Virtue and Vice


The Queen, my lord, is dead.
She should have died hereafter.
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle.
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

How depressing. Are we really actors without free will, playing the parts fate
has written for us - roles "Which must be acted ere they may be scanned"? Or
is Shakespeare adding one final sin - the sin of despair - to the catalogue of
Macbeth's moral failings?

On one level, Macbeth is a morality play. Macbeth's harmatia is not simple
hubris; for "Not in the legions / Of horrid hell can come a devil more damned /
In evils to top Macbeth". He is "... bloody, / Luxurious, avaricious, false, de-
ceitful, / Sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin / That has a name". Oedi-
pus has nothing on Macbeth.

Macbeth possesses none of "The king-becoming graces, / As justice, verity,
temp'rance, stableness, / Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness, / Devotion,
patience, courage, fortitude". And now, he is without hope.

Macbeth is a very Christian play. So, on the following pages, you will find
brief (Christian) explanations of Virtue, Vice, and Sin taken from different cat-
echisms. The goal of these explanations is not to make you good, but to give
you useful tools for dealing with Western literature.