Christine Tirman



April 7th, 1999



Professor King



Essay # 3



Comparing and Contrasting



Hamlet and MacBeth





Throughout William Shakespeare?s plays Hamlet and Macbeth



there are many similarities, along with many differences. These plays



are both Shakespearean tragedies, which often use supernatural



incidents to intrigue the reader?s interest, and consists of a hero that



has a tragic flaw. There are many comparative and contrasting



aspects in these plays.



The opening of Hamlet involves a supernatural, as does the



opening of Macbeth. In the first scene the ghost of his father, King



Hamlet, approaches Hamlet. Similarly, the opening of Macbeth



involves the three witches. Although the witches can be seen by



anyone they approach, the ghost of King Hamlet is only seen by



Hamlet himself, and in one scene by Marcellus and Bernardo,



Hamlet?s servants. Similarly in both plays, the main characters are



slightly suspicious of the actual powers these supernatural figures



have. As the witches use their apparent powers to tell Macbeth the



future, the ghost of King Hamlet tells Hamlet what has happened



already. Hamlet states in one of his soliloquies ?The spirit that I have



seen / may be the devil? (2.2.598-599). Macbeth also has his doubts



because when the witches tell him that he will be named Thane of



Cawder, Macbeth himself had not known, but many people had. It is



possible the witches could have known. In the same matter in both



plays, the presentation of the supernatural began to lead to the final



downfall of each of the characters. In Macbeth, the three witches



cause him to think and do evil deeds. In Hamlet, if he had not seen



the ghost of his father, he would not have known that Claudius has



killed his father to claim the throne. In both instances the characters



gave into the nagging supernatural beliefs. And hence they lost their



lives.

Other characters in these plays show parallels in their plots.



Both plays have a main character that portrays the king of that



country. In Hamlet, the King of Denmark, Claudius is directly related



to Hamlet. He is his uncle, and also his mother?s new husband.



However, in Macbeth the King of Scotland, King Duncan, is not



directly related to the main character. Both plays do however, have



the main character killing off the king in order to get the throne, which



ultimately results in there own death. Horatio, in Hamlet and Banquo,



in Macbeth share the same loyalty to the main characters. In both



stories these friends are more skeptical of the supernaturals than the



main characters themselves. In a meeting with the witches, Banquo



challenges them to ?Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear /



Your favours nor your hate? (1.3.60-61). In a scene where Horatio



and Hamlet witness the ghost, Horatio tries to keep Hamlet from



going with the ghost. He was even reluctant in the opening scene to



go with Marcellus to hear about the ghost.



Some themes in the plays are also similar. The way that the



weeds and flowers illustrate good and bad in Hamlet is like the way



the birds do in Macbeth. This is also true of the fair and foul theme in



Macbeth and the indirections theme in Hamlet. In Macbeth, to the



weird sisters, what is ugly is beautiful, and what is beautiful is ugly.



Through the play fair appearances hide foul realities. This theme has



a lot in common with the theme in Hamlet where the appearance



varies from the reality. In contrast, one of the main themes in



Macbeth is Manhood, while in Hamlet it is frailty, and more



specifically, the frailty of women.



It seems evident that Shakespeare used a strong, similar story



line in these two tragedies. Apparently Macbeth and Hamlet are



similar stories in numerous ways. These two plays seem different



because of the variation in story lines, but in fact are very similar due



to the parallel characters and themes.