Good and evil in the plays of william shakespeare

Extract from Francis Meres ' Palladis Tamiawhich makes reference to twelve of Shakespeare's plays.

Good and evil in the plays of william shakespeare

In the mediaeval mind good came from God and evil came from the Devil. It was more or less as simple as that. Human beings had no say in the matter and good and evil were things that were imposed on them. With the Renaissance, and the humanism that was influencing the cultural and artistic outlook of Europe, a more psychological concept of good and evil began to come into being.

Human beings were now responsible for their actions and the good or evil within them originated in people rather than in outside agents.

Good and evil in the plays of william shakespeare

The audience could see them as real people like themselves and were able to become involved in their feelings and emotions, rather than just regard them as one would gaze at stuffed animals in a glass case.

That was, of course, one of the main reasons for the popularity of the Renaissance theatre. And so, Shakespeare and his contemporaries could create really evil characters like Iago who, in spite of a level of evil that most audiences still gasp at, they could recognise as being real people like them.

Conversely, a character like Desdemona, sweet and innocent, putting herself last in her service to others, admirable and enviable as she is to us, who could never be like her, is nevertheless recognisable as a real person like us. As humanism took root in Europe, conditioned by such things as the growth of individual wealth and criticism of religious institutions, the distinction between good and evil began to disappear, allowing true psychological characters who were capable of both good and bad actions to emerge in drama, just as figures in art and sculpture were becoming more naturalistic.

Macbeth the play by William Shakespeare

And we have a hero like Macbeth who can be turned from good to evil. There was still an objective evil lingering in the real world of human beings, mainly in the form of witches.

Witches, influencing human beings and seducing them into committing evil deeds, feature in Renaissance drama. Audiences were fascinated by them so they made good material for drama.

Macbeth is a good example of the treatment of good and evil in both Elizabethan drama and Jacobean drama. As a theme it is a stark contrasting picture of the two forces, perhaps even over-simple.

During the course of the action he becomes evil, influenced by the witches who are agents of the power of evil. He is led on by their suggestion that he is destined to become king. The transition is accompanied by language that depicts that transition. When Macbeth is considering killing him he acknowledges that: The evil plotting of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth has turned it into an almost literal hell.

There is even a comic scene, after the killing of Duncan, where the gate keeper, aroused from his sleep by Macduff knocking on the door, fantasises about being the gatekeeper of hell.

Every word, every action, now, expresses that theme.Evil in Macbeth is best illustrated by the actions of the the three witches, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, the assassins hired by Macbeth later to commit his evil, the king of Norway, and the traitors.

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William Shakespeare was a well known English Poet and Play Writer. Famous for plays such as, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Othello, Romeo and .

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The villains in Shakespeare’s plays are not.

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