The short story The Monkey’s Paw by W.W Jacobs and the tragic play Macbeth by William Shakespeare both share many similarities in terms of suspense and tension. In the two stories, both the protagonists are consumed by greed which causes them to make irrational decisions resulting in dire consequences. Suspense and tension are developed throughout the stories as it advances the plot and keeps the readers intrigued. Jacobs and Shakespeare portray these two elements in their writings through the use of pathetic fallacy, foreshadowing, and the supernatural.
In The Monkey’s Paw and Macbeth, suspense is first created through the use of pathetic fallacy. Pathetic fallacy is when the weather mirrors the emotional troubles that are going on in the story. At the very beginning of The Monkey’s Paw, the narrator reveals that the “night was cold and wet” (Jacobs). By introducing the gloomy weather, pathetic fallacy immediately reveals the mood and tone and implies that the story will also be dark. Comparably, in Macbeth, the play opens up with the three witches as they talk about meeting again in “thunder, lighting or in rain.” This dreary weather conveys the dark atmosphere of the play and indicates that the play will be mysterious and gloomy. The use of pathetic fallacy not only helps drive the plot but adds tension as it keeps the readers on their toes.
Furthermore, the supernatural presence in both pieces of literature, not only creates tension and suspense but also causes the two protagonists to make decisions that result in terrible consequences. In The Monkey’s Paw, the Sergeant Major Morris introduces the paw which he claims has the unusual power of granting three wishes to its possessor. He states that an old fakir put a spell on the paw “to show that fate ruled people’s lives, and those who tried to change it would be sorry” (Jacobs). The power of the monkey’s paw is confirmed when Mr.White receives the money he wished for with the price of his son’s life. Similarly, in Macbeth, the supernatural appears in the form of the three witches, who are the guiding force behind Macbeth’s actions. The witches first create chaos by prophesying to Macbeth that he “shalt be king hereafter.” Their prophecy influence Macbeth to transform from a noble soldier to a ruthless tyrant overcome by power. Throughout the play, the three witches continuously reveal more prophecies that foreshadow future events.
Foreshadowing adds dramatic tension to the story by building anticipation of what might happen next. In The Monkey’s Paw, Sergeant-Major Morris introduces the magical paw and reveals that “three different men could each have three different wishes from it” (Jacobs). He shares that the first owner of the paw’s last wish was for death and that he wants to sell it but does not want it to cause any more trouble than it already has. This foreshadow creates tension and suspense by hinting at the evil power of the monkey’s paw. Likewise, when Macbeth first encounters the three witches, they each greet him with different titles: Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and king. Though Macbeth was already the Thane of Glamis, Duncan later hands him the title Thane of Cawdor whose previous owner was a traitor. Macbeth’s new title foreshadows that he will follow in the footsteps of the previous thane and betray the king. Not only does this advances the plot, but it creates suspense as the readers become curious about how Macbeth will become King.
Through the use of pathetic fallacy, foreshadowing and the supernatural, Jacobs and Shakespeare create two very dramatic and suspenseful literature pieces. From the beginning of The Monkey’s Paw and Macbeth, the weather immediately captures the reader’s by setting the eerie atmosphere. The references made to the supernatural not only adds fear but produce dramatic tension throughout the plot. Both the author’s use of foreshadowing creates suspense by building anticipation in the minds of the readers while also advancing the plot. Thus, W.W Jacobs short story The Monkey’s Paw and the tragic play Macbeth by William Shakespeare both are comparable in terms of the writing style and the plotline.