Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The classical comparison essay - Macbeth and Richard the Third

My latest work for Classical Writing serves as a sort of double invective, denouncing two of Shakespeare's greatest, or worst depending on how you use the word, villains and comparing their crimes at the same time.  Please do not take offense at my bashing of Richard; I only condemn the literary character that Shakespeare invented, not the historical king.

Two of cruelest villains Shakespeare created were Macbeth and Richard the Third.  Although their core characters and progressions to infamy were vastly different, the atrocities they committed were equally repulsive and similar in tragic consequence.  Both men were murderers without conscience, and their tyranny eventually drove their former friends to murder them in the name of justice.  Indeed, the wicked deeds of both kings deprived them of any friends they once knew, and the only allies they retained they kept through fear.  It is hard to discern which of these monsters was more despicable, as they both deserve eternal suffering for their crimes.

Macbeth’s origins in the play are mostly unknown, although the real-life Macbeth was the grandson of a king, Malcolm the 2nd, and was married to a woman named Gruach, the granddaughter of a High King of Scotland.  Richard the Third was the brother of King Edward the 4th, and his claim to the throne stemmed from that link, even though the throne rightfully belonged to young Edward the 5th.  The important fact is that neither Richard nor Macbeth had a true right to their kingdoms, and they had to resort to evil schemes to capture their power.

Macbeth’s initial character is far different than Richard’s, because Macbeth begins as a brave leader in Duncan’s army, whereas Richard is a total, unmitigated villain in every aspect.  Macbeth’s downfall comes from hearing the prophecy of The Weird Sisters, who promise that he will become King of Scotland.  This ignites hiss ambition, but he still refrains from murdering Duncan.  Lady Macbeth is the one who ultimately spurs events into motion, when she questions her husband’s virility for quavering from the bloody task.  Macbeth then cowardly stabs Duncan in his sleep to appease his raving wife.  Macbeth allows his wife to control him through his weak personal resolve and his greedy ambition.  Richard, in contrast, plots and executes all his crimes of his own accord, and indeed confesses at the very beginning of the play, “I am determined to play a villain… Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous, / By drunken prophecies, libels, and dreams, / To set my brother Clarence and the King / In deadly hate, the one against the other.”  The chief difference in their characters is that Macbeth evolves into a villain, but Richard assumes that position from the very beginning.

Both villains acted upon the same motivations and carried out similar injustices.  Richard and Macbeth had illegitimate claims to their countries’ thrones, which they believed justified their violent methods to obtain the crown.  This false idea led them to commit several brutal murders, aimed both at personal enemies who provoked them and also at innocent bystanders.  Richard’s list of victims is too long to read in full, but it included his brother, nephews, and wife, in addition to his political adversaries.  Macbeth first slaughtered Duncan and his guards, then hired some murderers to eliminate his friend, Banquo.  Neither of these attacks was warranted, but even more reprehensible is his savage removal of his rival Macduff’s wife and son, who had done nothing at all to incite his wrath.  Macbeth was right before he turned to corruption, when he said, “I dare do all that may become a man; / Who dares do more is none.”  The actions of Macbeth and Richard go beyond those of a true man, and as Macbeth suggests, these murderers are not true men, but monsters.

In the end, it’s hard to determine which of the characters is more hateful.  Richard is a natural villain, and admits so in the play’s very beginning, so the audience can summon no sympathy for him. Macbeth, on the other hand, shows noble qualities in the beginning before succumbing to greed and corruption.  This renders him a more sympathetic character for a short while, but his subsequent betrayal of his closest allies only makes the audience despise him more.  Richard disturbs the audience, and Macbeth repulses them.  Neither can hope for redemption, as Macbeth poetically contemplates that no power in the world can erase the impact of his sin.  “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand? No: this my hand will rather / The multitudinous seas incarnadine, / Making the green one red.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Movie pre-production: Santa is ______

A burglar
"A white spherical thing that's full of..." (it's an insider joke)
A heretic
A false idol
A radical terrorist of infants
A discriminator against the poor or "The King of Favoritism" (Jason Call)
An animal abuser
A slave-driver
The Antichrist
The Devil's Claws
A wearer of The Lord's blood (Jason Call)

As the advent season and with it Christmas break approaches, I am preparing to initiate the writing of the most spectacular and original film that you will ever witness, The Winter Holiday.  Being as brilliant and humble and sarcastic an author as I am, I am fully capable of seizing the task alone if the situation demands that, but I would gladly accept and enormously appreciate any help that my loyal readers extend to me.  How can you do so?  The first and only requirement is to be a Santa Claus/Satan Claws hater.  If you want to assist in the creative development of The Winter Holiday, you must wrack your brain to discover either a negative characteristic of the man in red or an ominous title for him.  I've already brainstormed 10 vices which can be attributed to Santa Claus.  If you do come up with some crime I haven't already listed, leave it in a comment to this post in the form of "Santa is fill in the blank", and it could be reflected in the final draft of the screenplay for The Winter Holiday.  I'll also be updating this post with all the ideas that you provide; if you leave a name besides simply "Anonymous", I'll credit you for the addition to this list, and you'll be recognized for your contribution in the credits of the movie, if I ever actually make it.

If you have any questions about the movie regarding its story, theory, budget, or its minute possibility of being produced, leave a comment and I'll answer to the best of my ability.  If you're the nephew of a certain Cameron, Nolan, Scorcese, or Spielberg, live in Southern California, and want to work on the special effects, cinematography, costumes, or whatnot, feel free to inquire.  If you want to have a spirited debate with me as one who genuinely finds no reason to oppose Santa, the Easter Bunny, or the Black Friday Turkey, or if you want to discuss with me the growing movement to separate religion and Christmas, leave a comment in my last post containing the classical invective essay.