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Free Barron's Booknotes-Macbeth by William Shakespeare-Free Book Notes
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REFERENCE

THE CRITICS - CRITICAL ANALYSIS

ON LADY MACBETH

The magnitude of her resolution almost covers the magnitude of her guilt. She is a great bad woman, whom we hate, but whom we fear more than we hate.... She is only wicked to gain a great end; and is perhaps more distinguished by her commanding presence of mind and inexorable self-will, which do not suffer her to be diverted from a bad purpose, when once formed, by weak and womanly regrets, than by the hardness of her heart or want of natural affections.

William Hazlitt, Characters of Shakespeare's Plays, 1817

ON MACBETH

Macbeth himself appears driven along by the violence of his fate like a vessel driven along before a storm: he reels to and fro like a drunken man; he staggers under the weight of his own purposes and the suggestions of others; he stands at bay with his situation; and from the superstitious awe and breathless suspense into which the communications of the Weird Sisters throw him, is hurried on with daring impatience to verify their predictions, and with impious and bloody hand to tear aside the veil which hides the uncertainty of the future.

William Hazlitt, Characters of Shakespeare's Plays, 1817


ON MACBETH'S MORALITY

Macbeth remains an honorable gentleman. He is not a criminal; he has no criminal tendencies. But once permit his self-love to demand a satisfaction which cannot be honestly attained, and he is likely to grasp any dishonorable means to that end which may be safely employed. In other words, Macbeth has much of the natural good in him unimpaired; environment has conspired with his nature to make him upright in all his dealings with those about him. But moral goodness in him is undeveloped and indeed still rudimentary, for his voluntary acts are scarcely brought into harmony with ultimate ends.

Walter Clyde Curry, Shakespeare's Philosophical Patterns, 1937

ON THE IMAGERY OF DARKNESS

Darkness, we may even say blackness, broods over this tragedy. It is remarkable that almost all the scenes which at once recur to memory take place either at night or in some dark spot. The vision of the dagger, the murder of Duncan, the sleep-walking of Lady Macbeth, all come in night-scenes. The Witches dance in the thick air of a storm, or "black and midnight hags" receive Macbeth in a cavern. The blackness of night is to the hero a thing of fear, even of horror; and that which he feels becomes the spirit of the play.

A. C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy, 1964

ON THE IMAGERY IN MACBETH

The play opens with thunder and the appearance of the witches, and a succession of immediate and effective visual or auditory images is presented directly to an audience or imaginative reader by means of the bleeding sergeant, the bloody daggers and hands, the knocking at the gate, the banquet with the ghost of Banquo, the apparitions, and the sleep-walking. These effects establish the play's atmosphere, and form a kind of framework to the poetic imagery.

R. A. Foakes, "Suggestions for a New Approach to Shakespeare's Imagery." 1952

ON LADY MACBETH

Lady Macbeth, like all in Shakespeare, is a class individualized:- of high rank, left much alone, and feeding herself with day-dreams of ambition, she mistakes the courage of fantasy for the power of bearing the consequences of the realities of guilt. Hers is the mock fortitude of a mind deluded by ambition; she shames her husband with a superhuman audacity of fancy which she cannot support, but sinks in the season of remorse, and dies in suicidal agony.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Coleridge's Shakespearean Criticism; edited by Thomas M. Raysor, 1959

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