Shakespeare's Macbeth and Ridley's Gladiator

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1147 Words
Date:  2022-04-14

William Shakespeare's Macbeth and Ridley Scott's Gladiator compares and contrast to some extent based on their exploration of a similar idea with the utilization of different literary techniques to bring out the idea. It is the similarity of the idea which brings about the comparison. The two stories explore the idea of ambition through the utilization of the villainous characters, Macbeth and Commodus. Therefore, the paper is premised on the comparison of both Macbeth and Commodus thirst for ambition.

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The composition of Macbeth came at around 1606 with the specific focus on King James, a soldier of nobility who undergoes character transformation from an ambitious fellow to a corrupted individual. The same as noted in Ridley Gladiator, which presents a vicious antagonist as a malevolent personage whose initial desire was to be loved but later undergoes transformation to a corrupted ambition. The two texts also compare based on their establishment through the use of film and literary techniques that ambition, without a moral objective leads to downfall and destruction. William Shakespeare depicts the destructive outcome of ambition through the transformation of Macbeth, his eponymous protagonist. The initial characterization of the title character in the text was based on bravery and nobility, two virtues which made Macbeth earn the respect of many people. His subsequent meeting with the abhorrent witches makes his physical courage to be joined by the ambition for power. The situation leads to the witches making a prophecy of Macbeth being the "Thane of Cawdor" and will also be king. The prophecy metaphorically poisons his physical state and making him acquire the urge of engaging in the treacherous act. Some of his unending beliefs about the situation are noted in the text as committing regicide even as his ambition sees the dark end through the destructive consequences of paranoia, remorse and his eventual demise.

The case of Macbeth compares with Ridley Scott's film, Gladiator, which utilizes various film techniques and characterization in depicting the destructive outcomes of ambition without a moral objective. The protagonist, Commodus is imaged as a man whose morality is in question and seen as evil throughout the film. Equally notable, the protagonist is the son of emperor Marcus Aurelius whose desire is on being loved and has an undying ambition for power. The genesis of Commodus corrupted ambition is noted when he was informed of Maximus becoming the next emperor, a position he has always anchored his hopes upon and would not relent in fighting for its acquisition. He is, therefore, forced to kill the emperor to block the smooth transition of Maximus to the throne and gain power. The ambition mirrors the regicide of one King Duncan by William Shakespeare's Macbeth. The ambition of Commodus, just like that of Macbeth also has consequential outcomes, for example, the splitting of his head to pieces which is metaphorically depicted to denote the corrupted ambition having an eventual end on his downfall. In consideration of the argued, it is worth noting that both Shakespeare's Macbeth and Ridley's Commodus presents the same idea of ambition leading to destructions of the protagonist characters through various techniques and character development.

The point of contrast mainly dwells in the literary techniques used, for example, the genesis of Macbeth characterization changes from good to evil based on the illustrations of Malcolm's metaphorical comment. The comment is on the tyrant whose sole name leads to the blistering of the tongue. The comment can be interpreted to mean that Macbeth is no longer viewed as a soldier by the people but as a tyrannical murderer whose image cannot be spoken of hence the consequences of unchecked ambition. The corrupted ambition of Macbeth is also attributed to Lady Macbeth who is perceived to be ruthless, stronger and more ambitious than Macbeth. She goes to use extreme measures of gaining powers and neglecting her feminine nature while committing the cruel and violent acts mostly committed by men. She is also the sole influence behinds Macbeth act of regicide after his hesitation on murder and the subsequent questioning of his manhood. It is important to note that the murder results in various psychological implications with the dominant one being on Lady Macbeth becoming mad. She is equally plagued with guilt drawn from her past ambition to the extent of being unable to wash her hands after they became bloodstained. William Shakespeare uses the blood to allegorically to symbolize the unending guilt for the murder of the king and the consequence drawn from the ambition that lacks the moral objective. In consideration of the disruption of both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to the "Chain of Being," William Shakespeare reaffirms the consequential outcome of Macbeth. The reaffirmation is displayed in the character of Macbeth foil Macduff. The murder of King Duncan by Macbeth leads to the erosion of Chain of Being thus causing a storm which makes the earth shake and more feverous. The symbolism of the storm used at the time King Duncan was murdered mirrored the chaos and the disorder which had its genesis from the state and the disruption of the Chain of Being. The literary techniques used differ in the case of Ridley's Gladiator which mostly uses metaphor and juxtaposition to bring the person of Commodus. The first point of metaphoric use is based on the splitting of the head to pieces which imaged the corrupted ambition of Commodus that will eventually cause his downfall. The device of juxtaposing is noted when the character of Commodus was rejected by the people and told to go away, a time when the Romans adored Maximus through the brightly saturated longshot and diegetic sound.

Therefore, in comparing the thirst for the ambition of both Macbeth and Commodus, it comes out clearly that the two anchored thoughts of ascending power with no clear moral objective Each of them pegged their ambitions on their self-gain, a situation which made them commit acts such as regicide for Macbeth and Murder for Commodus. The situation also made the people go against them and were viewed as the enemy of the society. Macbeth was a one-time respected soldier who was associated with nobility but through his deeds became the enemy of many people in the society. The same was noted in Ridley's Gladiator through Commodus who killed the emperor to prevent Maximus from ascending to the throne. The major points of contrasts are mainly based on the literary techniques used as noted therein.


The two texts, Macbeth by William Shakespeare and Gladiator by Ridley Scott presents both Macbeth and Commodus respectively as two individuals whose thirst for ambition led to their eventual downfall. The idea presented in both case revolves the unchecked ambition through various techniques and character development even though the contexts were different. Macbeth and Commodus are eventually destroyed by their excessive thirst hence offering a lesson of ambition having to be accompanied by a moral framework.

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Shakespeare's Macbeth and Ridley's Gladiator. (2022, Apr 14). Retrieved from

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