, 2014
Edition: 1st ed
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9783954895649
Branch Call Number: Electronic book
Characteristics: 1 online resource (39 pages)
Additional Contributors: ProQuest (Firm)


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