At all times, it has been common for a person to exhibit certain qualities of character. However, not all of them are positive and kind. There is a vast number of human vices, which are those qualities of personality that bring suffering, hatred, and even death to the people around them. These include cruelty, vanity, envy, anger, hypocrisy, treason, laziness, arrogance, and selfishness. Of course, all people are imperfect and subject to certain sins from time to time. Nevertheless, everyone needs to improve and eliminate their shortcomings. Thus, moral vices are attributes that at all times have taken root in the souls of people, devastating them from the inside.
Genius poets and writers, including William Shakespeare, Jean-Baptiste Molière, and Arthur Asher Miller, have created many wonderful compositions that tell the story of society at different times. The works of these authors reflected many of the shortcomings of the community of that time, including ambition, hatred, greed, hypocrisy, and selfishness. In different historical periods, each author paid attention to various imperfections of contemporary reality. Being implacable fighters against these human vices, these authors fiercely fought with them throughout their creative life.
One piece that highlights human shortcomings is “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” written by William Shakespeare. At the beginning of the play, the protagonist Macbeth is celebrated as a loyal, brave, and strong soldier who receives a new king’s title. However, Macbeth’s ever-growing ambitions turn him into a murderer and tyrant. As the plot develops, Macbeth transforms into a person whose character is a combination of anger, violence, self-doubt, and ever-increasing inner turmoil. Blinded by ambition and thirst for power, Macbeth commits several crimes, as a result of which he turns from a full-fledged harmonious personality into a traitor and usurper, evoking burning hatred from those around him. “I grant him bloody, / Luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful, / Sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin/ That has a name…” (Shakespeare, IV. III, 60) “Not in the legions / Of horrid hell can come a devil more damn’d / In evils to top Macbeth” (Shakespeare, IV. III, 60). In the end, Macbeth embodies the eternal archetype of the weak tyrant: a ruler whose cruelty is associated with inner weakness, greed for power, guilt, and susceptibility to other people’s plans and pressure.
Moreover, his wife becomes a faithful companion in Macbeth’s disgusting deeds. Beautiful, captivatingly feminine, and bewitchingly attractive, she had to carry property, continue life, which was the destiny of a woman of that time. However, in Scene V of Act I, Lady Macbeth delivers her famous monologue, which is a call to the dark forces: “fill me from the crown to the toe top-full / Of direst cruelty!” (Shakespeare, I.V, 50) and deprive her of human nature so that remorse could not become an obstacle to her atrocity.
On the one hand, only Lady Macbeth’s immense ambitions caused many crimes and led her husband to a spiritual crisis. On the other hand, Macbeth himself had boundless ambition. The only difference between them is that Lady Macbeth knows no doubt, no hesitation, no compassion. Impulsiveness, emotionality, and inability or unwillingness to reflect and hesitate are the traits that characterize Lady Macbeth as a whole nature. This later becomes the cause of her illness, which, unlike Macbeth, who is prone to thinking, she is unable to overcome. Macbeth himself is less decisive in his actions, and doubts torment him. After the king is found killed, he exclaims: “Had I but died an hour before this chance,/ I had lived a blessed time; for, from this instant, / There ‘s nothing serious in mortality: /All is but toys” (Shakespeare, II. III, 100). Nevertheless, he crossed the line separating good from evil, and everything seems to be empty nonsense, and therefore happiness is no longer possible for him.
An equally striking example of a work in which the author illuminates human shortcomings is “Tartuffe,” Moliere’s first comedy, where he criticized the vices of the clergy and nobility. In his work, the French comedian harshly criticized such human vices as meanness, hypocrisy, stupidity, selfishness, cowardice, and greed. The central character Tartuffe appears before the reader as a being devoid of any human dignity. The imaginary saint is the repository of a whole host of vices: he burns with passion for the wife of his benefactor, he does not hesitate to rob the one who sheltered him. Finally, he is not afraid of either earthly power or divine judgment, sin both before people and before God. Hypocrisy is not his only vice, but it is brought to the fore, and other negative traits reinforce and emphasize this property.
The image of Tartuffe is not the embodiment of hypocrisy as a typical human vice; it is a socially generalized type. No wonder he is not alone in comedy: both his servant Laurent, the bailiff Loyal, and Madame Pernelle are hypocritical. They all cover up their unsightly deeds with godly speeches and watch the behavior of others vigilantly. For example, Mme. Pernelle, the mother of Orgon, already in the first scene of the first act gives biting characteristics to almost everyone around: she says to Dorine: “Girl, you talk too much, and I’m afraid / You’re far too saucy for a lady’s-maid” (Moliere, I.I,7) and to her grandson Damis: “You, boy, grow more foolish every day. / To think my grandson should be such a dunce!” (Moliere, I. I,13)
Under the influence of Tartuffe, his entourage is dehumanized. Orgone becomes indifferent to family and children. Handing over the box to Tartuffe, he bluntly says: “A dear, good friend and son-in-law-to-be / Is more than wife, or child, or kin to me.” Moreover, he drives his son out of the house: “Well, go quickly, then. / I disinherit you; an empty purse / Is all you’ll get from me – except my curse!” (Moliere, III. VI). Thus, Moliere was able to highlight human vices in the play “Tartuffe vividly.”
Human vices are no less strikingly described in the play by American playwright Arthur Miller “The Crucible.” Most of the characters are liars. Abigail lies about her ability to see spirits, and Proctor deceives that he is not cheating on his wife. The judge, lieutenant governor, and ministers lie about serving the cause of God’s justice. Furthermore, John Proctor lies to his wife when he claims that he no longer has feelings for Abigail. In the play, the author makes a radical argument that no deception can be ethically justified.
The heroes of “The Crucible” exhibit not only accusatory lies about the involvement of others in witchcraft, but also lies that people constantly tell about their virtue. The Salem riots are propelled forward by a lust for vengeance and power. Heroes shamelessly lie about how their neighbors participate in satanic rituals, especially if they want to protect themselves from such accusations and even achieve personal gain. “The Crucible” is an example of how comfortable lies construct accepted truth even without objective evidence.
Many characters in “The Crucible” are driven by envy and greed. Abigail is motivated by the envy of Elizabeth Proctor; she wants Elizabeth to die to marry John, Elizabeth’s husband. Thomas Putnam is motivated by envy of other people’s property; he wants George Jacobs to die to get his hands on a large piece of land. Moreover, Parris’s treatment of Tituba reveals his angry and selfish nature. Thus, envy is a force driving most of the characters in the play.
Fragmentation is a social vice, no less, and much even more significant than the vices of individual people since a chaotic social environment cannot fight against sins, identify them and react in time. The world in “The Crucible” is divided into two camps – good and evil or Satan and God. Unfortunately, many heroes do not understand which side is good and which is evil, although this is quite obvious to the reader. It may seem that evil triumphs when one innocent person after another is put to death, but the reader can also see that there is power in martyrdom.
Thus, vices such as greed, jealousy, hatred, and the desire for revenge permeate society as an inevitability. It is for these reasons that the above works still make sense today. The artistic power of the above works lies in the vital reliability of the plot. The authors were able to raise the images of heroes to the level of such broad and voluminous typicality that they went beyond their historical time and acquired a nominal name in society. The author criticizes deception, envy, anger, selfishness, stupidity, and moral ignorance in each work. These great plays help the reader to look inward, reflect on their shortcomings, and encourage them to get rid of them.
Moliere. Tartuffe. Translated by Richard Wilbur, 2018. Web.
Shakespeare, William. “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” Shakespeare. n.d. Web.