Outcomes Of Hidden Desires In The Monkey’s Paw By W.W. Jacobs And Macbeth By William Shakespeare

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“Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it”. This quote explains how desires can help someone achieve their goal but sometimes they can be harmful to the individual itself and the surrounding people. The presence of hidden desires in the play, Macbeth by William Shakespeare and in the short story, The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs, results in: curiosity, death, and guilt.

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Firstly, in both the play and the short story, hidden desires lead to curiosity. Curiosity is a strong desire to gain knowledge about a specific topic. In the play, this is evident when the witches reveal the strange prophecies to Macbeth and Banquo. “Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more…Upon this blasted heath you stop our way / With such prophetic greeting? Speak, I charge you”. These lines are spoken by Macbeth and indicate that he has started to believe and contemplate what the witches have told him. These lines also help him discover his hidden desire to be the king, and his curiosity to know more about the witches’ prophecy. Furthermore, with the interest for gaining more knowledge about his future, these lines also foreshadow the probability of him committing a cruel act to become the king. Similarly, hidden desires also lead to curiosity in the short story. This is evident when Morris takes out the monkey’s paw from his pocket and holds it out for the family, which raises curiosity among the family members. “‘And what is there special about it?’ asked Mr. White as he took it from his son, and having examined it, placed it upon the table”. These lines indicate the avidity of the listeners, as soon as they see the monkey’s paw. These lines also show that the White family is eager to know more about the paw’s potential powers and the way it functions. When Mr. White sets the paw on the table and starts examining it, his excitement and hidden desire to learn more about the paw can be seen. Consequently, it is evident that hidden desires lead to curiosity, in both the play and the short story.

Secondly, as seen in the play and the short story, the death of King Duncan and Herbert White is caused by the hidden desires of their loved ones. In the play, this is evident when Macbeth suddenly changes his plan to kill King Duncan but Lady Macbeth stirs up his hesitant desires again, which leads him to assassinate King Duncan. “I am settled, and bend up / Each corporal agent to this terrible feat”. These lines indicate that Macbeth has made a decision to murder King Duncan to fulfill his hidden desire of becoming the King of Scotland. These lines also demonstrate Macbeth’s ambitions, since he states that he would use every muscle of his body to make sure that King Duncan is killed. These lines also reveal that he does not want to lose this opportunity to become the King and therefore, kills King Duncan. In addition, Macbeth’s hidden desire to get to be the King also influences him to sacrifice the innocent lives of King Duncan, Banquo, and Macduff’s family. Likewise, in the short story, the death of Herbert White results from the hidden desires of his loved ones. This is demonstrated when the White family had a desire to use the potential power of the paw and gain two hundred pounds, which eventually leads to the death of their only son. “‘He was caught in the machinery,’ said the visitor at length in a low voice” (Jacobs 6). Initially, these lines indicate that Herbert White dies in a workplace accident by being “caught in the machinery,” but these lines also indicate that he got caught in the machinery of fate and hidden desires. These lines also reveal that the White family’s desire to gain more knowledge on the potential power of the paw leads to the family’s downfall. Furthermore, it also portrays the family’s desire to improve their financial condition by using the paw. Therefore, it is evident that one’s hidden desires can lead to death, as displayed in both the play and the short story.

Thirdly, hidden desires also lead to guilt, as observed in the play and the short story. Guilt is a strong feeling of remorse for an act that one committed. In the play, this is evident when Macbeth encounters Lady Macbeth after murdering King Duncan and he begins to regret the cruel act that he committed. “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather / The multitudinous seas incarnadine”. These lines are spoken by Macbeth and illustrate the stains of Duncan’s blood on his hands and his guilt for killing a wise and farsighted ruler of Scotland. These lines also demonstrate the feelings of guilt that Macbeth experiences by fulfilling his desire after performing the cruel, planned act. Moreover, these lines portray Macbeth’s perspective, which indicates that the water in the ocean would not be enough to wash away the sins he has committed and the blood of Duncan from his hands. Instead, he suggests that the ocean would turn red because of his sins and Duncan’s blood. Hence, Macbeth’s hidden desire of becoming the king results in guilt. Correspondingly, in the short story, the hidden desires of testing the ability of the paw results in the guilt of the White family. This is evident when the family regrets wishing for two hundred pounds as this leads to losing their son in a workplace accident. “‘Bring him back,’ cried the old woman”. These lines indicate the feeling of remorse that the White family experiences due to their hidden desire to improve their financial condition by wishing for two hundred pounds and to test the potential power of the paw. These lines also show that the family regrets their choice and feels guilty. Additionally, these lines also demonstrate that Mrs. White experiences more guilt about her son’s death as she pursues her husband to test the monkey’s paw by making a wish. Later in the story, she also asks her husband to make another wish to bring her son back, which portrays the remorse feeling that she undergoes. Thus, it is evident that one’s hidden desire can lead to guilt, as seen in the play and the short story.

In conclusion, if one’s desires are not controlled, they can harm the individual and the surrounding people. The appearance of hidden desires in the play, Macbeth by William Shakespeare and in the short story, The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs, results in: curiosity, death, and guilt. Lastly, the theme of hidden desires and its causes are also evident in different plays, stories, and history. 

09 March 2021

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