King Lear And Macbeth

The act of creating and developing a character called characterization not only
establishes a character, but serves as a means for the author to reveal the
themes of the play. "A literary character is the invention of the author,
and often inventions are indebted to prior inven-tions"(Kirsch 236).

Therefore, through characterization many common themes repeat with in an
author's literary col-lection. Shakespeare is the inventor of many characters
and throughout his plays themes often reappear. Macbeth and King Lear, two of

Shakespeare's tragedies, exemplify this technique. The protagonists of these two
plays, Mac-beth and King Lear, by means of their actions, thoughts and words
reveal a theme to the audience. Shakespeare has many portraits of madness among
his characters, and he returns to the theme again and again. Indirect
characterization in the form of Lear's mad speeches allows Shakespeare to convey
the theme of madness. For example one of Lear's first speeches after wit begin
to turn, "Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are,\ That bide the pelting
of this pitiless storm,\ How shall your house-hold heads and unfed sides,\Your
loop'd and window'd rag-gedness, defend you..."(III.iv.35-38). Lear's
insanity in-creases over the course of the play, demonstrated to the audience
through more speeches, until his emotions over-throw his reason at the climax of
the play. Lear erratic-ally shouts in to the storm, "Rumble thy bellyfull!

Spit, fire! Spout, rain!\ Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire are my daughters.\ I tax
not you, you elements, with unkindness.\ I never gave you kingdom, called you
children"(III.ii.14-17). The example of Lear invoking the storm to destroy
the seeds of matter along with many other absurd statements il-lustrates that he
has an unsound mind and it is made clear to the audience by his words.

Shakespeare expands on the theme of madness in King Lear by Lear again using his
words to express the reason for his insanity. The cause is the realization that
his daughters Goneril and Regan do not love him. One critic explains the cause
of Lear's madness, "It is the agony of the learning that exposes Lear as an
old, rejected man which forces him over the brink of madness"(Stuart 172).

The finally pushes him over the edge was the cruel actions afflicted on him by
the people that supposedly loved him. "To such a lowness but his unkind
daughters.\... 'Twas this flesh begot\ Those pelican daughters" describes

Lear of the cruelty of his daughters (III.iii.76,80-81). The character of Lear
produces the theme of madness by expressing his own increasing insanity and
reasons the reason for it in raving tangents. Shakespeare further explores the
theme of madness in a second play with the thoughts and actions of Macbeth. He
characterizes a madness driven by the guilt that he feels from committing
murders. "He looses his head in the horror of the murders, when it was
done, considering them to deeply for sanity" (Paris 8). Macbeth can do
nothing but think of the murders that plague his conscience, causing him to slip
further into madness and away from reality. For example, in his mind he can not
wash the blood from his hands. "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this
blood\ Clean from my hand?"(Macbeth.II.ii.59-60). Another example of the
theme of madness that is characterized by Macbeth is found in act three, scene
four - the climax of the play. Immediately guilt ridden from ordering the murder
of Ban-quo, Macbeth reaches his pinnacle of madness; exemplified by his delusion
of Banquo's ghost. Showing that he can no longer differentiate between reality
and his imagination Macbeth shouts, "Avaunt! And quit my sight! Let the
earth hide thee!\ Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold;\ Thou hast no
speculation in those eyes\ Which thou dost glare with" (III.iv.93-97). Ross
responds to him, "What sights, my lord"(III.iii.118). The Insanity of

Macbeth is shown in these quotes. Shakespeare's description of Mac-beth's
thoughts the reveals he theme of madness. Further development of Macbeth's
character reveals the theme of betrayal. The actions controlled by his blind am-bition
causes him to betray important people in his life. Macbeth's betrayal is the
murder of Duncan. He even admits to this himself, "... He's here in double
trust:\ First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,\ strong both against the
deed; then, as his host\ Who should against the murderer shut the
door"(I.vii.12-15). Duncan is Macbeth's king and lord, he trusts him to be
a faithful servant; by murdering him he not only betrays this trust but also the
code of honor to his lord. One critic explains it "Duncan is... Mac-beth's
kinsman, king, and guest; he is to be murdered in