Critical Review of Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Topics: Macbeth, William Shakespeare, Shakespearean tragedy Pages: 3 (996 words) Published: May 12, 2009
Running Head: Macbeth

Critical Review of Macbeth by William Shakespeare
[Aijaz Ahmed Shaikh]
[Karachi University]

Critical Review of Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Not only is Macbeth by far the shortest of William Shakespeare’s great tragedies, but it is also anomalous in some structural respects. Like Othello (1604) and only a very few other Shakespearean plays, Macbeth is without the complications of a subplot. (Bradley, 1905) Consequently, the action moves forward in a swift and inexorable rush. More significantly, the climax the murder of Duncan takes place very early in the play. As a result, attention is focused on the various consequences of the crime rather than on the ambiguities or moral dilemmas that had preceded and occasioned it.

In this, the play differs from Othello, where the hero commits murder only after long plotting, and from Hamlet (1600-1601), where the hero spends most of the play in moral indecision. It is more like King Lear (1605-1606), where destructive action flows from the central premise of the division of the kingdom. Yet Macbeth differs from that play, too, in that it does not raise the monumental, cosmic questions of good and evil in nature (Shakespeare, 1992). Instead it explores the moral and psychological effects of evil in the life of one man. For all the power and prominence of Lady Macbeth, the drama remains essentially the story of the lord who commits regicide and thereby enmeshes himself in a complex web of consequences. When Macbeth first enters, he is far from the villain whose experiences the play subsequently describes. He has just returned from a glorious military success in defense of the crown. He is rewarded by the grateful Duncan, with preferment as thane of Cawdor. This honor, which initially qualifies him for the role of hero, ironically intensifies the horror of the murder Macbeth soon thereafter commits. His fall is rapid, and his crime is more clearly a sin than is...

References: Bradley, A. C. (1905). Shakespearean Tragedy. London: Macmillan.
Harbage, Alfred. (1963). William Shakespeare: A Reader’s Guide. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Shakespeare, William. (1992). Macbeth. Alan Sinfield (ed.). Houndsmills, England: Macmillan.
Wills, Garry. (1994). Witches and Jesuits: Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” New York: Oxford University Press.
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