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The Horrendous Evil Within Shakespeare’s Macbeth

The Horrendous Evil Within Macbeth

Macbeth by William Shakespeare is a recognized classic tragedy portraying the victory of good over evil. This paper will explore the various expressions of evil within the play.

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In Fools of Time: Studies in Shakespearean Tragedy, Northrop Frye compares some evil in the play to demonic possession:

There is some suggestion of being relieved from a kind of demonic possession, of a type that seems to run through history with its own version of de jure succession. We find this again in the death of the Thane of Cawdor in Macbeth, where there is also a suggestion that the demonic possession passes from the old Thane of Cawdor into the new one: Malcolm, in his turn, seems aware of the danger of inheriting it from Macbeth. (87-88)

D. F. Bratchell in Shakespearean Tragedy delineates the specific type of evil within the tragedy:

Long regarded as a profound vision of evil, Macbeth differs from the other Shakespearean tragedies in that the evil is transferred from the villain to the hero; not that Shakespeare’s tragic figures are ever conceived in the simplistic tones of black and white. Although the Elizabethans took liberties with Aristotle’s dictum that tragedy does not deal with the overthrow of a bad character, it would be accepted by them that concentration on the evil deed itself does not constitute tragedy. The overtly political theme is clear, and the play has been called the greatest of the moralities. It is Shakespeare’s ability to identify, or to portray with an understanding which engages our sympathy, a villainous hero who is not merely a villain which perhaps constitutes the major critical question. (132-33)

Charles Lamb in On the Tragedies of Shakespeare explains the impact of evil as seen in Macbeth’s initial murder:

The state of sublime emotion into which we are elevated by those images of night and horror which Macbeth is made to utter, that solemn prelude with which he entertains the time till the bell shall strike which is to call him to murder Duncan, – when we no longer read it in a book, when we have given up that vantage-ground of abstraction which reading possesses over seeing, and come to see a man in his bodily shape before our eyes actually preparing to commit a murder, if the acting be true and impressive as I have witnessed it in Mr.

Macbeth’s Evil Dimension

Macbeth’s Evil Dimension

Can the audience fully appreciate the depth of evil presented in the tragic drama Macbeth by William Shakespeare? This essay explores the various aspects of evil from beginning to end of the drama.

D. F. Bratchell in Shakespearean Tragedy delineates the specific type of evil within the tragedy:

Long regarded as a profound vision of evil, Macbeth differs from the other Shakespearean tragedies in that the evil is transferred from the villain to the hero; not that Shakespeare’s tragic figures are ever conceived in the simplistic tones of black and white. Although the Elizabethans took liberties with Aristotle’s dictum that tragedy does not deal with the overthrow of a bad character, it would be accepted by them that concentration on the evil deed itself does not constitute tragedy. The overtly political theme is clear, and the play has been called the greatest of the moralities. It is Shakespeare’s ability to identify, or to portray with an understanding which engages our sympathy, a villainous hero who is not merely a villain which perhaps constitutes the major critical question. (132-33)

Charles Lamb in On the Tragedies of Shakespeare explains the impact of evil as seen in Macbeth’s initial murder:

The state of sublime emotion into which we are elevated by those images of night and horror which Macbeth is made to utter, that solemn prelude with which he entertains the time till the bell shall strike which is to call him to murder Duncan, – when we no longer read it in a book, when we have given up that vantage-ground of abstraction which reading possesses over seeing, and come to see a man in his bodily shape before our eyes actually preparing to commit a murder, if the acting be true and impressive as I have witnessed it in Mr. K’s performance of that part, the painful anxiety about the act, the natural longing to prevent it while it yet seems unperpetrated, the too close pressing semblance of reality, give a pain and an uneasiness [. . .]. (134)

L.C. Knights in the essay “Macbeth” specifies the particular species of evil present within the play:

Macbeth defines a particular kind of evil – the evil that results from a lust for power. The defining, as in all the tragedies, is in strictly poetic and dramatic terms. It is certainly not an abstract formulation, but lies rather in the drawing out of necessary consequences and implications of that lust both in the external and the spiritual worlds.

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