William Shakespeare's two famous plays Hamlet and Macbeth are both named after the main characters in the play. Although sharing many similar themes (such as a murderous king and those who wish to overthrow him) Young Hamlet and Macbeth themselves are quite different from each other. The first difference that leaps out when one looks back after completing both plays, is that the two main characters play different roles in their respective stories.

In Macbeth, Macbeth himself was the antagonist in the story: the "bad guy" so to speak. He began as a loyal servant of the king, but his greed, stoked by his wife and left unchecked by his conscience led to his murder and betrayal of not only the king, but also his former friend and comrade Banquo, and the family of his friend Macduff. Hamlet on the other hand, was the protagonist in his story: the "good guy" whom the reader wants (or at least whom Shakespeare planned for them to want) to succeed in the end. He was also a murderer, but for a different reason. Like Macbeth, a close family member led him to commit murder. But in Hamlet's case it was the ghost of his father, and revenge, not greed, was his motive. He was trying to bring justice to an unjust king, and so he was more of an avenging angel then a murderous demon, something Macbeth was likened to by his peers. But Macbeth should have known better.

Macbeth was an older, wiser man who had had years of experience in a range of activities from politics to war. When he planned to murder the king, he knew exactly what type of action he was about to take, and what the consequences would be. Yet in spite of (or maybe due to) this knowledge, Macbeth acted very rashly and foolishly, and did not take the time to use his great wisdom for his benefit. He also wanted to avoid killing the king, and did not have the courage to go through with his plan until his wife scolded and insulted him. Hamlet on the other hand did not really know what he was getting into. He was much younger, and it seemed he had lived more of a protected life (he was a student, not a politician or a soldier.) It seems it was because of this naivety that Hamlet seemed very committed to the actions he was going about to take but still feared the repercussions, because he did not know what they might be. Despite his lack of experience in covert assassinations, Hamlet did not act very foolishly. He feigned insanity, thereby causing everybody in his way to let his or her guard down. Yet in the end, neither Hamlet nor Macbeth was wise enough to prevent his own demise.

Macbeth's tragic flaw was that he was a seemingly good man who entertained thoughts of grandeur to the point where he decided he deserved such greatness. He allowed his greed to manifest itself in the upper tiers of his mind instead of pushing it back like he had before. When he took this avarice to the pointof murder, it snowballed out of control down a hill that ultimately ended with him dead. Hamlet's flaw on the other hand was even more tragic, because it was perhaps "the right thing to do." Hamlet let his lust for vengeance go too far though and it blinded him to the dangers that were lurking around him. By rashly killing Polonius, he showed his hand too soon, and made an enemy of Laertes, the man who ultimately killed him.

Although they killed for different reasons, it seems that Shakespeare perhaps saw any flaw that led to murder was a tragic one. Murder is truly a quick way of making enemies, and in both stories, the main character was slain by a family member of people they killed. Although both plays had a similar premise, Shakespeare managed to give Macbeth and Young Hamlet very different mindsets and personalities so that their journey to ruin was kept original and interesting. He told both stories from a different perspective by giving a point of view from both the victim and the offender, which consequently led each character to have a unique flaw that led to his destruction.