The Problem Of Good And Evil In Sundiata: An Epic Of Old Mali And Macbeth

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Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali and Macbeth both provided readers with an inside look at how prophecies and the role of fate help determine the outcomes of one’s action. Alongside the prophecies exist magic and sorcery that further influence’s one’s decision to be good or evil. In Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali, a king named Soumaoro abandons his morals in order to instill fear into his people. In Macbeth, a soldier turned king also relies on black magic and sorcery to consolidate his power. Throughout the works, both characters will try their hardest to alter their prophecies and ultimate fate. Although Soumaoro and Macbeth exist in different genres of writing, they both share an evil demeanor and they show how a prophecy can result in their own downfall.

In Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali, sorcery plays a huge role in the West African society of Mali. Sorcery can be done by witches and sorcerers as a means of doing good or evil. Early in the story, a prophecy is outlined by soothsayers in the chapter, The Buffalo Woman, on page 6, the soothsayer says, “for she will be the mother of him who will make the name of Mali immortal forever.” This refers to the child the king must have with the Buffalo woman and one day, their son will unite Mali. In the chapter, The Baobab Leaves, on page 45, it says “We have consulted the jinn and they have replied that only the son of Sogolon can deliver Mali.” The Buffalo Woman’s son, Sundiata, is a product of the prophecy and he is the force of good that exists within the prophecy since it will be his duty to defeat the evil king Soumaoro. As a result, Mali will be united under his rule, as per the words of the Jinn, the natural spirits. Sundiata’s counterpart, and another user of sorcery and magic, is none other than the evil King Soumaoro who possesses the role of evil in the prophecy. In the chapter, History, on page 41 it says “Soumaoro was an evil demon and his reign had produced nothing but bloodshed. Nothing was taboo for him” This refers to Soumaoro’s evil demeanor that drove him to conquer others, his disregard for human life and self-arrogance only produced a negative effect on others. As long as he is unharmed and winning, he has no care or remorse for others. This is seen in the chapter, History, on page 41, where it says, “His greatest pleasure was publicly to flog venerable old men” His cruelness plays into the prophecy and Sundiata’s ultimate fate to defeat him and unite Mali, it also shows Soumaoro didn’t accept others who were seen as wise.

Much like Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali, the play, Macbeth, portrays how a prophecy can lead to one’s downfall. Sorcery makes an appearance throughout the play through the form of witches, apparitions, and weird acts. Sorcery leads to the prophecy told to Macbeth in Act I, Scene 3 when the witches greet Macbeth they say “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Glamis! All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Cawdor! All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!” These titles all refer to the positions Macbeth will hold in the play, information that no one could have known unless one looked into the future or used magic to find. Sorcery is also seen in Act II, Scene 1, it says “Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.” This refers to the dagger apparition that Macbeth sees, further tempting him to kill but at the same time messing with him by showing him the pain and guilt that may follow. Further in the play, Act IV, scene 1 shows more magic through the brewing of a potion that will further manipulate Macbeth and further fulfill the prophecy.

The evil king Soumaoro derives his power from several sources that further develop the idea of sorcery in the story. As mentioned earlier, in the West African society there existed earthly spirits known as jinns. In the chapter, History, on page 41, it says “Soumaoro was not like other men, for the jinn had revealed themselves to him and his power was beyond measure” This refers to the amount of power Soumaoro possessed because he had a personal connection with a jinn that could grant him and be with him during his evil endeavors. The power he receives from the jinn makes him feel invincible and unstoppable. Soumaoro also has several fetishes that also helped him consolidate his power. These are shown in the chapter, Soumaoro Kante, the Sorcerer King, on page 39 where Balle Fasseke, the griot, saw “The walls of the chamber were tapestried with human skins and there was one in the middle of the room on which the king sat; around an earthenware jar nine heads formed a circle” The human skin, skills, owls and other fetishes create fear within people and these items have a special connection to Soumaoro that empowers him. On the physical level, Soumaoro got powerful by conquering and killing others, such as the nine kings whose skulls he kept.

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Like Soumaoro, Macbeth also gained his power on a spiritual and physical level. As mentioned earlier, Macbeth as told a prophecy that on the spiritual level, empowered him and provoked his ruthless actions. Part of Macbeth’s power, or his grab for power, was influenced by his wife, lady Macbeth. In Act 1, scene 7, Lady Macbeth says “Art thou afeard To be the same in thine own act and valor As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life,” She says this to a contemplating Macbeth who is split between his options. He has been given the chance to be a king, a position the prophecy has outlined for him. Through this speech, she questions his manhood causing violence and desire for power to brew within him. To actually gain power Macbeth must commit the sinful act of killing, as seen in Act II, Scene 1, in which he says “I have done the deed. Didst thou not hear a noise?” This refers to Macbeth’s act of killing the reigning king, Duncan. He even goes as far as to kill Duncan’s servants and blame the murder on them. The true power is finally given to Macbeth in Act II, scene 4, “He is already named and gone to Scone To be invested,” as this moment Macbeth is king, but as the play goes on he will have to kill to try and alter the prophecy and soaking is hands deeper into a bucket of innocent blood.

In Sundiata, Soumaoro broke several moral values to strengthen his power and show his dominance. In the chapter, History, on page 41 it says “He had defiled every family and everywhere in his vast empire there were villages populated by girls whom he had forcibly abducted from their families without marrying them.” This shows Soumaoro broke basic morals, such as kindness, respect, and trust in regards to his people because he acted as if they weren’t people. He treated them like they had no choice of their own, instead, he forced his evil and ruthless tactics on top of them in situations they could never benefit from. His immoral behavior strikes fear into his people. Not only did he break morals by mistreating his people, he even portrayed no respect towards his own kin, as shown in the chapter, History, on page 42 it says “Soumaoro abducted Keleya and locked her up in his palace,” This refers to his kidnapping of his own nephew’s wife, an act that will turn his nephew against him and result in his downfall.

Like Soumaoro, Macbeth broke moral values so he could gain his power, maintain his power, and in the end, these values would play into his final despair in Act 5. When he gained his power, he lost his humbleness that he portrayed in earlier scenes. In Act 1, scene 7, Macbeth says “We will proceed no further in this business. He hath honored me of late, and I have bought Golden opinions from all sorts of people” Here Macbeth questions why he should kill Duncan, a man who has rewarded him. He cannot help but cherish king Duncan. However, later on in the play, Macbeth no longer showed respect for others. Starting with the killing of Duncan and later on, with the killing of Banquo and Macduff’s family, acts he used to leverage his power by hurting others. Also, in Act IV, scene 1, it says, “Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill Shall come against him” This plays into Macbeth’s overconfidence a trait that would make him feel invincible and higher than everyone else. Macbeth will eventually be let down when he is defeated when Birnam woods comes to Dunsinane and he is killed by Macduff, a man not born from a woman. It’s only until the end that Macbeth realizes he was blinded by the prophetic words of the witches, all long he was being played and he allowed himself to be caught in the game.

In both Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali and Macbeth, Both Soumaoro and Macbeth are quite similar because of the way they acted when they were given opportunities to seize power. Both characters allowed their power to dictate the way they treated others and in doing so, they each abandoned moral values. Both characters are also similar because of their deeper connection to sorcery and magic that influenced their decisions to take part in evil ruthless doings that would result in the harm of others. Both characters were also apart of prophecies that they constantly tried to alter in order to maintain and consolidate the power they had been given. However, it is important to remember that once a prophecy has been made, nothing can be done to change it. Every action they took just played into the prophecy at hand and in both Soumaoro and Macbeth’s cases’ all of their actions eventually resulted in their downfall and ultimate defeat, Soumaoro by Sundiata and Macbeth by Macduff.

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The Problem Of Good And Evil In Sundiata: An Epic Of Old Mali And Macbeth. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 4, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-problem-of-good-and-evil-in-sundiata-an-epic-of-old-mali-and-macbeth/
“The Problem Of Good And Evil In Sundiata: An Epic Of Old Mali And Macbeth.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/the-problem-of-good-and-evil-in-sundiata-an-epic-of-old-mali-and-macbeth/
The Problem Of Good And Evil In Sundiata: An Epic Of Old Mali And Macbeth. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-problem-of-good-and-evil-in-sundiata-an-epic-of-old-mali-and-macbeth/> [Accessed 4 Jul. 2022].
The Problem Of Good And Evil In Sundiata: An Epic Of Old Mali And Macbeth [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2022 Jul 4]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-problem-of-good-and-evil-in-sundiata-an-epic-of-old-mali-and-macbeth/
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