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Corruption in The Film Wall Street and The Play Macbeth

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In the film ‘Wall Street’ directed by Oliver Stone, and the play ‘Macbeth’, written by William Shakespeare, it is shown that corruption plays a large role in the lives of everyone. To begin with, the director and playwright both suggest that the ambitious easily are corrupted; furthermore, they believe that corruption is contagious; however, in ‘Wall Street’, Stone suggests that there can be redemption for those who are corrupted, whilst Shakespeare indicates that the ambitious are doomed due to their rebellion against nature.

To begin, in both ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Wall Street’, the ambitious are easily corrupted. This is shown through Stone’s characterisation of Bud. Bud is initially shown to be ambitious, but unsuccessful. Stone depicts this through the motif of the phone call to show Bud’s desire to be “on the other end”. However, Bud is corrupted by Gekko, who manipulates him. This is shown in the cab scene. Stone uses lighting to show Bud’s cooperation, knowing he is losing his morality. Similarly, Macbeth becomes corrupted after learning about the prophecy from the witches. This causes his “black and deep desires” to fester within him, as he devises a plan to move up the social hierarchy. By killing the king, Macbeth begins his path which corrupts him as a result of being ambitious. Through Bud being corrupted by his actions led by Gordon Gekko and Macbeth doing the same, Stone and Shakespeare demonstrate that the most ambitious people are the ones who are the easiest to be corrupted. However…

Secondly, ‘Wall Street’ and ‘Macbeth’ both suggest that corruption is contagious. In ‘Macbeth’, the protagonist begins as someone who is seen as a “valiant… and worthy gentleman”. Shakespeare shows this through his comparison to a lion, considered in Jacobian times as the most noble of animals. However, after Macbeth meets the witches, they pass their corruption unto him, causing him to turn from “fair to foul”. Shakespeare ultimately portrays corruption as passed to the ambitious through supernatural intervention. Similarly, in ‘Wall Street’, Bud begins as being just like everybody else and uncorrupted. After meeting Gordon Gekko, he is increasingly more corrupted but still questions Gekko’s ways, questioning “how much is enough”. Over time, Gekko passes his corruption on to Bud leaving “him changed” as he does whatever it takes to make money. After being corrupted himself, Bud attempts to corrupt others, such as Roger, whom he attempts to convince by saying that “everybody’s doing it” when he is unsure. This hints towards the fact that corruption has not only spread to Bud, but to all people. As the Witches corrupt Macbeth and Gekko corrupting Bud, Stone and Shakespeare demonstrate that corruption is passed on from one person to another in a never-ending chain.

Finally, Stone suggests in ‘Wall Street’ that someone who is corrupted can still redeem themselves, while through ‘Macbeth’, Shakespeare says he believes otherwise. In ‘Wall Street’ as Bud gets increasingly corrupted, he begins to harm those around him, hurting his reputation with those people in the process. After some time, he begins to see the error in his ways as he tries to right his wrongs and follow in the footsteps of “the only honest man I know”. By doing this, he gains back the respect of his friends and family, showing Stone’s view that you can always redeem yourself if you try. However in ‘Macbeth’, after the protagonist becomes a corrupt murderer, he realises that he “stepp’d in so far that, should he wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er. As Macbeth believes that stopping and repenting would not do him any good as believes that what he has done is irredeemable. It is shown that while Stone believes that one can always redeem themselves through doing good for others, Shakespeare believes that those who are evil and corrupt deserve no mercy.

In conclusion, Oliver Stone and William Shakespeare shows through ‘Wall Street’ and ‘Macbeth’ that corruption is a controlling trait that is a large part of everyones’ lives. 

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Corruption In The Film Wall Street And The Play Macbeth. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from
“Corruption In The Film Wall Street And The Play Macbeth.” GradesFixer, 06 Aug. 2021,
Corruption In The Film Wall Street And The Play Macbeth. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 Oct. 2021].
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