Macbeth by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
One of Shakespeare’s crowning achievements. This play shows why the author is known as a great human observer. Why do we do evil things? Simply because we want to, and we want things we shouldn’t have.
The tragedy of MacBeth explores what it means to be a man and to have blood on your hands. The opening line sums it up nicely: “What bloody man is that?” MacBeth kills that speaker to take the throne himself. He gets away with it, but is driven to distraction and tyrannical isolation with a guilty conscience. His wife, who put him up to it, thinks at first that the deed is easily forgotten. But over time she is overcome to the point of suicide. They both are frightened at the slightest sound after they do the deed – another sign of a guilty conscience. Not only peace of mind, but all meaning and coherence are lost when we cling to sin:
“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 a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”
This is not Shakespeare’s view of life, but the despairing Macbeth at the news of his wife’s suicide, as he clings to his sin.
There is a lot of biblical imagery, connecting MacBeth and Adam. It’s another fall from a high place, tempted by an evil spirit but responsible himself. Paradise is turned to hell. MacBeth is also like Saul, jealous of Banquo and his children and seeking both their deaths. He seeks out a witch in the end and falls in battle soon after.
Read it and weep. Read it and be convicted of where cherished sin will lead you.
But there is also a positive note in Malcolm of sin avenged, grief borne “like a man,” and rebellion set right.
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