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Compare and contrast MacBeth and King Lear relevant to the Natural and the...

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nfenne | (Level 2) Honors

Posted January 24, 2012 at 4:25 AM via web

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Compare and contrast MacBeth and King Lear relevant to the Natural and the Unnatural?

For example, it is unnatural to disown your child (King Lear.) I guess I need understand examples of natural and unnatural in each book and then compare how the example was alike or not alike between the 2 books?

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jlbh | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted January 24, 2012 at 6:02 AM (Answer #1)

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Your question opens up so much! First, let's stop calling these works 'books'. They're plays - drama. And all drama operates on the 'unnatural' at one level - a world opens up on a platform, often from behind a curtain, and for two hours or so, we are required to believe in the play-world that is revealed - something that the poet S.T.Coleridge described as 'the willing suspension of disbelief', a process whereby the audience enters the 'play-world', believes in characters rather than the actors playing them, and accepts the story of the drama as it unfolds, including its apparent absurdities.

The story may well be 'unnatural' in other respects - think about science-fiction, super-heroes etc - but in order for it to 'work', we have to be able to believe in the human emotion/conflict presented to us. Thus, Macbeth is full of witches, a ghost, and other supernatural phenomena, and we might regard these with the same kind of 'double-think' that we employ while watching say Star-Trek: it is obviously fantasy - but the human dramatic elements engage us all the same. Macbeth's ambition, and his fall from hero into murderer are all too real - the stuff of human nature.

You say that disowning a child is 'unnatural' and I take it you mean in human terms, but it happens in the real human world, as do vain misguided fathers, and the remorse which follows. King Lear at its simplest level is a fairy-tale - a bit like Cinderella, complete with ugly sisters - but like Cinderella, it is a moral tale, in which a rejected daughter is shown to be more truthful, and her love more valuable, than the liars and flatterers. King Lear also gives us an all too poignant portrait of a once-powerful old man losing his faculties - and perhaps this is where 'natural'/'unnatural' surely coincide: Lear is going mad, and mad people do mad things, misinterpret the obvious and the reasonable. But madness is 'natural', in that it happens... You could just as easily say that murder for gain is 'unnatural', but this happens too, and the Macbeth story charts a man's moral fall. The language of both plays is, after the fashion of the time, far more poetic than naturalistic, but the dynamics between, say, the wavering Macbeth and his over-ambitious wife have a human reality, just as are those between the blind Gloucester and Edgar, however unnatural Edgar's behaviour seems.

In short, a play will always ask us to believe the impossible to a certain extent. A Shakespeare play will give us unnaturalistic dialogue which nevertheless evinces 'natural' human impulses and desires with which we can identify. The idea of human 'nature' is all too limitless. It is as if the writer has sat down with his pen and said, "If..."

 

 

 

 

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