Although Macbeth is not exactly an idol for the ages, given that he committed murder in a crazed pursuit of power, he certainly does have some notable words to impart through the illustrious voice of Shakespeare. Catch this monologue:
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, 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 tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing (5.5.2)
In a nutshell, he is saying: ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Way before his time, Shakespeare in Macbeth created a nihilistic character far before the concept of nihilism came into being. While Macbeth’s message is that life has no significance, he certainly utters the words in a significant way. At times in the play, we do not know if events are really happening, or the products of Macbeth’s mind. We arrive so deep into his subconscious that his conflict becomes our conflict, no matter how horrific or unbelievable his actions are on the surface. It is much like the film American Psycho, in which we follow the logic of a serial killer. Although senselessly horrific, the film guiltily makes sense as it fascinatingly leads us into the depths of Christian Bale’s twisted mind.
Macbeth speaks this monologue upon hearing word of his wife’s death. He has plunged so far into regret that he shows no grief for her passing. Ironically, his wife often lit a candle when committing an illicit act, trying to bring light to a dark deed to justify her actions. Macbeth now sees the futility of her measures, just as he now believes in the futility of life. Faulkner was so taken aback by this monologue, that he took the phrase “the sound and the fury”, and turned it into the title of one of his most famous novels. Upon accepting the Nobel prize, he alluded to the last line of this quote from Macbeth, asserting that life is neither worth living, nor writing about, if one does not explore universal truths. In other words, Macbeth became an idiot whose life signified nothing in the fictional universe, but is of great significance for the reader. His vie for power was but a stage play of a poor actor whose fame extinguishes quickly. Although Macbeth’s descent into evil lead to his untimely end, his character has eternal significance: life is short.
Luckily for the rest of us, we in most cases have many chances to get it right, not just one. Life may be short, but it is certainly not futile when you make the most of it. This extends to the SAT. The test will not make or break you, since you have ample time and opportunities to practice. You just need to embrace them. In other words, if you did not do as well as you expected on the PSAT, the candle has not burnt out. It only means that instead of believing that you are controlled by the fates, as Macbeth mistakenly does, study, and you will certainly realize that willpower and hard work is the key to a prosperous future.