| In defining Shakespeare's Universe, you must set about describing the term Evil as one particular subject. What does this encompass? What must men divulge in, in order to be called such? What are its degrees? Does it have some purpose? The Reader's Digest Dictionary defines it as: "Something morally bad, wicked; causing harm, damage or any other undesirable result; threatening misfortune, distress, bad luck or disaster." Taking this defintion up, it might be too easily assumed that to be Evil or do Evil would have some major chaotic and unerasable effect upon human condition; that it, as well, is purposeless and ultimately wrapped in madness. Yet the mind must begin to make a rationale and realize its subtle aspects. From the beginning of time with the myth of Adam and Eve, women are told that Evil was committed through the Original Mortal Sin and that man has been fighting its consequences like vicious cats and dogs ever since. It is hard to imagine its non-existence, really. Man need no more than engage in a little pious thought when again the idea of Evil of one sort or another crops up like a brushfire. Is this the animal in men?
Let us use two of Shakespeare's characters for more thorough analysis. Through the eyes of
Shakespeare, Evil must cause Evil in order to drive out Evil. Suffering is inevitable and may often appear uncontrollable through manipulation by wicked individuals or a disastrous situation in Shakespeare's world. Case in point: In the play Titus Andronicus , Shakespeare devises the arch-villain Aaron. Aaron laughs at the suffering of people. He revels in bloody revenge and his ability to cause harm to others. He has every undesirable quality Shakespeare could give him and speaks of "digging dead men from their graves and setting them upright at their dear friend's door." Yet Aaron is the character who prevails until the very end of the play, the perfect example of Evil. Shakespeare could not have wanted us to take the thought lightly. What is it that grips our attentions and has us leafing through bloody-bath scenes and fatal gore, to leave us at the end of the play with the thought of Aaron roaring out, "If one good deed in all my life, I did, I do repent it from my very soul." Here, the words of St. Augustine might well be appropriate. He has a discourse on "The immortality Of The Soul" in which at one point he tells us:
The mind which compels Evil is either animal or it lacks body. But if it lacks body it is not
in this world. And if it is thus, it is supremely good and cannot wish another to suffer
such a wicked change. But if it is animal, either the mind it compels by Evil is animal or
it is not. But if it is not, it cannot be compelled to anything by another. For none is more
powerful than that which exists in the greatest degree. On the other hand, if it is body, again
it is forced through body to whatever extent it is forced. But who believes that in any way
such a change can be made in mind through body? For it would be made if the body were
greater than it; although no matter what it is to which it is compelled to do Evil by body it is
not compelled wholly through body, but is compelled through its own desires, about which
enough ahs been said. Then whatever mind has another mind in its power must prefer having
it to having a body in its power and must wish to promote its goodness or to have power
There are several things we can glean from this. St. Augustine might be pre-occupied here
with what the exact definition of the body as opposed to the animal is, but he is also saying that men see themselves through their own desires and force such desires on others through the promotion of Evil as well as Good. Men can take great pride in the execution of this power
within themselves, even if it takes the form of, for example, human savagery. Human beings
exercise "the terrible" and "the horrifying" to such an extent that we might say that revenge,
for a good example, is an innate human quality and gives pleasure and fullfillment.
In Richard The Third , Shakespeare again contemplates another analysis of Evil
in the Universe. Richard the Third is born into the word with ugly deformity and has qualities
of the Devil as if he were fated to be such. He loves the subject of Evil. He has the power
to hypnotize others to execute wicked acts. In Shakespeare's time, he was considered a tudor- mythic symbol of The Scourge of God, which shows the manipulation of some force which controls the consequences of human destiny. Shakespeare even uses agents of something above to further reinforce the conception of Richard as a scourge, which come to Richard in a dream- like sleep and denounce him as Evil, and ultimately, proclaim doom. Once again we are shown the animal in men where Evil acts of his own desires are displayed by Richard. We see revenge, wicked plotting, victims of hatred fated to die, and we envison Richard, the king, the highest official in the land--pathetically saying on the way to his grave: "My horse! My horse! My kingdom for a horse!" The whip and thunder of stormy revenge seems to be cut short with the lack of the animal underneath him. When he animal portion of Richard himself is slain, he slips from a powerful position where he has been, in St. Augustine's words, "Compelled through his own desires."
Where does this lead us? I, as a woman, have talked about the effects of Evil written by the
man Shakespeare. Lead yourself into reading Shakespeare and see if you, yourself, can find
his long twists and turns into Evil passages and Evil in Characters.It is a subject which in our writings can be dealt with, too, and thus conquered.Such a fascinating search
and rewarding as well.