Thursday, March 06, 2008

Macbeth and the Moral Universe.

Macbeth is a moral play par excellence. In this, it stands in stark contrast to two more recent well-known tales of murder, Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and Camus's The Stranger. In Macbeth Shakespeare presented the moral phenomena in such a way that those who respond to his art must, in some way or another, become better human beings. In Dostoevsky's and Camus's heroic criminals we see the corruption of moral consciousness characteristic of modern literature.

1 comment:

Old Rasputin said...

For my part, I prefer Solzhenisyn's Gulag. In both C &P an Macbeth(I am not as familiar with the Camus) the main figure is responsible for bringing on the misfortunes that befall them. Don't murder Duncan, don't murder the old lady. While there may be outside pressures that compel the charachters, it is in the end, their fault.

Don't get me wrong, I like both works very much, but I find both charachters very weak and uninspiring as moral agents. I have always been disturbed by how easily Macbeth is led along be events. All he has to do is not murder Duncan, not have Banquo murdered. He is presented with out after out, and yet he fails.

In the Gulag, the murder of the soul is countered be the response of the individual. What befalls you may not be your fault, it may just be chance, their may be no way out, but your response to it is what counts. The hope presented in the third volume, and indeed in the entire series, is that humanity can overcome the most oppressive and arbitrary of circumstances, and that is, in fact humanity's finest quality.

I think that this is the same reason I like reading about the Civil War. Making the right moral choice in the face of insurmountable odds is much more inspiring to me than a lesson in what not to do or believe.