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‘Macbeth’ is a play, which was written by William Shakespeare between the reigns of Elizabeth 1 and James 1 in 1606. William Shakespeare had written many plays and poems during his era. Macbeth is one of the most popular amongst his works and is now recognised as a classic. Macbeth is a character in the play that is overcome by evil desires on his way to becoming king.
The book explains what happens to Macbeth and how evil causes him to commit such actions, and how he fights to keep his throne as king.
‘The Lord of the Flies’ is a novel, which is also a classic that had been written by William Golding. It is based during the Second World War, when a group of young boys are fleeing England to safety, but on their way, their plane crashes down onto a deserted island.
Miraculously all the Children survive but all the adults had died. The book explores how these children no older than thirteen or fourteen live on the island until rescue arrives. Evil is represented in the novel by the fight for leadership between two rivals, Jack and Ralph, and how the other children live with this.
Both the play and the novel have evil themes within them, which is reacted to by the characters. I will be comparing the ways evil is represented in ‘Macbeth’ and ‘The Lord of the Flies’ as well as exploring the different attitudes of the characters.
At the start of Macbeth, evil is first introduced with three witches discussing when they shall meet again with Macbeth. An impression of the images of witches is long hair, long cloaks, large hats and all these items must be in black. In ‘The Lord of the Flies’, the boys gather together after Piggy and Ralph find a conch and blow it. After these boys gather together they spot another group of boys heading towards them and are described:
‘: but each boy wore a square black cap with a silver badge in it. Their bodies from throat to ankle, were hidden by black cloaks which bore a long silver cross on the left breast and each neck was finished off with a hambone frill.’
(The Lord of the Flies- chapter 1- pg26)
These boys are a choir and are led by Jack who is the head of the choir. The way they are dressed is like the image a person would get of witches. The cloaks that they were wearing had a silver cross on, and as this war was during the time of Adolph Hitler, the person who had many, many Jews killed, it is a symbol of his Nazi group. Just like when the witches create an image of evil, above are two images in which evil represented within Jack’s group.
Macbeth had arrived back from battle after defeating the Norwegians and taking the Thane of Cawdor prisoner. King Duncan is told of this and orders for the Thane of Cawdor to be killed and the title to be transferred to Macbeth. Later on, Macbeth and Banquo have a run in with the witches. He is told that he will become Thane of Cawdor and then king, and that Banquo’s children will be kings. Rosse tells Macbeth that he has been made Thane of Cawdor, but later he hears King Duncan has made his son Malcolm as the next king. A part of what the witches had told him has become true but he becoming king hasn’t. From this moment on Macbeth starts to think evil due to hearing this:
‘Let not light see my black and deep desires;
The eye wink at the hand, yet let that be,
Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.’
(Macbeth- Act 1 Scene 4- Lines 51-53)
Macbeth is contemplating whether he should commit murder in order to get his way, which reflects his arrogance. Similarly in ‘The Lord of the Flies’, Jack starts to show arrogance from the opening of the novel. The boys decide a chief need to be appointed, but Jack with simple arrogance speaks out:
‘I ought to be chief, because I’m chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C sharp.’
(The Lord of the Flies- chapter 1- pg29)
Jack just like Macbeth wants to appoint themselves as leaders, due to their arrogance, which they don’t realise, but even though they are arrogant, the quotes reveal that they both have ambition. The only difference is between Jack and Macbeth that can be spotted so far is that Macbeth is willing to commit evil in order to fulfil his ambition, but in Jack’s case it can’t be seen how he wants to achieve his ambition.
Later on in the play, Macbeth kills Duncan and frames the guards with the help of Lady Macbeth. Duncan’s sons Malcolm and Donalbain flee Scotland fearing their safety. The murder that had taken place had been taken late at night and that it was so horrid that even the nature got scared:
‘Macbeth: I have done the deed (i.e. the murder). – Didst though not hear a noise?
Lady Macbeth: I heard the owl scream, and the crickets cry. Did not you speak?’
(Macbeth- Act 2 Scene 2- Lines 14-15)
Even though the murder took place two scenes later, it was still late night. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth had planned to perform the wicked act at night. As murder is already evil, the atmosphere of it being late and gloomy had added to the atmosphere. This evil can be seen also in ‘The Lord of the Flies’ when Simon faces his death. Simon is returning after seeing The Lord of the Flies and is shouting to the boys that there is no beast. It is late and dark, the boys are dancing and feasting, they hear some noises, they think it is the beast and viciously attack it only to find out that it was Simon.
‘Going to be a storm, said Ralph.
The dark sky was shattered by a blue white scar.’
(The Lord of the Flies- chapter 9- pg187-188)
The similarities can be seen in how evil is represented in the novel and the play. William Shakespeare and William Golding both have used the same ways to represent the evil and similar ways to emphasise it through the atmosphere and nature.
Another resemblance that is seen in both texts is the theme of peace. In ‘Macbeth’, whilst Duncan was king and ruled there were no problems, no inappropriate murders, and everyone lived in peace and harmony. As soon as Duncan is killed Macbeth takes over and problems arise. Macbeth wants to keep his position but he gets information from the witches, who lure him into committing evil acts in order to keep his status. Macbeth orders for many killings to take place. At the start of the play when Macbeth and Banquo meet the witches, they said Banquos children will be king, which had got Macbeth thinking. Macbeth decides that Banquo and his son must be killed, so he persuades the murders to attack Banquo and his son, Fleance. The murders kill Banquo but his son escapes. Macbeth has been Possessed with evil at this present time.
There was also peace when Ralph was in charge of the boys at the start of the novel. This peace was broken when Jack got obsessed with his killing of pigs, and went off to make his own group. The rules were broken for the first time and this was when the peace and unity were broken:
‘ “Jack! Jack!”
“The rules!” shouted Ralph, “you’re breaking the rules!”
(The Lord of the Flies- chapter 5- pg114)
We can see that in ‘Macbeth’ the one of the reasons why Macbeth is lured into committing these evil acts is because the witches had given the initiative to commit these acts. For instance when Macbeth was told that he has been made Thane of Cawdor:
‘ Rosse: And, for an earnest of a great honour,
He bade me, from him, call thee Thane of Cawdor’
(Macbeth- Act 1 Scene 3- lines 104-105)
He would have been honoured to have that position, but because the witches told him early that he would be Thane of Cawdor as well as King, he thought the witches must have been telling the truth so he had it in his head that he should be King. This caused him to lead to the planning of the murder of Duncan.
Likewise in ‘The Lord of the Flies’ Jack wouldn’t have been taunting the children with the idea of killing and hunting if it weren’t for the beast. The idea of the beast gave him the power and back-up for hunting and becoming obsessed with killing.
In ‘Macbeth’, Lady Macbeth was the Person also to give Macbeth the initiative to kill Duncan. She would tell Macbeth that Duncan will not live to see the next day:
‘Lady Macbeth: “O! never
Shall sun that morrow see!”‘
(Macbeth- Act 1 Scene 5- Line 60)
Lady Macbeth is referring about Duncan in this sentence. She is telling Macbeth that Duncan will not be able to live to see the light tomorrow as he will kill him. This is a push factor for Macbeth upon which he should murder Duncan, as he has his wife whom will support him after the act takes place.
Correspondingly in “The Lord of the Flies”, Roger is the exact representation of Lady Macbeth as he had joint Jacks tribe when they split up. This had given a confidence boost towards Jack as he knew he had people behind him to help him along the way.
Jack is obsessed just like Macbeth with murder. It is as if it is a hobby for them.
In ‘Macbeth’, Banquo, Malcolm, Macduff and many others have seen what Macbeth has become. They see that he committed many murders and was responsible for the murder of Duncan. They all fight back in the end and manage to kill Macbeth with their various armies. The same is in ‘The Lord of the Flies’, Piggy, Ralph and Simon realise that Jack and his tribe have become savages and have lost control of humanity. This can be seen when Jack and his tribe start to hunt and don’t care about rescue. Their obsession has led them to loss of self-control as they end up hunting Ralph wanting to kill him.
To conclude, William Shakespeare and William Golding both have managed to convey evil themes directly through evil acts such as murder as well as indirectly through the atmosphere and nature. They have expressed how the other characters react to the acts taking place and what they do to try and resolve it. I feel as if the authors have done an excellent job in conveying the evil to the reader and representing how people are convinced to commit such acts.
The similarities can be seen between Jack and Macbeth in the texts. They have much in common and that is in an evil concept. They both enjoy killing and have an obsession with it, causing them to lose control of what happens around them. The other characters like Piggy, Ralph, Malcolm, Macduff have realised what Macbeth and Jack had become. They realised that they would have to act if they wanted to change things around. They did this by speaking out aloud and through physical battle.
The authors have used the characters to symbolise the current situations faced by people in the present world. The Lord of the Flies along with Macbeth informs us that the human nature cannot be seen with the naked eye. It only reveals itself when it comes across a situation in, which it cannot hold itself any further.
I believe that these texts illustrate that if there is something that needs to be changed then people should strive out and try to make a change, just like Macduff and Ralph did.