There are many human vices, which bring suffering, hatred, and even death to the people around them. Acclaimed poets and writers, including William Shakespeare and Jean-Baptiste Molière, have created many compositions that tell about the vices of society at different times. The works of these authors reflected many of the shortcomings of the people of that time, including excessive ambition, hatred, greed, hypocrisy, and selfishness. Thus, the moral vices possessed by many literary heroes are not unique to them but instead present in every person.
One piece that highlights human shortcomings is “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” written by William Shakespeare. At the beginning of the play, the protagonist Macbeth is celebrated as a loyal, brave, and strong soldier who receives the new title: the Thane of Cawdor. However, Macbeth’s ever-growing ambitions turn him into a murderer and tyrant. As the plot develops, Macbeth transforms into a person whose demeanor is a combination of anger, violence, self-doubt, and ever-increasing inner turmoil. Blinded by ambition and thirst for power, Macbeth commits several crimes, as a result of which he turns from a full-fledged, harmonious person into a traitor and usurper, evoking burning hatred from those around him. Malcolm calls Macbeth ” bloody, / Luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful, / Sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin/ That has a name…” (Shakespeare). Using hyperbole, the author says “Not in the legions / Of horrid hell can come a devil more damn’d / In evils to top Macbeth” (Shakespeare). In the end, Macbeth embodies the eternal archetype of the weak tyrant: a ruler whose cruelty is associated with inner weakness, greed for power, guilt, and susceptibility to other people’s plans and pressure.
Another example of a work in which the author illuminates human shortcomings is “Tartuffe,” Moliere’s first comedy, where he criticized such human vices as meanness, hypocrisy, stupidity, selfishness, cowardice, and greed. The central character, Tartuffe appears to the viewer as a being devoid of any human dignity. The fake saint lusts after the wife of his benefactor and he does not hesitate to rob the one who sheltered him. Finally, he is not afraid of either earthly power or divine judgment, sinning both before people and before God. Under the influence of the hypocrite Tartuffe, the entourage is dehumanized. Another key figure in the play, Orgon, becomes indifferent to family and children. He bluntly says to Tartuffe: “A dear, good friend and son-in-law-to-be / Is more than wife, or child, or kin to me” (Moliere). Tartuffe earns the trust of Orgon and takes over his house. The author in the image of Tartuffe shows the collective image of the clergy of that time. Thus, in the play “Tartuffe” Moliere was able to highlight vividly such human vices as cowardice, hypocrisy, and excessive reverence.
However, there are many ideas that are vastly different from the above arguments. According to White (2018), a strong and powerful state needs violence and propaganda as the system is subject to constant structural difficulties. It follows that the actions of a despotic leader such as Macbeth are inevitable. It is difficult to agree with this idea in the context of development of democracy and civil society. For the other work, Gossman (2019) notes that Tartuffe is an exception among community members, rather than the norm in that historical period. Nevertheless, as the behavior of most of the characters in the play testifies, the author reflects in their actions the inconsistency of church righteousness, with which religious ministers hide vile deeds.
Vices such as greed, jealousy, hatred, and the desire for revenge inevitably permeate society. As such, the works above, the artistic power of which lies in the viability of the plot, are still relevant today. The authors were able to isolate the offending traits in their heroes that they went beyond their historical moment and became lasting symbols. These great plays help the reader look inward, reflect on their shortcomings, and encourage to get rid of them.
Gossman, Lionel. Men and Masks: A Study of Molière. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019.
Moliere. Tartuffe. Translated by Richard Wilbur, 2018. Web.
Shakespeare, William. “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” Shakespeare, Web.
White, Robert S. Ambivalent Macbeth. Sydney University Press, 2018.