Macbeth: New Critical Essays

Macbeth: New Critical Essays

Macbeth: New Critical Essays

Macbeth: New Critical Essays


This volume offers a wealth of critical analysis, supported with ample historical and bibliographical information about one of Shakespeare's most enduringly popular and globally influential plays. Its eighteen new chapters represent a broad spectrum of current scholarly and interpretive approaches, from historicist criticism to performance theory to cultural studies. A substantial section addresses early modern themes, with attention to the protagonists and the discourses of politics, class, gender, the emotions, and the economy, along with discussions of significant 'minor' characters and less commonly examined textual passages. Further chapters scrutinize Macbeth's performance, adaptation and transformation across several media--stage, film, text, and hypertext--in cultural settings ranging from early nineteenth-century England to late twentieth-century China. The editor's extensive introduction surveys critical, theatrical, and cinematic interpretations from the late seventeenth century to the beginning of the twenty-first, while advancing a synthetic argument to explain the shifting relationship between two conflicting strains in the tragedy's reception. Written to a level that will be both accessible to advanced undergraduates and, at the same time, useful to post-graduates and specialists in the field, this book will greatly enhance any study of Macbeth.

Contributors: Rebecca Lemon, Jonathan Baldo, Rebecca Ann Bach, Julie Barmazel, Abraham Stoll, Lois Feuer, Stephen Deng, Lisa Tomaszewski, Lynne Bruckner, Michael David Fox, James Wells, Laura Engel, Stephen Buhler, Bi-qi Beatrice Lei, Kim Fedderson and J. Michael Richardson, Bruno Lessard, Pamela Mason.


Shakespeare probably wrote his Tragedy of Macbeth just over four centuries ago. In the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, audiences and readers in the English-speaking world and Europe became well acquainted with the play. Since then, cultures around the globe have embraced it as a wellwrought drama of action and character—even as adapters and interpreters have presented radically different views of its overarching values and its larger outlook on human experience.

The play moves rapidly and suspensefully, climaxing in a battle. Its protagonists are alternately admired and abhorred; fortunate and miserable; selfassured and terrified; gratified and tormented. Its human plot speaks directly to any society where fears of treachery are felt; where blood is shed for advantage; and where crimes against unsuspecting allies, acquaintances, and friends are supposed to lead to remorse.

Macbeth joins these readily understood themes to a masque-like subplot involving conjurations, prophecies, and supernatural agency. It thus enlarges its scope beyond that of ordinary human relations. It invites speculation about the ultimate causes of pain and suffering, and may elicit our sympathy with reviled transgressors as we witness the betrayal of their extraordinary hopes.

The weïrd sisters have been variously understood by different individuals, times, and cultures. They embody humanity’s perennial failure to impose its conscious will and its ideas of order upon the unruly energies of desire, the pride of the great, and the manifold horrors of war and tyranny. Last but not least, they conspire to bring us face to face with the ultimate disappointment of death.

The present introduction: purpose and terminology

Among the many questions Macbeth raises, one of the most encompassing is that of how to make choices in life—what the basis of our actions should be. Recent criticism has been energized by profound disagreements over whether or not Macbeth upholds a dualistic view of morality: one which measures human actions and objectives by their worth relative to polar . . .

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