The Search for an Honorable Leader in Hamlet and M Essay

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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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