Adversity In Beowulf

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A myriad of common themes exist in literature, employed by authors for an infinite number of effects: among these are the basic human experiences such as life, death, joy, and adversity. As defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary, adversity is “a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune.” A subject commonly explicated upon, adversity is present in literature’s earliest works, all the way through modern compositions. The role of adversity in literature can vary: if a character triumphs over or falls to adversity can paint the work in a positive or negative light, and be the difference between a tragedy and a triumph. Customarily, adversity in literature is very clearly presented in a work. The epic poem Beowulf, which…show more content…
Instead of adversity being directly presented in the play, it is created by the actions of the title character. Following a prophecy in which he becomes King of Scotland, Macbeth commits numerous atrocities, including regicide, to fulfill his supposed destiny. Adversity, when viewed as misfortune, can be applied to both the trials that Macbeth endures and the overarching theme of fate and free will. While influenced by the prophecy, Macbeth ultimately decides his own fate, and carves a path that traps both himself and other characters in a cataclysm. Before murdering Duncan, Macbeth expresses doubt about killing his king through numerous soliloquies. Macbeth hallucinates a vision of a bloody dagger pointing him in the direction of the king, and interprets it as a sign to go through with the murder; however, he goes back on his word a moment later, doubting its significance: “Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible / To feeling as to sight? or art thou but / A dagger of the mind, a false creation, / Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?” (Shakespeare II. I. 36-39). The murder of King Duncan signifies the beginning of Macbeth’s descent into criminality, a plunge only quickened by the consequences of his behavior—the main form of adversity he faces. The affliction that Macbeth must confront grows when he becomes aware of three additions to the prophecy. One of these…show more content…
Despite committing a number of abhorrent crimes, Macbeth’s morality is definitively ambiguous, or “grey,” “because he is so acutely aware of the horror of his crimes” (Charney). Even before his transgressions take place, Macbeth is aware of the “physiological and psychological” consequences the murder will have on him, “forsee[ing] the effects” of his wrongdoings with rightfully placed apprehension (Charney). This sorrowful character is not the one first introduced to the audience, as Macbeth is depicted as an exalted hero in Duncan’s army; however, though his visage morphs into one of a tyrant. During his metamorphosis into seemingly amoral ruler, Macbeth does not take pleasure in the carnage he inspires, contributing to the adversity faced through his remorse. Conversely, Macduff, who may be considered the protagonist by some, is not presented as wholly virtuous. He has a strong desire for vengeance against Macbeth, a trait that can be viewed as typically villainous. Moral ambiguity in Macbeth emphasizes that adversity can be man made; the clash between Macbeth’s conscience and his strong desire for power forges the misery upon which this the tragedy is built, and shapes the entire work as a hero’s fall from

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