Between the two tragedies, William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth and William Faulkner’s novel The Sound and The Fury there are many striking similarities. Both of these tragedies show the struggle of good and evil. The characters in Macbeth and The Sound and The Fury, Macbeth and Quentin Compson show remarkable similarities but they are unique in their own way.
This paper discusses how: (1) Quentin Compson and Macbeth show qualities of a tragic hero, (2) Quentin and Macbeth’s guilt leads to their downfall and finally (3) by the end both works of literature Quentin and Macbeth find time meaningless. The Sound and The Fury and Macbeth are two very similar pieces of literature. One striking parallel between the two works is how both protagonists, Macbeth and Quentin fulfill Aristotle’s theory of a tragic hero. A tragic hero is a person of noble status with heroic qualities. The tragic hero is fated by the Gods or by some supernatural force to doom and destruction or to great suffering. Macbeth is a man with many noble and respectable qualities but along with that he has many tragic flaws. The three characteristics that cause Macbeth’s ultimate downfall, are the prophecies told to him by the witches, Lady Macbeth’s influence and manipulation against Macbeth’s judgment, and finally Macbeth’s long time ambition which drives his desire to become king.
When macbeth comes home from the battle he is described as “valour’s minion”(Shakespeare 1.2.19). It is obvious that the king holds respect for Macbeth by complimenting him, this shows Macbeth’s high social rank. Throughout the play his social status rises but his hamartia leads him to his ultimate demise. In the novel The Sound and The Fury Quentin Compson shows the characteristics of a tragic hero.
He is neither better or worse morally than normal people and is noble in nature. His nobleness comes from his belief to follow the southern code of conduct. Quentin is also considered of high ranking in his family. He is the only child of the Compsons to attend a prestigious school such as Harvard. His father even sells their last piece of land to pay for Quentins education. “He lay on the ground under the window, bellowing. We have sold Benjy’s pasture so that Quentin may go to Harvard” (Faulkner 89).
Selling their land is all an attempt to keep their high social standing, by having Quentin go to a prestigious school it is creates the facade of high social class. Quentin’s high social rank is an example of how the he fits Aristotle’s theory of a tragic heroGuilt and blame are recurring themes in the novel The Sound and The Fury and the play Macbeth. These are factors that contribute greatly to both protagonists’ downfall. Macbeth’s guilt prevents him from fully enjoying his position as king. Macbeth’s guilt begins to consume him which starts the hallucinations and paranoia. Shakespeare emphasizes this when Macbeth hallucinates that Banquo is in his seat. “Re-enter GHOST OF BANQUO/: 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!”(3.
4.94-98). It is obvious that the apparition of Banquo is the embodiment of Macbeth’s guilt, which is why he nearly reveals the truth about King Duncan’s murder. These hallucinations are all because of the burden of his guilt, which leads to his downfall. In the novel The Sound and The Fury, Quentin Compson is overwhelmed by guilt and blame. The guilt and blame that Quentin feels is connected to his sister, Caddy losing her virginity. “I said, Why couldn’t it have been me and not her who is unvirgin” (Faulkner 13). Quentin blames Caddy and himself for her losing her virginity.
His obsession with her purity and innocence becomes the focal point of his life which ruins him and leads to his downfall. One notable parallel is that by the end of both tragedies both the characters Macbeth and Quentin find time cruel and damaging. At the beginning of the play Macbeth has an optimistic view of time,”Come what come may,/:Time and the hour runs through the roughest day”(1.3.163-164). After hearing words that he will become king, he pushes the thoughts of killing Duncan to the back of his mind. After a period of self-doubt Macbeth decides to leave his fate to chance and that no matter what time will keep on going.
However by the end of the play Macbeth realizes the inevitable passing of time in his famous soliloquy, saying, “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,/: Creeps in this petty pace from day to day” (5.5.22-3). The tone in his soliloquy is heavy and constant, emphasizing the burden of time. Macbeth says these words after hearing of Lady Macbeth’s suicide, so it makes sense that he is so distraught by time.
This shows how Macbeth perceives time as cruel and damaging. In contrast to Macbeth, Quentin Compson has always found time cruel and damaging. Because of this idea, Quentin becomes distraught, perceiving life as meaningless.
Mr. Compson tells Quentin as a child, “Clocks slay time… time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.”(Faulkner 53). Quentin remembers what his father told him the day he decides to commit suicide.
Quentin feels as if the only way to truly live his life is to end his life. Quentin throughout his whole life has been haunted by time. He feels that he must stop time. This is shown by his act of tearing off the hands of his watch. Time is something that should not be controlled. Clocks are a way of controlling time but by controlling time we aren’t really living life to its fullest and both Quentin and Macbeth understand this in their own way.
Although Quentins way of understanding this leads to his suicide.