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I remembered that this is my first English Literature A.P essay. I wrote this over a year ago so my writing isn't so polished here. This essay is so much fun to write because I was comparing Macbeth to Milton's Satan of "Paradise Lost". I got a B+ on this essay. ^_^;

Ilada. W
6H1
10/31/04
English AP

Comparing Macbeth and Milton’s Satan

“Macbeth” is a classical screenplay by William Shakespeare and happens to be the protagonist of the entire story set during medieval Scotland while Satan, a character from John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” is a mythological story of biblical legend. Both stories contrast each other in time, plot, and setting but they had one thing in common, they both illustrate the theme of the struggle for domination and the usage of evil ambition to accomplish such malignant goals.

In Macbeth and Paradise Lost, it tells of a tale of a war hero name Macbeth who, like Satan, both start off with them secure in very honorable and high positions. Macbeth was the thane of Glamis and Satan was God’s main archangel (seraphim?) in the highest hierarchy of angels. As both stories quickly progresses on, they transform themselves rapidly by becoming with so much evil and hardening their hearts from soft attributes such fairness, justices and all that is good because fair is foul and to be fair is an obstacle in their way of ambition.

Satan for example, declares that God is the epitome of goodness and Satan sole ambition is overthrow God from his throne of authority. But Satan fails because God proves, “might prove right” and as punishment, Satan was sent to be imprisoned in Hell (Quote: “Such place Eternal Justice had prepar'd /For those rebellious, here their Prison ordain'd”). Satan doesn’t feel defeated though because God’s “might” is only the justification of strength but it’s doesn’t mean an absolute victory so instead of resorting to brute strength, he used brawn and guiles “pervert that end” or to fully quote Satan and resembling some similarities to Macbeth’s conflict:

“to be weak is miserable
(Comparing to Lady Macbeth scorn of her husband’s cowardly reason to hesitate to kill Duncan as she reprimanded him)

Doing or Suffering: but of this be sure,
(To be active or passive, Macbeth will suffer with his anxiety that has been stemmed from his desire and lack of action and courage to do his dastardly deed.)

To do ought good never will be our task,
But ever to do ill our sole delight,
As being the contrary to his high will
Whom we resist. If then his Providence
Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,
Our labour must be to pervert that end,
And out of good still to find means of evil”

(To hold authority as king and over the entire country Macbeth sought malicious ways such as infanticide and genocide in contrary to Duncan’s good nature.)

God could be evil but He chosen the path of goodness, so Satan will do his best to “contrary” and be opposite of God’s will of goodness and be evil and thus his immortal lifetime to “do ill as their delight.” But, this is just a thought of mine, the problem here is that if God is all knowing and he knows that the future is predetermined by His will then wouldn’t have God preordain this event coming and the interjection of Satan’s evil and his malicious insertion of Original Sin onto Eve? Then God would have seen the coming of Satan’s rebellion and His children, the race of Humankind, suffering their woes (of ridiculous folly but that’s my opinion.) then didn’t this mean that Satan is nothing more than a pawn in fate that is controlled by God’s will?

Sure, some people can argue that Satan rebelled on his own freewill and battled religious dogma of faith with the “Devil’s reason” but let’s play with the “what if?” What if the fall of Satan isn’t based on Satan’s free will at all but is a subject of fate that is controlled by God? This is the same dilemma faced in Macbeth (I haven’t forgotten him.) In Macbeth, we could see that from victorious soldier of civil wars and invading barbarian, he developed into a pitiful, tragic hero (just like Satan except Satan is evil from the get go and has no moral conscience and no ethnics). Some people interpret that Macbeth is evil on his own freewill because during one of his soliloquies (in Act II, scene I to be exact) he visualize a dagger unconsciously from his mind. The dagger represents his ambition, a mere stepping-stone to encourage his desire to assassinate Duncan and thus killed him later because he does on his own free will. People also argued that Macbeth has a choice whether to listen to the witches’ prediction in the first place but as we can see, the entire plot of the storyline cannot progress on without Macbeth following his fate as the witches has subtlety told. Much like when Eve was tempted by the Serpent (Satan in disguised) and used the Serpent’s logic and reason to justify why she should take the apple and that is to be equal to God but since she’s ignorant and innocent she has no idea what is she getting into later but Satan fully well knew the consequences of man’s fate to “Sinful knowledge” and he is using his guile to control her fate of the woes of mankind. (And I could argue that perhaps God’s will control Satan to control Eve so that mankind will learn Good and Evil. Otherwise, who else is to blame to purposely put the Tree of Knowledge in Eden to test the ignorance of Eve and Adam?)

On the other side of the coin, people who sympathize with Macbeth’s doomed end thought, maybe he is a victim of fate. In one of the earlier soliloquies (Act I, Scene VII), Macbeth display one of his good traits as we read that he reasons with himself with moral values on why he should not kill Duncan. At this moment, we were to jump to conclusions that he has indeed some ounce of freewill…until Lady Macbeth shows up later after his brief solo speech and urge him to “screw your courage to the sticking-place” and stop letting his values of “fairness” impedes on his ambition and rendered him a coward that is until he “durst do it, then you were a man.” And later he does what he has to do. Following his fate without realizing it. And like Satan perhaps he too is subject to the whims of fate without thinking a second thought for consequences…but then later in Paradise Lost, book XI we also see Eve as the subject to questionable freewill as well. We see that she has been tested (perhaps by God’s will to test humans capability their love and blind faith to God.) her question of freewill by the Serpent’s reason of temptation to bite the apple of knowledge. She could have said no but then again who can resists the credibility of Satan’s very reasonable argument…which as much as similar likes the witches’ prediction of Macbeth’s “happy prologues to the swelling act” and his wife urging his ambition in his ear.

So in conclusion we see many similarities such as ambition between both protagonists’ traits and domination of gaining authority by means of force and evil. Another similarity is that the problem between fate and freewill in the protagonists’ situations in their moment of dire conflict is very prominent in the stories mood and atmosphere in the setting. In additional note, there is a not happy end in both stories (albeit not a sad one either) because using evil as means as acquiring and gaining happiness has lead to the protagonists’ doomed end and ironically rendered them as tragic heroes to readers who can sympathize with the character’s moral dilemmas and challenge values because strangely enough the protagonists for a slight moment seems sentimentally human because in the beginning they were once good. But take a bite of the apple and gained Sin or more technically, Knowledge and not only we gain the experience of life but we knew the difference between good and evil and decide whether we should stay on the path of goodness (and follow God) or take the fall (because faith is blind and irrational like atheist would say) and fall hard just like Satan did and we make a state of our situation a living heaven or hell and do their best to battle all that is good (fair is foul and foul is fair) and destroy it.

Why does God let evil in the world if He is so good? I’m not very religious (not dogmatically fanatic and I’m not a fan of religion, I’m more lenient toward reason and science, hence why I’m very cynical in class and keep asking and question cynical questions about God. Perhaps I had the “Devil’s reason” whispering in my ear.) In Paradise Lost, written by puritan who tries to elaborate God’s Will in His justification on the nature of men’s since, readers interpreted that perhaps because without evil, we humans are incapable to distinct what is good but without evil to struggle and challenge what is good (Satan challenge God’s will). Any Taoist will tell you it’s a yin-yang principle. Two forces cannot live without each other or otherwise harmony cannot be stable. So God let evil in the world to even out the goodness and to stabilize the world because nothing good can last. Chaos needs harmony and Harmony needs chaos, it paradoxical and ironic all the same but…aw well, that’s life and God himself. In the end, we may never know the mysteries of the unknown such Life, God, the Universe, and Everything.

Ha and to add, whether you're good or evil, both factions of different perpectives of morality are always a liability to Fate.

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