Macbeth by William Shakespeare represents unrelenting evil from beginning to end. Who is the most evil? What motivates the evil intentions and actions? This paper intends to answer these questions.
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)
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....
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...n Women Reading Shakespeare 1660-1900. Ann Thompson and Sasha Roberts, eds. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1997.
Kermode, Frank. "Macbeth." The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1972.
Knights, L.C. "Macbeth." Shakespeare: The Tragedies. A Collectiion of Critical Essays. Alfred Harbage, ed. Englewwod Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1964.
Mack, Maynard. Everybody's Shakespeare: Reflections Chiefly on the Tragedies. Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1993.
Warren, Roger. Shakespeare Survey 30. N.p.: n.p., 1977. Pp. 177-78. Rpt. in Shakespeare in the Theatre: An Anthology of Criticism. Stanley Wells, ed. England: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Wilson, H. S. On the Design of Shakespearean Tragedy. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1957.
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