Hap by Thomas Hardy and Macbeth by William Shakespeare – A Literary Comparison Essay

Abstract

Two literary pieces by two gifted writers who have earned the respect of their colleagues during their lifetime, and the admiration of many people past their generation, are studied up close in this essay.  Master playwright William Shakespeare’s immortal play “Macbeth” and prolific writer Thomas Hardy’s thought-provoking poem “Hap” are both  imbued with profound meaning and impact.  “Macbeth” and “Hap” also have similarities in terms of literary devices, theme, and some other aspects.  Both literary works – with the meanings they convey and the artistry with which they are written, are ageless.

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  Comparing the two superb works  shed new light and focus on them, bringing greater depth and understanding to readers who can appreciate great literary works.

Hap by Thomas Hardy and Macbeth by William Shakespeare – A Literary Comparison

The poem, “Hap” by Thomas Hardy and “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare are splendidly written works of literature. Tough they differ in genre, there are many similarities in terms of the use of literary devices, notably figures of speech that add emphasis and style help illuminate messages and thoughts to readers.

“Hap” by Thomas Hardy and “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare both employ a narrative hook that catches the reader’s attention. In “Hap” by Thomas Hardy, the poet refers to a deity — “some vengeful god… from up the sky” (“Hap,””n.d.) whom he presumes to be gloating in his suffering. He backtracks in the end, though, and attributes whatever suffering or bliss he may encounter in life to chance or destiny.  In William Skakespeare’s “Macbeth,”  the Elizabethan language is put to optimum use from start to finish.  Macbeth’s gripping opening scene presents three witches who appear to be conniving but who are actually foretelling the future , a literary technique called foreshadowing.

In terms of style, both literary greats Hardy and Shakespeare deliver a compelling message in very descriptive language. Readers may be inclined the pieces all over again because they use archaic language reminiscent of the English classical period in literature and society, but it is this very language that adds beauty, depth and mysticism to both “Hap” and “Macbeth.” The use of the pronouns thou and thy are another common element in “Hap” and “Macbeth,” adding poetic grace or serving as fitting reference when invoking a god or supernatural force.

Both “Hap” and “Macbeth” abound with references to nature and symbolism.  The latter is another common literary device.  Hardy uses the sun and rain to refer to blessing and misfortune, respectively. Ross, who emerges as an observer and deliverer of news, refers to “a wild and violent sea” (Orgel, 2004, p. 235) when he refers to the turn of events in the play. The daggers that keep appearing in Macbeth point to the vicious intentions atrocious crimes perpetrated in the story. Being a much longer literary masterpiece, Macbeth is laden with far more symbolisms  than Hardy’s poetry.  Color is also used to symbolize feelings or character in Macbeth, as shown in a scene in which Lady Macbeth says, “My hands are of your color, but I shame to wear a heart so white.”  She is shown as grief-stricken and the color white refers to innocence, which she says she is shameful of, because she is guilty of evil thoughts and misdeeds.  Aside from symbolisms, both “Hap” and “Macbeth” emphasize with the use of  several figures of speech like alliteration, Three for One, oxymoron and antithesis. An example of alliteration and repetition of words in “Macbeth” is when the witches keep saying “Double, double toil and trouble…” (Orgel, 2004, p. 229). Three for One was employed in the opening scene, in which the first witch says, ”When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning or in rain?” (Orgel, 2004, p. 184). Shakespeare employed antithesis several times in the play, like when the second witch says, “When the battle’s lost and won” (Orgel, 2004, p.184). One will also never forget “Fair is foul, and foul is fair Hover through the fog and filthy air” which combined both an oxymoron in the first phrase and a pairing of words or near-rhyme  in the second line to reinforce meaning. These figures of speech were also employed by Thomas Hardy in “Hap.”  “Steeled by the sense of ire” uses alliteration; “Then would I bear it, clench myself, and die” is a Three for One; “thy love’s lost is my hate’s profiting” is an antithesis or juxtaposition; and “thy sorrow is my ecstasy” stands out as an oxymoron (“Hap,” n.d.)

In both “Hap” and “Macbeth,” there is a distressing tone of solemnity, as if  there is a gloomy pall descending over the main character who is speaking.  The difference is that in Hardy’s “Hap,” he strikes a balancing act in the end and mentions joy and gladness alongside  suffering (“Hap,” n.d.).  In the line, “And dicing Time for gladness casts a moan” (“Hap,” n.d.), Thomas Hardy uses personification to emphasize his point.

In terms of characterization, one does not see the main character in “Hap” by Thomas Hardy except as a voice expressing innermost sentiments.  As such, readers may only deduce.  In contrast, Macbeth has many complex characters who oftentimes articulate what they are thinking, feeling or sensing in connection with their environment, such that readers are easily able to draw conclusions as to what kind of character each one is.

In terms of point of view, “Macbeth” speaks eloquently to the reader through  characters’ innermost thoughts, as in the case of Macbeth, who delivers, for instance, an aside which makes use of personification: “Time, thou anticipat’st my dread exploits” (Orgel, 2004, p. 234). “Hap” is a beautiful sonnet that acquires authenticity through its first-person narrator who delivers a soliloquy that questions and then affirms what causes people’s great suffering.

Overall, both “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare and “Hap” by Thomas Hardy use polished language bolstered by a high level of literary techniques, easy-to-grasp characterization, and abundant use of figures of speech, all contributing to delivering a truly potent message in the most artistic sense.

Reference

 “Hap.” (n.d.) Retrieved May 21, 2008, from http://www.poets.org/m/dsp_poem.php?prmMID=15511

Orgel, S. (Ed.). (2004). The portable Shakespeare. New York: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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