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Comparing The Downfall of Man in Macbeth and Moby Dick.

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Daniel Cunningham ENG 4U 8 January 2004 Miss Bairos The Downfall of Man It can be stated that mans greatest downfall is his greed. No matter how much a person has, they will always want more. In Melville's Moby Dick and Shakespeare's Macbeth, the character traits of the tragic heroes, and many similar outside factors combine to create a spiral downfall effect which essentially leads each character to his demise. Each of these character's downfalls are brought upon as a result of their predetermined fates, their ambitions to reach an unattainable goal, and their foolish choices. From fortune cookies to Miss Cleo, many people around the world today believe in the ability to see into the future and determine ones fate. Both Macbeth and Captain Ahab have predetermined fates which conflict with their goals, thereby causing them to be unachievable. Moby Dick is riddled with evidence foreshadowing that the Pequod, Captain Ahab, and his crew are doomed from the moment it sets sail. "Ishmael's narrative contains many references to fate, creating the impression that the Pequod's doom is inevitable" (Chong). When Ishmael first arrives in New Bedford, he stays at a very dark and gloomy inn decorated with clubs and spears, and other whaling equipment. ...read more.


He will do anything necessary to seek this revenge, even if it means risking his life, and the lives of his crew. Macbeth's ambition stems from the weird sisters' three prophecies. Two of them have already come true, and so Macbeth works hard to guarantee that the third, he will be king, also becomes a reality. Both he, and Lady Macbeth devise a plan to invite King Duncan and his two guards to stay the night, inhibit the guards awareness with wine, and murder the King in his sleep; "[The guards] drenched natures lie as in death, What cannot you and I perform upon the unguarded Duncan?" (Shakespeare 1.7.75-77). Macbeth briefly thinks about backing out of the plan, but his wife convinces him to follow through; "Shakespeare uses Macbeth to show the terrible effects that ambition and guilt can have on a man who lacks strength of character" (Phillips). While the King is asleep in Macbeth's castle, he follows through with the plan, and later informs his wife that, "[he] has done the deed" (Shakespeare 2.2.19). It is at this point that Macbeth is essentially doomed. He has taken the life of an innocent man, and thus his life will also eventually be taken. ...read more.


born of woman can harm him; and the third that he shall not be defeated until Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane hill (Shakespeare 4.1). The apparitions cause Macbeth to feel overconfident which slowly brings him closer to his end. What he overlooks is the fact that he must be wary of Macduff, this warns that Macduff will overthrow Macbeth's reign as king. When Macduff and his army attack Dunsinane castle, Macbeth feels overconfident because no man born of women can harm him, it is then that Macduff tells him that, "[he] was from his mother's womb untimely ripp'd" (Shakespeare 5.8.19-20). It is at this point that Macbeth finally realizes that the three apparitions were riddles, and that he will be defeated. "[Macbeth] goes down fighting, bringing the play full circle: it begins with Macbeth winning on the battlefield and ends with him dying in combat" (Phillips). With Macbeth slain, order is returned to Scotland, similar to how it is returned to the sea when the ship is dragged under. It is evident that although both of the characters reach their end through completely different paths and events that occurred, the three main causes of their downfall remain the same; fate, ambition, and their actions. "Desire. [it is] Man's greatest pleasure. [but also] Man's greatest downfall" (DeLatore). 7 Cunningham ...read more.

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