Good Titles For Essays About Evil Daughter

"All baronets are bad; but was he worse than other baronets?"

Ruth, Ruddigore

A lot of tropes have origins way back when media was still forming; this is one of them. It might have been an early way to appeal to the masses, or just due to the way aristocrats tended to look down on the general public. But it was then and is now really popular to cast aristocrats as villains. A variety of Meaningful Titles exist—people with feudal titles are very commonly evil. Popular titles are Countnote in Britain, they're guaranteed to be foreign, since the equivalent local rank is Earl—probably because in the Medieval Accent it sounded kind of unfortunate, and Baron—two titles which are rarely seen on a good guy. (Oddly enough, a Countess has a better-than-even chance of being a decent woman.note And Britain does have Countesses, it's the female equivalent of an Earl.) And though it doesn't show up a great deal, you should break out in a cold sweat when you meet a Viscount. Unless it's Viscount Horatio Nelson. Interestingly, both counts and barons are fairly common titles among Continental Europeans, but rare among the English, which may suggest a regional bias in which aristocrats are cast as villains. Needless to say, Barons fare the worst in popular fiction, with one notable exception when used as a badass nickname. Maybe it's something to do with the old nickname "Sugar Baron", who makes his wealth off the labour of the poorest of the poor, and from slaves. (In the U.S. this became the "Robber Baron", the derogatory term for wealthy industrialists that made their money off the backs of immigrant labor.) One major exception: Dukesare usually relatively nice. This may be due to the fact the title was awarded to those who rose to aristocracy as war leaders. Thus, the Duke has a "grass roots" feel to it, and a badass quality; as well, much like The Good Captain, military titles are generally for good guys, with the possible exception of Major. Also, before the 18th and 19th centuries, Dukes were generally too high up the ladder of aristocracy to really have much contact with common people at all. Because of this, Dukes were not the nobles that were directly oppressing the common people, and so didn't receive quite the same stigma… especially since in some local cases, a Duke actually ran interference against a lower-ranking nobleman on behalf of the masses. Dukes (and especially Grand Dukes) can be evil if the Hero is a Royal. Often a Duke is scheming to take over the throne himself. Other titles generally have a more neutral feel to them—Earls tend to be good but quite elderly and senile, while it is rare to see a Marquess in anything other than a particularly faithful historical adaptation. Baronets were quite often villains in both Victorian Melodrama and Wodehousian comedy (not to mention the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta Ruddigore), probably due to the fact that baronetcies could be more or less openly bought, indicating that the character is not only Nouveau Riche, but also ambitious and seeking to rise beyond his station (the worst social sin in Victorian Britain). Queens/Kings may be either good or evil. And, of course, Everything's Better with Princesses(or is it?). The title Siris the best of the lot, being martial, unprepossessing, and upwardly mobile. Even actors like to be called Sir.The title Lord is somewhat problematic as strictly speaking any British or Irish Peer (other than a Duke or Duchess) would be addressed as such. For instance a character named 'Lord Bloggs', might be the Earl of Bloggs, or the Marquess of Bloggs or so on. The title 'Lord -' is also a favorite of a certain type of supernatural villain (Lords Vader and Voldemort, most famously), but are really a separate trope - normally not real aristocrats, and normally not powerful simply because of their titles. The Prince will almost always be charming, even in the rare cases where that is not actually his name. However, there are two uses of the term. The Prince may be the son of a King, or it may be used to refer to any ruler or leader (re: Machiavelli). If an evil prince ever appears in fiction, be sure to check that it is not in fact the latter. And of course, the Evil Prince may be out to kill the good one. If it's an Action-Adventure story, you can bet anyone with the title Lady will be a Lady of War. If there's a Queen then she will be regal and respected or God Save Us from the Queen! Conversely, a Prince is much more likely to be The Wise Prince; compare Fisher King. Don't even get us started on Emperors or Chancellors. Good luck finding a Marquis, though (though there's at least one infamous example of such). While East Asian and pre-Columbian noble titles are usually translated - Huangdi and Tlatoani are all simply Emperors, and treated as such - the Middle East has an aristocratic hierarchy of its own. Sheikhs and Sultans used to be romantic, but since the 1970s oil embargo they're almost universally bad news in fiction: typically depicted as corrupt, greedy, lecherous, fat, and smug. Emirs have roughly the same connotations, but the title is even more besmirched because of its use by terrorist leaders. Caliphs, however, are a rarity. This is mostly because the title, while extremely prestigious, was powerless on its own most of the time and is completely gone today, the only claimant being a raving terrorist. That being said, in the short period where the caliphs were relevant - the early Middle Ages - they can be seen in "Arabian Nights" Days stories. While these caliphs are usually benevolent, beware of Grand Viziers.Squires tend to be Quintessential British Gentlemen. They are likely to be rather gruff but good natured under all that. They tend to either be a retired military officer, or a father obsessed with marrying off his daughters or with a wife with the same obsession. Chiefs tend to be a leader of a tribal community, generally a barbarous one. They will likely be badass because their culture insists that Authority must equal asskicking and may even have gotten their job from Klingon Promotion. Alternatively they are chief of a tribe that has acculturated itself to mundane lifestyles. In that case, expect him to wax poetic about the Good Old Ways. Several of these kinds of aristocrats together form a Decadent Court. See also The Baroness and The Caligula. A young aristocrat may fall under Royal Brat. Aristocrats are often willing to be polite and even with people of their own rank. Moral Myopia, however, often limits it to fellow aristocrats. Commoners are just out of luck — especially servants. If they're not actively in charge, expect them to be part of the Omniscient Council of Vagueness. A Regent for Life will pick any one of these titles, especially if they run the People's Republic of Tyranny. In that case, only when the Rightful King Returns will harmonious social order be restored to the realm. In most cases, aristocrats are associated exclusively with monarchical and imperial societies. In actual fact, the word aristocrat comes from Athenian democracy. The word comes from the combination of "Arete" (Greek for "the best" or most virtuous) and "Kratos" (power). In other words "power of the best". It originally referred to the fact that leading members of Athenian families were supposed to be first in battle and represent the highest and best values of society. The "best men" (aristocrats) had the highest voting privileges and greatest power. So an aristocrat is not necessarily exclusive to monarchical and feudal nations. The Romans incidentally, after conquering Greece, used the word "optimate" or "boni" which meant the same thing in Latin (Best Men/Good Men), and as in the case of Athens, it was often the case that those who possessed the most wealth, prestige, and power were regarded as the best and good men. In England-France-USA, the word Aristocracy in the 18th and 19th Century, was often used in the original classical sense, to describe individuals and interests that restricted suffrage and voting rights. For the modern version of this trope, see Corrupt Corporate Executive, and to a lesser extent, Nouveau Riche. Very prone to Screw the Rules, I Have Money!, Screw the Rules, I Make Them!, and Screw the Rules, I Have Connections! Sometimes even prone to Screw the Money, I Have Rules!Morally Ambiguous Doctorate is also related, insofar as the title of Doctor gives the Mad Scientist some implied legitimacy. If there are any German or Dutch Evil Aristocrat in the fiction, The Von Trope Family might please us with the delight of their company. For more information on the British title system, see Knight Fever. Not to be confused with The Aristocrats, a "stock joke" based on this premise. This trope often goes hand in hand with Slobs vs. Snobs. See also, Eat the Rich and Kill the Poor.

    open/close all folders 


Anime and MangaComics
  • The noble class and the royal family in Megalex.
  • King Tyrannus of Swordquest, full stop. One of his first acts as king was to order the deaths of two newborn infants simply because his Evil Sorcerer told him of a prophecy that they would eventually lead to his death.
  • In Braveheart, the working class Scottish villagers get pitted against the snobbish, aristocratic Norman nobles led by King Edward.
  • In In Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, the clueless duo winds up in medieval times, and tries to save two Royal English Babes from their tyrannical father, who wants them to marry "Royal Ugly Dudes". Unfortunately, they barely make it out alive after meeting him, but Rufus manages to get the princesses out later.
  • In Johannes Cabal the Detective the main antagonist is Count Marechal, who is more or less the de-facto ruler of the fictional country of Ruritania (the Emperor dies shortly after the book starts and Marechal is technically ruling for the mind-addled young son of the Emperor). He's a hands-on type, a former cavalry man who dreams of conquest ans the brains to do something about it.
  • The Rifter: Played straight. The aristocracy are rapacious and repressive toward the common people; the one decent person among them that we meet, Joulen, has been away with the army in the north for years, and John reflects that the simple life had done him good. Lady Bousim, exiled in the north, turns out to be a very good friend to Laurie and Bill, although we are told that before, in the south, she had taken a series of lovers without caring that her husband would have them all executed.
  • The Evil Queen (and Wicked Stepmother) from "Snow White".
  • The Emperor of Dune is only good in comparison to Baron Harkonnen. The Emperors throughout the series fall under this trope, even the Necessary Evil ones — God Emperor Leto made himself the most reviled being in history, distrusted and despised even by his closest supporters.
  • In The Iron Teeth web serial all the nobles are ruthless and immoral. For example, Vorscha used to work for a Lord but he decided that it was easier to put bounty on her head than to pay her mercenary company's wages.
  • In 1632, nobles tend to come off particularly poorly more often than not, especially in the first volume.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Plenty of people call themselves Kings or Queens (with varying degrees of legitimacy) and many of these people are hard to pin down morally. Still, we have a few shining examples such as Aerys II, a.k.a. The Mad King who was a sadistic nutso that ravaged the kingdom so badly and antagonized so many royal houses that he all but destroyed the future of the Targaryen dynasty. Joffrey I also gets special mention, being only slightly less bad than Aerys due to his relatively limited scope of influence at the time. Robert toes the line, but was more incompetent and oblivious than malicious or cruel (though he caused his share of the suffering by failing to do the right things when it mattered). Stannis has a reputation as an Evil Overlord, but shows Hidden Depths and goes through Character Development that mean he would probably make a good and progressive King. His younger brother Renly has a good image, but is a vain schemer who intended to kill Stannis and usurp the throne. On the flipside, the only real evil queen we've seen thus far is Cersei; Danaerys' enemies have given her this reputation as well, though it's (mostly) base slander. Historically there are other examples such as Visenya, who may have poisoned her stepson/nephew Aenys so her monstrous son Maegor the Cruel could succeed.
  • Spectral Shadows both plays this straight and subverts it, mainly in Serial 11. A lot of the Towns' Ruling Family are rotten, corrupt, or otherwise self-serving people. There are a few notable inversions though, namely Sir Jon and Miss Sonny, the King and Queen of Suburbia, respectively.
Live-Action TV
  • Queen Elizabeth I of England and Ireland, or at least her Alternate History persona in the second Blackadder series, is also very fond of ordering people's execution at the slightest whim. To call her "evil" may be a little strong, however. She is more of a Royal Brat taken to a slightly sadistic extreme.
  • Most of the Cavaliers in the English Civil War drama The Devil's Whore are portrayed as this, especially Prince Rupert. An exception is Angelica's husband, a clearly good-hearted Royalist who is executed by Charles I at the end of the first episode for surrendering his manor to Parliamentary forces.
  • Can be said of King Uther in Merlin, who concerns himself mostly with the nobility and royalty and looks down on peasants and servants as expendable.
    • There have also been a number of guest stars that invoked and subvert this trope. King Odin, King Caerleon and King Alined have been antagonistic, whilst King Godwyn, King Olaf and King Bayard have been anything from benevolent to neutral. As of the end of series 4, King Arthur and Queen Guinevere are subversions. Queen Annis proves herself an ally to Camelot, whilst Queen Morgana (whenever she manages to seize the crown) is a definite case of God Save Us from the Queen!.
  • Subverted in an episode of CSI when a maid is found dead in the hotel room of a Saudi prince who's on a gambling trip in Las Vegas. CSI Riley Adams suspects that the prince killed the maid for refusing his advances, and thought that he'd be able to buy his way out of any trouble he got into. It turns out that the maid was killed by another maid who she caught trying to steal the jewelry the prince was keeping in his hotel room's safe. When he finds out that the maid was murdered for trying to protect his property, the prince donates an amount of money to the maid's family equal to what the jewelry was worth, as a way of expressing his condolences and gratitude.
Video Games
  • Bowser from Super Mario Bros.
    • The series had other such characters, some more important than others: King Goomba/Goomboss, King Kaliente, etc.
  • King K. Rool from Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong 64.
  • In the Dragon Age universe, Ferelden's history included the evil King Arland, whose reign was so despotic that even the politically neutral Grey Wardens took up arms against him.
    • Subverted with King Behren (should you choose to support him for King in Orzammar). He's a corrupt, manipulative, and despotic ruler who was rejected by his own father, but he's also a champion of social justice who intends to introduce much-needed reforms to their ancient caste system and their self-destructive isolationist policies. Compare to his opponent, Lord Harrowmont, a kind and honorable man who rules through compromise, but who is also a staunch traditionalist who is unlikely to make much progress against the major social and economic problems the dwarfs face.
  • Ganondorf is known as 'King of Thieves' or 'the Great King of Evil' in some installments of The Legend of Zelda.
  • Queen Brahne Raza Alexandros XVI of Final Fantasy IX has no remorse stealing other people's powers and using them to commit multiple genocides.
Web Comics
  • Queen Idonta of Glorianna rose to the throne via murder, and kidnaps women from other tribes for nefarious purposes.
Web Original
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, Queen Adevia is a war-mongering, ambitious monarch who stops at nothing to defeat her enemies and expand her kingdom.
Western Animation
  • Some of the viruses from ReBoot. Megabyte's title is the "King of Control", Hexadecimal's is the "Queen of Chaos" and Daemon's is the "Monarch of Order".
  • Fire Lord Ozai is the king of the Fire Nation. He and the last two generations of Fire Lords were all pretty evil, but the next Fire Lord is a nice guy. His daughter Azula is no less evil than him, and probably quite a bit more crazy.
  • The Legend of Korra has the Earth Queen Hou-Ting. Compared to the Earth King in the last season, she is an uptight, demanding tyrant. She also uses the Dai Li to forcefully conscript air benders(i.e:kidnap) for her army.


Anime and MangaFan Fic
  • Duke Reighlard in The Tainted Grimoire is described as merciless and he is trying to gain control of St. Galleria and the vast natural resources at their disposal so he can achieve dominance.
  • The Duke is the main antagonist in Moulin Rouge!.
  • One of the four fascist libertines in Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom is known as the Duke. No guesses on just what kind of guy he is.
  • The self-proclaimed Duke of New York in Escape from New York. He wasn't a real aristocrat but behaves as if he was.
  • Another self-proclaimed Duke from Layer Cake, who was a downright moron with delusions of being a criminal mastermind out to make a name for himself and does so by stealing from scary Serbian mobsters. He doesn't even die at the Serbs' hands, but by another gang he inadvertently manages to piss off.
  • In Rock-A-Doodle, there is the Grand Duke of Owls.
  • Downplayed in Frozen; the Duke of Weasel Town (WESELTON!!!) is very greedy, planning to exploit the riches of Arendelle and willing to use assassination as a means to an end. However, his concerns are genuine (after all, he is trapped by an endless winter and they are at risk of freezing to death), and when he sees Prince Hans despairing over the "loss of Anna" (though he's really faking it), he shows genuine sympathy.
  • Nightfall Series: The Duchess is a sadistic vampire who happily feeds humans to her sub lover while simultaneously drinking his blood.
  • Duke Leto Atreides from Dune is one of the "good" examples, as mentioned above - Practically Messianic Archetype, And his son is a Messianic Archetype of sorts.
    • In the prequel novels, so was Paulus Atreides, Paul's grandfather for whom he was named and who taught Leto everything he knows. Archduke Armand Ecaz is also not a bad guy.
  • In the Westmark trilogy, the king of Regia's Evil Chancellor is a duke.
  • Duke Niccolo di Chimici in the Stravaganza series is the main villain of the first three books. On the other hand, the Duchessa of Bellezza is good.
  • The Duke in James Thurber's The 13 Clocks has killed time, so that his thirteen clocks do not move, and sets Impossible Tasks to the princes who want to marry his niece. Finally he reveals that she is not his real niece but a princess he kidnapped and intends to marry; he let the princes try their luck because he was under a curse.
  • The Duc de Blangis and his companions in The 120 Days of Sodom are guilty of almost anything you can think of, and some things you probably can't.
  • Dukes in P. G. Wodehouse's work tend to be people you have to be on your guard against; the overbearing Duke of Dunstable from the Blandings stories is a good example.
  • Duke Felmet from Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters is the murderer of King Verence I and scarily insane. But compared to his Duchess, he is warm and fuzzy.
    • Another evil Pratchett example is the Duke of Sto Helit from Mort. However, his title is inherited by Mort and, ultimately, Susan.
    • Notable subversion: Samuel Vimes becomes Duke of Ankh in Jingo. He's unmistakeably Lawful Good and, for that matter, absolutely hates his title.
  • The Duchess from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. She may be a subversion though, as she's mostly just a Mood-Swinger and is almost unsettlingly nice when in a good mood. (Alice figured it might have only been the large amount of pepper in the kitchen that gave her such a bad mood the first time they met.)
  • The Prisoner of Zenda has Prince Michael, the Duke of Strelsau, as the main antagonist. Michael falls firmly into the Bastard Bastard category (his parents were technically married, but since his mother was a commoner, he is only a prince because people are too polite to rub his face in it), and his duchy (which is ruled from the capital, no less) was a creation of his father's hoping that being the second-most powerful noble in the kingdom would soothe his anger at being passed over for the throne in favor of his younger half-brother Rudolf (it didn't)
  • In the Lord Peter Wimsey stories, Lord Peter's older brother the Duke of Denver is a bit dense but not a bad sort (his wife the Duchess is a terror, though). And Lord Peter becomes Duke when his brother dies of a heart attack while the estate is burning down. He doesn't like it at all, but he'll do his duty.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The Concepts of Good and Evil in Renaissance

3. Good and Evil in King Lear and Macbeth
3.1. Forces of Goodness: Cordelia and Banquo
3.2. Forces of Evil: Edmund and Lady Macbeth
3.3. Challenging Concepts of Good and Evil: Lear and Macbeth

4. Resolving Evil? The Final Scenes

5. Conclusion


1. Introduction

The concepts of good and evil, which can be understood and defined differently, are two broad and sapid concepts because of its diverse interpretations. The two abstract notions have been discussed throughout the centuries since the human existence and continue to be a dispute today. However, the meaning of good and evil was especially interesting in the middle Ages and Renaissance that will be introduced in the first part of this thesis. It will present the different origins of good and evil and examine how variously these concepts were perceived in the middle Ages and Renaissance. It should be pointed out that there was a great contrast in defining of good and evil in both centuries. While in the Middle Ages, good was supposed to come from God and evil from the Devil, in the Renaissance it was believed that good and evil originated from human beings. Moreover, these concepts were defined quite interestingly in early Renaissance. With existing hierarchical system and natural order in the universe in that age, good and evil were separated with the set of behavioural norms, so that evil was defined as opposite of good and meant every action which could cause the disruption of this order; a person performing an evil act was consequently called an evil person. However, in the late Renaissance, which is also seen as the beginning of the modern era, the existing system of the universe has collapsed and the perception of good and evil has changed again. The concepts began to be distinguished as good, bad and evil acts. Moreover, they began to be problematic to be clearly defined, and the question also existed about struggle and victory of both forces. Additionally, the second part of the thesis will explore the problems of those concepts in terms of King Lear and Macbeth. It will deal with the problems of goodness of Cordelia and Banquo, evilness of Edmund and Lady Macbeth and badness of Lear and Macbeth. It will also identify how the characters turn to good, bad or evil side, whether they become creator or victims of evil, and finally reveal who of them can be called good, bad or evil person. Finally, the third part of the thesis will present the interpretation of the final scenes where both tragedies end with the coronation of the new king. It will explore the conflict of both forces and reveal what kind of force can actually win the struggle between good and evil in both plays. It will also deal with the problem of ambivalent depiction of the characters and examine the question of what is actually good and evil and how to define it in Shakespeare´s plays. So, the aim of the thesis is to explore the problems of the concepts of good and evil in terms of the tragedies King Lear and Macbeth and to identify to what extent the characters can be seen as good and evil. However, before exploring the characters it is worth introducing the varied meanings and definitions of the concepts of good and evil in Renaissance in order to be aware of how these concepts changed.

2. The Concepts of Good and Evil in Renaissance

First, it is important, curious and interesting comparing the vision of good and evil in the Middle Ages and Renaissance in order to understand how meanings of those concepts have changed from one century to another. In the middle Ages, it was believed that good initially originated from God and evil was created by the Devil. Medieval philosophers wondered about the origins of good and evil, and came to the conclusion that evil could not come from God. For example, Basel, theologian of the fourth century, claimed that “evil [was] neither uncreated nor created by God”, while the pseudo-Dionysius, philosopher of the next century, stated that “evil [was] …neither good nor productive of good…” (in Spivack, 17). Evil was seen as absence of good and God, and by that reason it was supposed to be originatedfrom the Devil. Additionally, it was widely believed that human´s soul was controlled by God and the Devil. For example, modern critic Davenport explains that wrongdoing of a man of that age was seen as “…corruption of human nature…by the Devil” (4). Moreover, in that age there was a tendency to personify the concepts of good and evil, and a good example of such personified notions of good and evil give the medieval morality plays. According to Davenport “…ideas of good and evil [were] represented by allegorical personification of human nature” (5), were goodwas presented in a figurative way, and was called virtue, which stand for all good qualities of a man. Evil was also personified and was called vice figure which stand for all negative qualities of a man. Supposing that supernatural beings can control a man´s soul, Virtue was thought to be messenger of God, whereas Vice was believed to be a messenger of the Demon. Moreover, the pattern of resolving conflict between good and evil was a simple one, because according to Davenport it was “[t]he pattern…of innocence, corruption and repentance” (5). So, it can be concluded that the traditional resolving of the conflict between good and evil was that goodness prevail evil, as a sinful man who had to repent and was saved by God.

While in the middle Ages it was believed that good and evil originated from God and the Devil, in the Renaissance the meaning of good and evil has changed. It was accepted that good and evil was a part of human nature and originally came from human beings. It should be pointed out that people of that age believed that the whole world was organized by God as a hierarchical system. Tillyard, researcher in the field of Elizabethan literature, states that people of that era believed in the existence of order in the universe, and adds that “order [was] the condition of all that follow[ed]” (11). Order was the condition of human existence and was present everywhere: in outer space, nature and society. People saw themselves as part of the hierarchical system and did not question the existence of the universe and order at all. Especially important for people was society, which was held by family and religious bonds. Modern critic Johnston explains that “faith, hope and charity [were] …responsibilities of that bonds which tie[d] together the family and the larger social groups”, he adds that bonding gave individuals “ a rich sense of social identity where each person´s place in a hierarchical order [was] publicly acknowledged and honoured” (1). So, people did not question the existence of the universe, because they accepted a general order as a law. Moreover, they glorified God as a powerful organizer and feared the destruction of that system, which was the basis for their life. Relying on such social believes the distinction between good and evil was set by the norms of human behaviour. Evil was defined as opposite of good and was thought to be every action which could harm the natural order, especially society and family order, which was so important for people. Being deeply religious, people believed that denial of society or family bond was a sin, which could lead to a disruption of society order. Moreover, persons who were trying to harm the order by their wrongdoings were regarded as evil persons, because they could cause chaos, and disruption of natural order.

A good example of evil characters gives a Renaissance drama, where vice figure of morality plays developed in a villain person, who was seen as a cruel person involved in wrongdoing. Modern critic Coe explains that the audience of Elizabethan Age regarded villains as evil persons. He states that “[a]udience regarded them as types: black, illegitimate, deformed”, he adds that the audience did not feel any sympathy for villains, because they were “unnaturally objective about their criminal nature” (69). In addition, one of such evil figures was Machiavel, the term derived from the Italian philosopher of the Renaissance Machiavelli who wrote the book the Prince, which was published in 1532, andin which he gave a special importance to the fact that a royal Prince according to circumstance should use his intelligence for manipulation of others in order to get and to maintain the power (cf. 22f). Such idea was regarded as an evil one, because deception and manipulation of others was seen as means directed against medieval society and was associated with disruption of society order. So, the theatrical performers acting in this way were also seen as despised and evil figures. Johnston explains, that in that age there was a banal vision of evil, because of existed social structure, he adds that there was a “…frequent attempt to demonize such individuals, that is, to make them as abnormal and unnatural as possible” (1).

Moreover, while strong medieval beliefs in God and the Devil still continued to exist in the Renaissance, it was widely belied in the existence and power of witchcraft. It was supposed that witches were representatives of evil, because they could control a man´s soul and his fate. Contemporary researcher of literature Bailey comments on beliefs in witches of Renaissance age, saying that “…witches were accused of worshiping demons, renouncing their faith, and surrendering themselves completely to the service of the devil”, he adds that belief in witchcraft fed to a large degree off common social structures” (4). So, the witches, whose supernatural practices were seen as a danger to natural order of society and religion, were thought to be in alliance with the Devil, because their power was directed against men.

In addition, being aware that consciousness of good and evil was incorporated in human nature, people believed in the Chain of Being, a concept which reflected human position in the hierarchy of the world. To apply the understanding of good and evil to human behaviour, people looked carefully at the position of man on the Chain. According to Tillyard, the Chain started with God’s throne at the top leading down to the lowest creatures, the beasts, where human had a central position on the great chain (cf.66). It was a simple position between good and evil, in which good was regarded as aspiration to be perfect, while evil was seen as a consequence of human sins. Humans believed that God gave man freedom of choice to move on the Chain in both directions. Twentieth century critic Spivack nicely describes the free choice of man on the Chain, saying: “Already part angel part beast, [man] can rise to more angelic stature to fulfil his spiritual aspiration, or he can degenerate to bestiality through surrender to animal nature” (24). Man was thought to be capable of two kinds of sins. As man had a soul as an angel, he could be overwhelmed with passions, which was called intellectual sin. Man had also physical desires as an animal, so he could be overwhelmed with physical satisfaction which was called physical sin. People believed that it depended on each person whether he followed his intellect or not in order to make a choice between good and evil.

However, in the late Renaissance the development of the individual takes place and, as the consequence of it, the hierarchical system of nature has collapsed. Now instead of glorifying God, art was directed to honour the individual. Church was not seen as a main centre of social activities, religion was not dominating anymore, and material world became a dominant part of life. Cultural historians of the nineteenth century Burckhardt enumerates many of those conditions which influenced the human consciousness: “Wealth and culture, so far as display and rivalry were not forbidden to them, a municipal freedom…a Church which… was not identical with the State - all these conditions undoubtedly favoured the growth of individual thought…” (71). All these factors also influenced the Renaissance vision of good and evil associated with God, order and disorder which began to disappear.

Moreover, new outlook on the world has sharply changed the spiritual and moral values in human consciousness. The principle of free human development becomes a main idea of the late Renaissance, and a religious sight at a person as on a sinful being who was thought to be evil has also been overcome.In this period, the new direction gets stronger which is called humanism. According to Oxford English Dictionary, under this word was understood a world outlook, proclaiming the supreme value of the human, confirming his rights of happiness and harmonious development (cf. 22). A person’s earthly life and his struggle for happiness become the main idea of this epoch. In addition, new individuals of the Renaissance, who do not see natural order in the nature, have new opinion about good and evil. Johnston indicates that new individuals strongly oppose the medieval vision of morality and immorality, holding the opinion that man should apply his wit to shape his own future and to find his own sense of oneself without relying on what the community tells them what is wright and wrong. They regard a good life as an assertion of their own individuality (cf. 1).

With new consciousness and outlook on the world, the great difference between good and evil began to disappear. Writers firstly argue the concepts of good and evil and make them problematic. For example, philosophers of the late seventeenth century Bacon and Montaigne discuss the concepts of good and evil and their degrees. Bacon raises the question what one can define as good and evil, saying: “In deliberatives the point is, what is good and what is evil, and of good what is greater, and of evil what is the less?” (149), then, he comments on the degree of their evaluation: “The reprehension of this colour is, that the good or evil which is removed, may be esteemed good or evil comparatively, and not positively or simply. So that if the privation of good, it follows not the former condition was evil, but less good…” (156). Bacon makes a contrast with the medieval perception of those concepts, when evil was seen as absence of good, and now he gives a new understanding of evil, pointing out that evil is not the absence of good, but is something what is less good. Besides, Montaigne disputes the concept of evil as common opinions or prejudice saying “that what we call evil is not evil in itself-or at least, whatever it is, that it depends on us to give it a different savour and a different complexion; for all it comes to the same thing” (33). Montaigne states that evil things can in fact be not evil at all,obviously referring to the fact the humans made things evil by the opinions they had which were shaped by the former hierarchical structures of the world and society.

So, the late Renaissance can be characterized as the beginning of the modern era, when attitude to human behaviour which could not be set by the norms of destroyed hierarchical order any more has changed. New perception of human individuality created the distinction between good, bad, and evil, and so the attitude to wrongdoers has also changed.What was morally wrong was not always seen as evil but as bad. Moreover, to define evil became problematic because of its ambiguous nature. According to the critic of Renaissance morality Heller: “Evil [was seen as] a great force, sinful, amoral. But at the same time [was] definitely not an absolutely negative force” (313). So, the next chapter will clarify to what extent the characters in Shakespeare´s plays King Lear and Macbeth can be seen as good and evil from the new perspective and explore the problems of good and evil. First, the goodness of Cordelia and Banquo will be presented and clarified in the following pages.

3. Good and Evil in King Lear and Macbeth

3.1 Forces of Goodness: Cordelia and Banquo

Cordelia represents a symbol of idealized goodness because of her manifestation of the absolute and pure love for her father, Lear. She reveals her true feelings in the love test, in which Lear trials the emotions of his three daughters in order to divide his Kingdom among them. It is sufficiently to note that Cordelia, Lear’s youngest daughter, did not deceive her father, whereas her sisters did. Needless to say, she felt that her father should know of her obvious affections without the need for frivolous words. Cordelia acts against the test, because she tries to aware her father in the falseness of her sisters’ love to him, as she knows that their love is not as pure as they profess. Her meek sentences reveal her act against Goneril’s flattering: “What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent” (1.1.62). She continues her speech against Regan’s fraud: “Then poor Cordelia, /And yet not so, since I am sure my love´s/ More ponderous than my tongue” (1.1.76-78). Cordelia tries to warn her father that he is being deceived by the flattering of her wicked sisters. In addition, Cordelia´s way of speaking demonstrates her true and chaste love for Lear. She does not even make an attempt to convey her feelings by words when she speaks: “Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave [m]y heart into my mouth (1.1.91). Cordelia is not able to flatter the way her wicked sisters do and her virtuous love apparently makes her mute. She is so truthful and charitable, that she cannot express her love through words, because seemingly the words cannot describe her feeling. Hence, her faithful love appears to be more than words and cannot be expressed through an eloquent speech.

Moreover, Cordelia´s great love reveals her temperament of a sincere daughter who shows fidelity to her father. Cordelia is neither proud nor stubborn when she speaks to her father: “I love you majesty /According to my bond, no more no less” (1.1.92-3). Her sentence exposes that Cordelia is different from her bad sisters because she shows her honesty and generosity, and truly describes her feeling remaining truthful to her bond. Moreover, her emphasis of the word bond indicates that Cordelia acknowledges the bonding between parents and children. She is a character who supports the medieval view of the society based on interrelation of bonds and who acknowledges moral order in the nature. So, her love is also traditional and manifests the daughter´s chaste nature.

Cordelia is a pure goodness and remains so until her tragic end. She does not show any change in her disposition throughout the play, and that makes her different from other characters that will be presented in the next chapters. Cordelia was silent during the love test because she quietly answered to her father when he asked about her feelings: “Nothing my lord” (1.1.87), and she continued to be quiet in the reconciliation scene, when she met her father again (4.7.40f). After being unjustly banished by her own father during the love test because of her short answers, which Lear did not accepted, Cordelia appears again in the scene where she is being forgiven by her father and can finally restore friendly relationship with him. When Lear is asking for her forgiveness, she answers: “Alack, alack (4.7.40). And so I am, I am (4.7.70). No cause, no cause “(4.7.75). Again, she remains emotionless as at the beginning, and it seems that she does not have any compassion to herself but only to her father. That gives an impression that Cordelia is very unselfish and remains true to her filial love despite of her unfair treatment. Moreover, Cordelia, whose love is immense for her father, shows her willingness to suffer for him, what becomes obvious during her imprisonment with Lear. Being in capture with Lear, Cordelia shows her tears to him (cf.4.7.71) and her weeping seemingly reveals her pity and compassion not for herself but for her father. So she is aware of her father´s suffering and knows that he endures pain because he treated her inequitable and was blinded by her wicked sisters’ flattering. So, Cordelia wants to act in any way to relieve his pain, what can be achieved only on the cast of her own life. Only when Cordelia loses her life, and Lear sees her beloved daughter dead, he is seemingly relieved from suffering and dies not in despair but as Foakes notes in joy (cf. 139).

Cordelia’s goodness which is apparently spiritual and self-sacrificial merits an admiration for its high purity. Cordelia even resembles a Christ the way she suffers because she is ready to sacrifice her life for her father. Modern critic Anderson nicely comments on Cordelia´s sacrificing nature: “[Cordelia] made an investment in the good of another - an investment that is necessarily self-sacrificial…” (280); she gives her life in the sake of her father´s good. So, there is no doubt in Cordelia´s virtuous and conciliatory nature of goodness and her moral purity. So, the problem is not in her good nature, but in her death.


0 thoughts on “Good Titles For Essays About Evil Daughter”


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *