Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and Shakespeare’s Macbeth focus the lives of two individuals, Pip and Macbeth respectively. The two individuals illustrate the importance of virtues such as loyalty, ambition, conscience towards enhanced social development. Great Expectations emphasizes on the importance of loyalty, affection, and conscience as opposed to wealth, social status, and development. To affirm his idealism, Pip notes that, “Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape” (Bartlett and Dickens 33). On the other hand, Shakespeare’s Macbeth illustrates the essence of ambition towards individual peace and success. This is illustrated by Lad Macbeth’s statement, “Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, here and fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty!” Essentially, the two authors illustrate the importance of moderation of ambition given that it has the ability to corrupt individuals (Shakespeare, Raffel, and Bloom 23).
Motivation is an integral theme as used by Shakespeare in Macbeth. Lady Macbeth illustrates motivation given that she is driven to ensure her husband is king as foretold by the witches. The witches proclaim that, “Hail, king that shalt be”, which turn motivates Lady Macbeth to persuade and persistently push her husband to kill King Duncan such that to assume the position as king ((Shakespeare, Raffel, and Bloom 31). Ambition can easily corrupt morals and ethics as illustrated by Shakespeare. The lure of power is what motivates Lady Macbeth to conspire towards the murder of King Duncan. Her ambitions are destructive given that she is inconsiderate of the effects of the death of the king such that she is willing to commit murder on her own. She criticizes her husband by questioning his manhood, to which he replies that a woman like her should only conceive boys.
Her desire to commit murder and hunger for power is evident in one of her soliloquies, in which she notes, “Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, here and fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty!” (Shakespeare, Raffel and Bloom 47). Murder is not considered as an act that can be committed by women during the 12-16th century. The author illustrates that the lure of power attributable to ambition can corrupt even the purest minds in society. Gender is also an important theme in the narrative given that Lady Macbeth prays to the spirits to “unsex” her and make her a man such that she can commit the cruelty of murder. In addition, she questions the manhood and ability of the henchmen hired to kill Banquo. The conversation on manhood is followed by violence and death.
Leadership differences are also evident in Macbeth as Duncan is referred to as “King” whereas Macbeth is later known as “tyrant” (Shakespeare, Raffel, and Bloom 39). This is clearly elucidated in Act 4 Scene 3 during the meeting between Macduff and Malcolm. Macbeth is a violent play and narrative with a majority of the murder scenes taking place off the stage. Death is a major theme in the play. Macbeth cries and is haunted after killing Duncan. His wife claims that a little water will be able to “wash away” the blood for the crimes that he has committed (Shakespeare, Raffel, and Bloom 42).
Dickens in Great Expectations employs the theme of morality by illustrating the importance of virtues such as loyalty, affection, and conscience and the importance of such amongst individuals (Bartlett and Dickens 23). Pip gradually understands the importance of morality as he explores self-improvements and ambitions. Pip can be defined as an idealist, given the presence of an opportunity to conceive an idea, he is able to actualize such and in the process achieving self-improvement. For instance, upon seeing a house owned by Satis, he immediately develops a longing to become wealthy. In addition, when he thinks of his moral inadequacies he develops a longing to become a morally upright individual and when he realizes that he lacks the ability to read, he longs to understand and develop the skill. His positive attitude towards life is central towards the “great expectations” that he possesses for a bright future.
The author uses class as a major theme to satirize the social order and structure that exists in Victorian England. This is presented by the lives of characters such as Magwitch who is represented as wretched criminal, Joe and Biddy are represented as poor peasants, and Pumblechook is a middle class citizen. Improvements of self and ambition themes take the form of enhanced educational, moral, and social perspectives. Pip is visibly driven by the need to achieve extraordinary “expectations” (Bartlett and Dickens 39). For instance, his love for Estella drives him to become a gentleman given that contrasts in social class and behavior between them. He is motivated and encouraged by the words of Pumblechook and Mrs. Joe to become a gentleman. This has been as one of the core events in the narrative given that the author satirizes the entire class system and social order during his era by focusing on the capricious nature of the society.
The life of Pip as a gentleman and blacksmith’s apprentice is similar in that he acts in a similar manner in terms of his ethical and moral values. He states that, “I must be taken as I have been made. The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me” (Bartlett and Dickens 43). This is intricately used by the author to illustrate the connection of his ambitions in society and a longing to obtain Estella’s hand for marriage. He constantly seeks to impress Estella such that he can marry her despite his shortcomings, which are attributed to social class differences. Education is an integral part towards becoming a gentleman, which means that he has to shed off his current lifestyle as a country boy. Pip has understood this since he was young given that he learnt to read at a nearby school and later when he takes lessons instructed by Matthew Pocket (Bartlett and Dickens 45). The examples of Biddy, Joe, and Magwitch are points of reference for Pip, as he gradually understands that erudition and social standing are irrelevant to individual worth as compared to enhanced education and social improvement with emphasis being given to affection and conscience.
The two novels illustrate the use of motivation and ambition towards achieving certain goals. Macbeth and his wife use their ambitions for power to commit murder whereas Pip uses his motivation to achieve a good education with an aim of becoming a gentleman and in the process being able to wed Estella. Ambition has the ability to corrupt or provide new opportunities for prosperity as illustrated in the two narratives. The experiences of the two protagonists, the Macbeth couple, and Pip are integral towards understanding the importance of ambition and motivation towards achievement of peace. Pip is not focused on wealth given that “The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me” bur rather focuses on his experiences, whereas Macbeth is told by his wife that the crimes can be “washed away” with a little water (Bartlett and Dickens 43); (Shakespeare, Raffel, and Bloom 42).
Bartlett, Neil, and Charles Dickens. Great Expectations. London: Oberon Books, 2007. Print.
Shakespeare, William, Burton Raffel, and Harold Bloom. Macbeth. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005. Print.
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