The Search for an Honorable Leader in Hamlet and M

acbethHamlet clearly defines a good leader in this passage in Hamlet;
“Look here, upon this picture, and on this,
The counterfeit presentment of two brothers.

See, what a grace was seated on this brow;
Hyperions’ curls; the front of Jove himself;
An eye like Mars, to threaten and command;
A station like the herald Mercury
New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill;
A combination and a form indeed,
Where every God did seem to set his seal
To give the world assurance of a man.” Act III Sc. IV
He states that an individual must attain the qualities: grace, leadership,
well roundedness, and reverence. Using Hamlet’s definition, Macbeth would be
considered the exact opposite and in many ways the antagonist to Hamlet’s
assertion of honorable leader. Macbeth contained qualities that tarnished his
prestige in the blink of an eye, and his lack of ability to process certain
decisions he made revealed his innate character which was ultimately beheaded.
One of the most important characteristics for a prosperous leader to have is
grace, which Macbeth knew nothing about. He was a war-hero, and was uninterested
in what society perceived him to be. His superstition and dependence on the
witches visions show his weakness as a character, and especially as a leader.
His beliefs in the witches eventually lead him down the wrong path when he
returns to the witches for another proclamation of their visions, which all are
apparently true, but misunderstood by Macbeth. In the end, as the visions become
reality, Macbeth realizes that he has failed to grasp a hold of the tangible
aspects of his life, and was too concentrated on the unknown. He states in Act
IV scene I, “”Tell me now, thou unknown power–Whate’er thou art, for thy good
caution thanks; Thou hast harp’d my fear aright: but one word more.” Leading up
to this outburst, Macbeth had been speaking with the witches, and trying to
persuade them to tell him that he would rule forever. This shows Macbeth’s
weakness, not acting with grace, he let his guard down to superstition, which is
modern day philosophy is considered childish and everything short of acting with
Macbeth’s lack of leadership, and self-determination, peel the layers of his
character to a bare boned coward. In the scenes where Macbeth is faced with
life-threatening decisions, he hesitates to commit to what he believes to be
right. This is obviously not the manner in which a true leader would act. In Act
II, Macbeth has made his decision to go forth and murder King Duncan. While in
the process of doing so, he is petrified, and contemplates whether or not he
should proceed with his actions. This proves that he very untrusting of himself
and the decisions that he made, thus, reinforcing his lack of a leadership
persona. Throughout the play, Macbeth, we see that the character, Macbeth is
controlled by his wife. She is his mind, while the witches strengthen his
conscious. He never acts without the influence of some outside source. After
Macbeth kills King Duncan, he cries out, “I’ll go no more, am afraid to think
what I have done; Look on’t again I dare not.” Not only does Macbeth not show
leadership, but what makes him seem like more of a coward is his wife who is
portrayed as “wearing the pants” in the relationship, as she tells Macbeth how
he should handle certain situations. This relationship is similar to the
relationship in Hamlet between Claudius and his nephew. In Hamlet, Claudius is
more involved with the mystery behind Hamlet`s, the character, actions and
outrages, than he is with the war against Fortinbras. In the end this would
prove to be Claudius downfall , because he let his guard down against the
inevitable, as Macbeth did with Macduff.
In becoming a great leader, one attribute that must be managed is a
well-rounded character. One must be intelligent, spiritually active, and
physically active. Macbeth fails to attain these main qualities and therefore is
not a well-rounded character. He fails to show his intellectual side, because he
is constantly doubting himself and persuaded by his wife, Lady Macbeth. His
intellectuality is hidden by his implications to derive his decisions based on
what others think. His nobility status shows that he is not meant to be a
leader, coming from the Glamis class. He was not born into the royal blood line,
therefore lacking the genetically possessed characteristics of a King, or
leader. His appearance in a battle was described in Act I Sc. II when a sergeant
explained Macbeth’s appearance as if he were a furious savage, “Which smoked
with bloody execution, Like valour’s minion carved his passage Till he faced the
slave.” His behavior as a war-hero degrades his ability to be a well rounded
character hence, not allowing him to be a good leader.
Along with being a well-rounded character, a leader must have reverence, and
have others fear him not only for who he or she is, but for what he or she can
do. McDuff evidently is not afraid of Macbeth. He declines many of MacBeth’s
invitations, almost to let Macbeth know that he isn’t respectable enough to have
as company. Macbeth in the beginning of the play is respected as a war hero, but
as the play draws to a close, almost all the opposing army realizes that he is
nothing to be afraid of. Even the young boy Malcolm states, “Make all our
trumpets speak; give the all breath, Those clamorous harbingers of blood and
death,” (Act V Sc. VI) in the scene before they attack on the castle where
Macbeth will ultimately face his death. By this point Macbeth himself has lost
respect for himself, and knows he is slowly approaching the foreseeable end to a
tiresome, drawn out journey that accomplished nothing more than the death of
many, including, all the beloved of Macbeth.
In the play Hamlet, one character is unique when compared to Laertes,
Claudius, Hamlet, Macduff, or Macbeth. Fortinbras, is a character that very
little is known about. He isn’t described much in the play, but his actions are
all justified by his motives, and he is a man of action, and most of all a man
of integrity, another essential characteristic of a leader. The reader only
knows that Fortinbras is on a mission to avenge his father’s murder and reclaim
what is rightfully his, the throne. He gathers an army, marches into Denmark and
claims his rightful position, without any hesitation, and with an abundance of
Fortinbras is a true leader, and the best character out of the possible
choices because throughout his journey to avenge his fathers death, not once,
does he involve other people, or contemplate to himself if what he is doing is
right. He is well respected and a man of honor. What solidifies Fortinbras’
position of an authority figure and man of leadership is in the last scene of
Hamlet, as he takes his seat as King, he notices the character Hamlet on the
floor dead. What is expected is that he would make a mockery of Hamlet, being
the son of the man who murdered his father and forever ruined his life, but
instead, he does what is most noble in the heart, and states, “Bear Hamlet like
a soldier to the stage , for he was likely , had he been put on, to have proved
most royal; and for his passage, the soldier music and right of war, Speak
loudly for him.” (Act V Sc. II) In his closing statement, Fortinbras shows his
grace and well-roundedness by honoring Hamlet, and understanding that he too
went through what Fortinbras himself had to go through his entire adult life,
living without his father. For those reasons, Fortinbras is a true leader, and
the best representation in these two plays of a leader according to Hamlet’s
In both plays, many characters are portrayed as being multi-layered, and
viewed through many perspectives. Many characters are presented as one thing,
but as the play continues, the layers peel, and the character is quickly defined
as something different. As Macbeth fought to keep sane, his leadership was
hastily tainted. Fortinbras on the other hand, kept his mind set on his goal,
and achieved it proving him to be the true leader.

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