Macbeth (New Penguin Shakespeare)

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9780140707052: Macbeth (New Penguin Shakespeare)

In its concentration of interest upon the protagonists, Macbeth can be seen as Shakespeare's experiment in unity of focus, whose chief appeal arises from the struggles of the central characters with each other and with the infernal powers that inspire or govern them. Over the centuries, the vision of directors like Welles, Nunn and Polanski, as well as the eloquent talents of actors like Garrick, Siddons, Olivier and McKellen have contributed to the central debate of the play: Who or what is culpable? Bernice W. Kliman, in her analysis of Macbeth in performance, examines major productions of the play on both stage and screen, thereby inviting the reader to contemplate directors' and actors' choices for what is arguably Shakespeare's most compelling play.

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Review:

One of Shakespeare's greatest, but also bloodiest tragedies, was written around 1605/06. Many have seen the story of Macbeth's murder and usurpation of the legitimate Scottish King Duncan as having obvious connection to contemporary issues regarding King James I (James VI of Scotland), and the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. King James was particularly fascinated with witchcraft, so the appearance of the witches chanting "Fair is foul, and foul is fair" at the opening of the play seemed particularly topical, as was Macbeth's betrayal of Banquo, from whom James claimed direct descent.

However, the play is clearly far more than a piece of royal entertainment. It is also a fast-moving and dramatically satisfying piece of theatre. Macbeth's existential struggle between loyalty to his King and his "Vaulting ambition" is fascinating to watch, as his is struggle with Lady Macbeth, and her own terrifying refusal of her maternal role. The play shows an intensification of Shakespeare's interest in mothers and their effect upon ruling masculinity, and also contains some of the most memorable speeches in the entire canon, including Macbeth's reflections that ultimately life "is a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing". --Jerry Brotton

Review:

"...wonderfully informative introdutory essay." Studies in English Literature

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