Dostoevsky’s Crime And Punishment And Shakespeare’s Macbeth

1401 words - 6 pages

 
Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment explore the psychological depths of man. These two works examine tragedy as represented through the existential beliefs of many philosophers. Existentialist theory expresses the idea that man can satisfy his own needs, regardless of social codes, if he has the energy and ambition to act. Both Macbeth and Raskolnikov have the ambition to act, but each struggles internally with their actions, frightened of the consequences. Although these works examine the tragedy and remorse of Macbeth and Raskolnikov, the idea of a driving force within each character remains evident. Ultimately, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment present similar aspects of the existential philosophy that examine the thoughts and actions of the two protagonists.

The existential principle remains apparent within these works. The themes of existentialism vary, but one main focus is that man appeases himself by acting on his desires. Ignorance and hollowness penetrate human existence, creating anxiety, reverence, and dejection (Moore & Bruder 503). And man faces, as the most prominent fact of human existence, the need to decide how he is to live within this “absurd and irrational world” (Moore & Bruder 504). “Macbeth” employs many existentialist concepts. Macbeth’s murdering of Duncan to obtain his kingship displays a basic existentialist philosophy in that he eliminated his obstacles in order to fulfill his ambition (Gellrich 17). The witches who constantly taunt Macbeth drive him to his ultimate goal (Craig 255). Dostoevsky also employs an existentialist philosophy in his novel. The “set of unconscious drives” (Cox 42) that propel Raskolnikov to commit his crime reveal that “human nature is not entirely definable by its rationality”(Jalava 1). This relates to existentialism by virtue of people occasionally performing certain actions that cannot be explained (Jalava 6). Both the works of Shakespeare and Dostoevsky suggest “existential approaches to tragedy”(Gellrich 257) that ultimately determines the protagonist’s fate.

The two protagonists, Macbeth and Raskolnikov, possess tragic flaws that lead to their downfalls. Confronted with numerous alternative courses of action, the tragic hero agonizes in his intentions and understands that he is going to suffer no matter which choice he makes (Gellrich 17). The tragic hero is recognized primarily because he “is a free and responsible agent whose extraordinary stature is established in a refusal to accept the limitations posed from without,” (Gellrich 256) moreover exhibiting existentialist concepts. Existential tragedy remains elucidated within the works of Shakespeare. The problems of a tragic hero tend to come out into the open and lead to his demise in that every tragic hero’s rapport manifests itself in its own way such as the hallucinations of Macbeth (Honigmann 69). The virtue and bravery shown in Macbeth are overcome...

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