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Literature: Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Macbeth is presented as a mature man of definitely established character,
successful in certain fields of activity and enjoying an enviable reputation. We
must not conclude, there, that all his volitions and actions are predictable;
Macbeth's character, like any other man's at a given moment, is what is being
made out of potentialities plus environment, and no one, not even Macbeth
himself, can know all his inordinate self-love whose actions are discovered to
be-and no doubt have been for a long time- determined mainly by an inordinate
desire for some temporal or mutable good. Macbeth is actuated in his conduct
mainly by an inordinate desire for worldly honors; his delight lies primarily in
buying golden opinions from all sorts of people. But we must not, therefore,
deny him an entirely human complexity of motives. For example, his fighting in
Duncan's service is magnificent and courageous, and his evident joy in it is
traceable in art to the natural pleasure which accompanies the explosive
expenditure of prodigious physical energy and the euphoria which follows. He
also rejoices no doubt in the success which crowns his efforts in battle - and
so on. He may even conceived of the proper motive which should energize back of
his great deed: The service and the loyalty I owe, In doing it, pays itself. But
while he destroys the king's enemies, such motives work but dimly at best and
are obscured in his consciousness by more vigorous urges. In the main, as we
have said, his nature violently demands rewards: he fights valiantly in order
that he may be reported in such terms a "valour's minion" and "Bellona's
bridegroom"' he values success because it brings spectacular fame and new
titles and royal favor heaped upon him in public. Now so long as these mutable
goods are at all commensurate with his inordinate desires - and such is the
case, up until he covets the kingship - Macbeth remains an honorable gentleman.
He is not a criminal; he has no criminal tendencies. But once permit his
self-love to demand a satisfaction which cannot be honorably attained, and he is
likely to grasp any dishonorable means to that end which may be safely employed.
In other words, Macbeth has much of natural good in him unimpaired; environment
has conspired with his nature to make him upright in all his dealings with those
about him. But moral goodness in him is undeveloped and indeed still
rudimentary, for his voluntary acts are scarcely brought into harmony with
ultimate end. As he returns from victorious battle, puffed up with self-love
which demands ever-increasing recognition of his greatness, the demonic forces
of evil-symbolized by the Weird Sisters-suggest to his inordinate imagination
the splendid prospect of attaining now the greatest mutable good he has ever
desired. These demons in the guise of witches cannot read his inmost thoughts,
but from observation of facial expression and other bodily manifestations they
surmise with comparative accuracy what passions drive him and what dark desires
await their fostering. Realizing that he wishes the kingdom, they prophesy that
he shall be king. They cannot thus compel his will to evil; but they do arouse
his passions and stir up a vehement and inordinate apprehension of the
imagination, which so perverts the judgment of reason that it leads his will
toward choosing means to the desired temporal good. Indeed his imagination and
passions are so vivid under this evil impulse from without that "nothing is
but what is not"; and his reason is so impeded that he judges, "These
solicitings cannot be evil, cannot be good." Still, he is provided with so
much natural good that he is able to control the apprehensions of his inordinate
imagination and decides to take no step involving crime. His autonomous decision
not to commit murder, however, is not in any sense based upon moral grounds. No
doubt he normally shrinks from the unnaturalness of regicide; but he so far
ignores ultimate ends that, if he could perform the deed and escape its
consequences here upon this bank and shoal of time, he'ld jump the life to come.
Without denying him still a complexity of motives - as kinsman and subject he
may possibly experience some slight shade of unmixed loyalty to the King under
his roof-we may even say that the consequences which he fears are not at all
inward and spiritual, It is to be doubted whether he has ever so far considered
the possible effects of crime and evil upon the human soul-his later discovery
of horrible ravages produced by evil in his own spirit constitutes part of the
tragedy. Hi is mainly concerned, as we might expect, with consequences involving
the loss of mutable goods which he already possesses and values highly. After
the murder of Duncan, the natural good in him compels the acknowledgment that,
in committing the unnatural act, he has filed his mind and has given his eternal
jewel, the soul, into the possession of those demonic forces which are the enemy
of mankind. He recognizes that the acts of conscience which torture him are
really expressions of that outraged natural law, which inevitably reduced him as
individual to the essentially human. This is the inescapable bond that keeps him
pale, and this is the law of his own natural from whose exactions of devastating
penalties he seeks release: Come, seeling night... And with thy bloody and
invisible hand Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond Which keeps me pale. He
conceives that quick escape from the accusations of conscience may possibly be
effected by utter extirpation of the precepts of natural law deposited in his
nature. And he imagines that the execution of more bloody deeds will serve his
purpose. Accordingly, then, in the interest of personal safety and in order to
destroy the essential humanity in himself, he instigates the murder of Banquo.
But he gains no satisfying peace because hes conscience still obliges him to
recognize the negative quality of evil and the barren results of wicked action.
The individual who once prized mutable goods in the form of respect and
admiration from those about him, now discovers that even such evanescent
satisfactions are denied him: And that which should accompany old age, As honor,
love, obedience, troops of friends, I must not look to have; but, in their
stead, Curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honour, breath, Which the poor heart
would fain deny, and dare not. But the man is conscious of a profound
abstraction of something far more precious that temporal goods. His being has
shrunk to such little measure that he has lost his former sensitiveness to good
and evil; he has supped so full with horrors and the disposition of evil is so
fixed in him that nothing can start him. His conscience is numbed so that he
escapes the domination of fears, and such a consummation may indeed be called a
sort of peace. But it is not entirely what expected or desires. Back of his
tragic volitions is the ineradicable urge toward that supreme contentment which
accompanies and rewards fully actuated being; the peace which he attains is
psychologically a callousness to pain and spiritually a partial insensibility to
the evidences of diminished being. His peace is the doubtful calm of utter
negativity, where nothing matters. This spectacle of spiritual deterioration
carried to the point of imminent dissolution arouses in us, however, a curious
feeling of exaltation. For even after the external and internal forces of evil
have done their worst, Macbeth remains essentially human and his conscience
continues to witness the diminution of his being. That is to say, there is still
left necessarily some natural good in him; sin cannot completely deprive him of
his rational nature, which is the root of his inescapable inclination to virtue.
We do not need Hecate to tell us that he is but a wayward son, spiteful and
wrathful, who, as other do, loves for his own ends. This is apparent throughout
the drama; he never sins because, like the Weird Sisters, he loves evil for its
own sake; and whatever he does is inevitably in pursuance of some apparent good,
even though that apparent good is only temporal of nothing more that escape from
a present evil. At the end, in spite of shattered nerves and extreme distraction
of mind, the individual passes out still adhering admirably to his code of
personal courage, and the man's conscience still clearly admonishes that he has
done evil. Moreover, he never quite loses completely the liberty of free choice,
which is the supreme bonum naturae of mankind. But since a wholly free act is
one in accordance with reason, in proportion as his reason is more and more
blinded by inordinate apprehension of the imagination and passions of the
sensitive appetite, his volitions become less and less free. And this accounts
for our feeling, toward the end of the drama, that his actions are almost
entirely determined and that some fatality is compelling him to his doom. This
compulsion is in no sense from without-though theologians may at will interpret
it so-as if some god, like Zeus in Greek tragedy, were dealing out punishment
for the breaking of divine law. It is generated rather from within, and it is
not merely a psychological phenomenon. Precepts of the natural law-imprints of
the eternal law- deposited in his nature have been violated, irrational acts
have established habits tending to further irrationality, and one of the
penalties exacted is dire impairment of the liberty of free choice. Thus the
Fate which broods over Macbeth may be identified with that disposition inherent
in created things, in this case the fundamental motive principle of human
action, by which providence knits all things in their proper order. Macbeth
cannot escape entirely from his proper order; he must inevitably remain
essentially human. The substance of Macbeth's personality is that out of which
tragic heroes are fashioned; it is endowed by the dramatist with an astonishing
abundance and variety of potentialities. And it is upon the development of these
potentialities that the artist lavishes the full energies of his creative
powers. Under the influence of swiftly altering environment which continually
furnishes or elicts new experiences and under the impact of passions constantly
shifting and mounting in intensity, the dramatic individual grows, expands,
developes to the point where, at the end of the drama, he looms upon the mind as
a titanic personality infinitely richer that at the beginning. This dramatic
personality in its manifold stages of actuation in as artistic creation. In
essence Macbeth, like all other men, is inevitably bound to his humanity; the
reason of order, as we have seen, determines his inescapable relationship to the
natural and eternal law, compels inclination toward his proper act and end but
provides him with a will capable of free choice, and obliges his discernment of
good and evil.
Melville's first five novels all achieved quick popularity. Typee: A Peep at
Polynesian Life (1846), Omoo, a Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas
(1847), and Mardi (1849) were romances of the South Sea islands. Redburn, His
First Voyage (1849) was based on his own first trip to sea, and White-Jacket, or
the World in a Man-of-War (1850) fictionalized his experiences in the navy. In
1850 Melville moved to a farm near Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he became an
intimate friend of Nathaniel Hawthorne, to whom he dedicated his masterpiece
Moby-Dick; or The White Whale (1851). The central theme of the novel is
the conflict between Captain Ahab, master of the whaler Pequod, and Moby-Dick, a
great white whale that once tore off one of Ahab's legs at the knee. Ahab is
dedicated to revenge; he drives himself and his crew, which includes Ishmael,
narrator of the story, over the seas in a desperate search for his enemy. The
body of the book is written in a wholly original, powerful narrative style,
which, in certain sections of the work, Melville varied with great success. The
most impressive of these sections are the rhetorically magnificent sermon
delivered before sailing and the soliloquies of the mates; lengthy “flats,”
passages conveying nonnarrative material, usually of a technical nature, such as
the chapter about whales; and the more purely ornamental passages, such as the
tale of the Tally-Ho, which can stand by themselves as short stories of merit.
The work is invested with Ishmael's sense of profound wonder at his story, but
nonetheless conveys full awareness that Ahab's quest can have but one end. And
so it proves to be: Moby-Dick destroys the Pequod and all its crew save Ishmael.
There is a certain streak of the supernatural being projected in the writings of
Melville, as is amply obvious in Moby Dick. The story revolves around the idea
of an awesome sea mammal, which drives the passions of revenge in one man and
forces him to pursue a course of action which leads ultimately to his death as
well as the deaths of his companions. There is a great deal of imagination
involved in these stories and the creativity is highly apparent. There is an
expression of belief in the supernatural, as the author strives to create the
image of a humongous beast in the mind of the reader. There are no indications
that Melville was in any way averse to fame or to the pursuit of excellence in
his work. Every author, when writing a book, is hopeful of it’s success and
Melville was no less.
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