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Summary: the Topic of Life and Death Through the Macbeth and Hamlet

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Macbeth and Hamlet, two very well known tragedy stories/plays, written by William Shakespeare: a dramatist and a poet. Hamlet and Macbeth have two very different ideas when it comes to the topic of life and death. Macbeth and Hamlet would have very opposing ideals when it comes to those topics. Hamlet says that life is a pain, only with one upside of being better than the pits of hell (afterlife). While Macbeth believes that life is meaningless, like a play it has a beginning and an end told by a preacher, full of sound and fury but always leads into the void of nothingness. They have conflicting ideals on death, Hamlet believes that it is something to be achieved or potentially feared. Macbeth says that death is an end that nears closer and closer, day by day at a petty pace til’ it has finally caught up. They lastly share their ideas on living itself, Hamlet says that the idea of a worse fate after death is what keeps us from wanting death. Macbeth says that any meaning a human life has is simply untrue and those who do believe so, are fools.

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When we take a closer look at Hamlet’s final interpretation of the meaning of life, we infer that life has solely one purpose and one reason why we continue to live, is due to our lack of knowledge of what will come of us after death. In Hamlet’s eyes, death can be a gift if the final destination is as heavenly just as history describes, but we all know that it is for the pure of heart. Hamlet understands mortals are not perfect, therefore can not be pure of heart, so he fears the outcome of life after death as the flames rise and the fiery pits of hell make you live you eternal damnation over, and over again. Yet that still might be better than life, the distresses and suffering of time, getting oppressed by the almighty, the insulting remarks from the arrogant man, the pangs of one-sided love, slowness of the law, the insolence of the people in the office, and the good man abused by the bad man. Perhaps death isn’t that bad then.

Macbeth ideas on these topics at first hand seem similar but there are quite a few critical outliers. For one Macbeth believes that there is nothing in life, no upsides and no downsides. Hamlet, on the other hand, says that life is pain and a preemptive to the greater suffering of death. It is like a play there is the beginning and the end, from roaring applause to the closing of the curtains, to be gone and forgotten like the extinguishment of a candle. Macbeth believes that death is simply an event that happens. Hamlet believes that death is one of two things, relief from the heartache that is life, or a fate potentially worse than life. Macbeth would call Hamlet a complete fool, for saying that there is any level of importance to a person’s life or death. In the final and 5th clause he describes life in a negative fashion, Macbeth says, “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. In this situation, Hamlet can be described as the idiot in this quote, because Hamlet says that life is a pain, making it sound like it’s full of sound and fury, but in the end, it means nothing.

At the end of the day Macbeth and Hamlet have different perspectives on very complex topics of life, death, and living. They both have their own values and opinions when it comes to these things, which are not identical, but almost completely opposing. Both used many different metaphorical ways to express those values and opinions. Macbeth idea was that life is futile and a temporary thing til’ death, but Hamlet’s said that life is suffering or only fine when death might have a worse fate. Lastly, their ideas on death were also in the same boat, Macbeth saying that death is simply a phase, nothing more, nothing less. Hamlet on the other hand said that death could relieve the pain of living or the start of a far greater suffering than before. Perhaps this is why Shakespeare’s plays hold a test of time, they question life, death, and morality all in one. 

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