Credible Sources for Macbeth

CREDIBLE SOURCE

URL:

http://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/macbeth-and-shakespeares-linguistic-innovation

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Sample:

“When Shakespeare began writing Macbeth (probably in 1605), there seem not to have been enough words in the English language to deal with his protagonist’s state of mind and the events relating to it. We find a surprisingly large number of ‘Williamisms’ (first recorded usages in the Oxford English Dictionary) – 62 of them – most of which feel like genuine coinages on Shakespeare’s part, for they clearly relate to the themes and actions of the play.

For a start, there’s the word needed for the central event:

If the assassination Could trammel up the consequence (1.7.2)

Assassin and assassinate were already in use, and other attempts had been or were being made to find a noun for the ‘act of assassinating’, such as assassinment, assassinacy, and assassinay. But Shakespeare either hadn’t come across these or didn’t like them. And it is his usage which remained in the language.

Other murder-related words had to be coined. Macbeth says of Banquo and Fleance:

They are assailable (3.2.29, ‘open to assault’)

And we find two new verbs capturing the redness of blood:

The multitudinous seas incarnadine, Making the green one red. (2.2.62, ‘dye with incarnadine’)

Go prick thy face and over-red thy fear (5.3.14, ‘cover with red’)

Incarnadine (‘flesh-coloured, carnation’) had already been used as an adjective and a noun, but this was the first time it had been used as a verb.”

Description:

Author(s):

  • David Crystal

Title:

  • Macbeth and Shakespeare’s linguistic innovation

Publisher:

  • British Library

Date:

  • No date.

Citations:

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CREDIBLE SOURCE

URL:

http://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/witchcraft-in-shakespeares-england

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Sample:

“In Shakespeare’s England, anxiety about witchcraft and belief in magic and the supernatural were not limited to the lower or uneducated classes. Macbeth is a powerful man of high estate, and though at times he questions the validity of the three witches and their prophecies, he ultimately accepts the potential of witchcraft and magic. One of Queen Elizabeth’s courtiers, Sir Walter Ralegh, described witches as women controlled by the Devil. But others, such as Reginald Scot, author of The Discoverie of Witchcraft, were far more sceptical; Scot argued against the existence of supernatural witchcraft and claimed that some accused witches were women with mental illness while others may have been con artists. Indeed, at the height of the witchcraft trials almost all of those accused were women, and many of them poor or economically vulnerable who, like the witches of Macbeth, might beg their neighbours for something to eat. But unlike the stage witches, who, in Act 4, Scene 1, truly can conjure powerful magic, while some of those accused were convinced they were able to do so, ability to perform such magic was only on stage.”

Description:

Article discussing how witchcraft trials in the 16th century influenced England’s culture and Shakespeare’s writing in Macbeth. This piece argues that King James I certainty in the existence of witchcraft and interest in it led Shakespeare to craft the story of Macbeth to “please his new king.”

Author(s):

  • Carole Levin

Title:

  • Witchcraft in Shakespeare’s England

Publisher:

  • British Library

Date:

  • No date.

Citations:

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CREDIBLE SOURCE

URL:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2007/04/12/shakespeare-and-the-uses-of-power/

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Sample:

“Macbeth himself seems tormented by the question. To be sure, his anxiety derives in part from a straightforward prudential concern, a fear that what he metes out will inevitably be meted out to him, measure for measure. But his queasiness has deeper roots in his sense of ethical obligation, in this case the obligation to obey and serve the king his master. His wife, who knows her husband’s character all too well, has already cannily anticipated his inner struggle:

Thou wouldst be great,

Art not without ambition, but without

The illness should attend it.

(1.5.16–18)

Hence faced with the perfect opportunity to seize the crown—King Duncan is a guest in his castle—Macbeth holds back. He is, he reflects, Duncan’s kinsman and subject, and at this moment he is also the king’s host, “who should against his murderer shut the door,/ Not bear the knife myself.” Above all, there has been nothing in the king’s comportment that would make his murder a remotely justifiable act. (Shakespeare characteristically altered his source in order to eliminate evidence of Duncan’s incompetence and thus to eliminate a rational basis for his assassination.) On the contrary, Macbeth broods,

this Duncan Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been

So clear in his great office, that his virtues

Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued against

The deep damnation of his taking-off.

(1.7.16–120)

“Meek” is a strange word to describe a king whom we have just seen conducting a bloody military campaign and ordering the summary execution of his enemy, the Thane of Cawdor. But it serves to intensify Macbeth’s brooding on the deep damnation that will befall Duncan’s assassin.”

Description:

Long-form review of Shakespeare’s use of political power or status in his stories, including detailed analysis of Macbeth.

Author(s):

  • Stephen Greenblatt

Title:

  • Shakespeare and the Uses of Power

Publisher:

  • New York Review of Books

Date:

  • April 12, 2007

Citations:

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CREDIBLE SOURCE

URL:

http://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/manhood-and-the-milk-of-human-kindness-in-macbeth

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Sample:

Macbeth is the tragedy of a man torn apart and destroyed by the conflicting conceptions of masculinity at war within him. But it’s also a tragedy that glimpses beyond that conflict the prospect of humanity’s liberation from the destructive male fantasies that still plague it and threaten its survival.

In case the play’s obsession with manhood escapes us, Shakespeare enlists that scurrilous wise fool the Porter to bring it into focus. In the immediate aftermath of Duncan’s murder and its traumatic impact on Macbeth, as the dreadful knocking at the gate subsides, the self-styled ‘porter of Hell Gate’ (2.3.2) treats Macduff to an incongruous comic lecture on the fate booze has in store for the sexually aroused male:

Lechery, sir, it provokes and unprovokes: it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance. Therefore much drink may be said to be an equivocator with lechery: it makes him and it mars him; it sets him on, and it takes him off; it persuades him, and disheartens him; makes him stand to, and not stand too; in conclusion, equivocates him in a sleep, and giving him the lie, leaves him. (2.3.29–36)

But on closer inspection the Porter’s lewd gag turns out to be anything but incongruous. What it provides, in the guise of light relief from the tension of the preceding scenes, is a vulgar comic version of Macbeth’s tragic plight. In a sly plebeian parody of the play’s ‘imperial theme’ (1.3.129) Macbeth’s disabling agonies of conscience before and after killing his king are reduced to the embarrassment of impotent lust. This covert caricature of Macbeth’s ‘Thriftless ambition’ (2.4.28), which fails to be satisfied by regicide, as a failure to translate desire into deed by maintaining an erection, pinpoints what’s ultimately at stake in this tragedy: male power and masculinity itself.”

Description:

Article from the British Library exploring the role “manhood” and “conceptions of masculinity” play in Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth.

Author(s):

  • Kiernan Ryan

Title:

  • Manhood and the ‘milk of human kindness’ in Macbeth

Publisher:

  • British Library

Date:

  • No date.

Citations:

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CREDIBLE SOURCE

URL:

https://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/unsex-me-here-lady-macbeths-hell-broth

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Sample:

“Throughout most of literary history, Lady Macbeth – the scheming spouse who plots the villainy at the centre of Shakespeare’s devastating ‘Scottish play’ – has been seen as a figure of ‘almost peerless malevolence’. Monstrous and murderous, she was based on a woman described in Holinshed’s Chronicles as ‘burning in unquenchable desire to beare the name of a queene’. Yet actors who played this part have often debated her character. Writing in the early 19th century, the great Sarah Siddons declared that this infamous heroine was ‘a woman in whose bosom the passion of ambition has almost obliterated all the characteristics of human nature’, and recalled that she first learned the part ‘in a paroxysm of terror’, so fearful that the rustling of her own silk dress seemed ‘like the movement of a spectre pursuing me’. But later in the century the charismatic actor Ellen Terry thought it ‘strange’ that Lady Macbeth should be seen ‘as a sort of monster’, claiming that ‘I conceive [her] as a small, slight woman of acute nervous sensibility’, who was perhaps ‘not good, but not much worse than many women you know – me for instance’. The critic Anna Jameson similarly declared that ‘the woman herself remains a woman to the last’.”

Description:

Literary analysis of Lady Macbeth with respect to gender roles, as well as her motivations and how they lead her on a murderous quest to be queen.

Author(s):

  • Sandra Gilbert

Title:

  • ‘Unsex Me Here’: Lady Macbeth’s ‘Hell Broth’

Publisher:

  • British Library

Date:

  • No date.

Citations:

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