Contrasting Kings

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade May 2001

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Every honorable story written has two characters that contrast one another. It makes for a fascinating addition to the plot and makes the reader think. In William Shakespeare's, Macbeth, one can compare Malcolm, the rightful heir to the throne, to Macbeth, the soldier and Thane who murders his way to kingship. One can plainly see that these two characters are different in almost every way.

Motivation is a key part in being a great ruler. Without motivation, one will accomplish nothing. Motivation is defined as the force that drives one to action. In, Macbeth, motivation is one distinct difference between Malcolm and Macbeth. Malcolm is motivated by his strong sense of morality and his ability to control the nation and society lawfully. He uses his wits to maneuver his way out of a major dilemma, that being, Macbeth's plan to murder him and forcefully take the throne. However, Macbeth's motivations are not so innocent.

Macbeth is motivated purely by greed. He is seemingly overtaken by this greed when the weird sisters predict that Macbeth will become Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor, and King of Scotland.

All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis.

All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor.

All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, that shalt be King hereafter.

-Weird Sisters After the prophecy of the weird sisters, Macbeth takes it upon himself to make this prophecy a reality. While at first, he is hesitant, he brings it to discussion with his wife, Lady Macbeth, and she encourages him to do what it takes to make him the king.

Oh, never shall sun that morrow see! Your face, my Thane, is as a book where men May read strange matters. To beguile the time, Look like the time, bear welcome in your eye, Your hand, your tongue. Look like the innocent flower But be the serpent under 't.

-Lady Macbeth With Lady Macbeth's encouragement and not-so-subtle pushes, Macbeth finds the courage and determination within himself to murder the current King of Scotland, Duncan, and frame the two men who are supposed to be guarding Duncan as he sleeps.

Another key characteristic of a great ruler is the ability to rule in a lawful, yet kind way. One must not only be the leader of the people, but also a friend to the people. One must either be liked, or dethroned.

Malcolm and Macbeth differ, in that, Malcolm would rule justifiably and kindly. As the son of Duncan, the people already like him. Malcolm looks out for the best interest of society. Macbeth, on the other hand, rules with a harsh hand. His main priority is not the well being of society, but the well being of Macbeth. He does not care what happens to his people, as long as he remains in power.

The last remaining quality found in all great rulers is manipulation.

The ability to manipulate people and surroundings to one's liking is key.

Malcolm shows his manipulative side when a conversation between him and Macduff occurs in England. Malcolm questions Macduff's reasoning for coming to England and finding him. He wonders if Macduff has come to persuade him into returning to Scotland, only so Macbeth and his followers can murder him also. Malcolm then makes himself out to look bad so that Macduff will not want him to come back, that is, if he honestly wants him to come to Scotland to rule. Therefore Malcolm only used his ability to manipulate others in a search for truth.

A staunchless avarice that, were I King, I should cut off the nobles for their lands, Desire his jewels and this other's house.

And my more-having would be as a sauce To make me hunger more, that I should forge Quarrels unjust against the good and loyal, Destroying them for wealth.

-Malcolm However, Macbeth used manipulation for his own evil purposes. He used manipulation in a plot to convince the murderers that Banquo was the cause of all of their financial struggles and their bad work environments.

This I made good to you, In our last conference, passed in probation with you, How you were borne in hand, how crossed, the instruments, Who wrought with them, and all things else that might To half a soul and to a notion crazed Say "Thus did Banquo." -Macbeth Macbeth did this only to serve his own selfish needs, whereas Malcolm only used manipulation for the good of himself and those around him.

In conclusion, the two characters that are most easily compared in Shakespeare's Macbeth are that of Macbeth, the soldier who battles his way to the throne, and Malcolm, the rightful heir to the throne. These two roles are different in almost every way possible. They differ from the way the manipulate, to the way they reign over society. The only exception to their differentiation is the fact that both of them want to rule Scotland.

With only one similarity between them, these characters are a clear contrast.