Macbeth's Evil Dimension Essay

2047 words - 8 pages

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.


In his book, On the Design of Shakespearean Tragedy, H. S. Wilson emphasizes the evil coexisting with traces of good in the play:


He is capable of gentleness and generosity: there is a tender human love between him and his wife, though they are both abandoned to evil; we may recall the relation between Claudius and Gertrude, and Shakespeare's capacity for seeing some goodness even in wicked people. (77)


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. (93)


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. (132-33)


Roger Warren states in Shakespeare Survey 30 , regarding Trervor Nunn's direction of Macbeth at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1974-75, how the witches represented the evil force of  black magic:


Much of the approach and detail was carried over, particularly the clash between religious purity and black magic. Purity was embodied by Duncan, very infirm (in 1974 he was blind), dressed in white and accompanied by church organ music, set against the black magic of the witches, who even chanted 'Double, double to the Dies Irae. (283)


Clark and Wright in their Introduction to The Complete Works of William Shakespeare interpret the main theme of the play as intertwining with evil:


The theme of the drama is the gradual ruin through yielding to evil within and evil without, of a man, who, though from the first tainted by base and ambitious thoughts, yet possessed elements in his nature of possible honor and loyalty. (792)


The Tragedy of Macbeth opens in a desert place with thunder and lightning and three Witches who are anticipating their evil-oriented meeting with Macbeth. They all say together the mysterious and contradictory "Fair is foul, and foul is fair." Macbeth is greeted by the...

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