Macbeth Notecards

Martin Cheung (1A) Shakespeare and the Tragedy of Our Time”Arguing that the play contains biblical parallels, [Battenhouse] compares Macbeth’s ambition to Satan’s and his and Lady Macbeth’s temptation to that of Adam and Eve.”
Martin Cheung (1B) Shakespeare and the Tragedy of Our Time”Adam and Eve fell when they overlooked the divine promise of life in the world to come, trusting instead imagination’s promise of freer life here. Macbeth makes the same mistake.”
Martin Cheung (1C) Shakespeare and the Tragedy of Our Time”He knows himself “deep in blood” but not deep in sin. We can see Lady Macbeth’s tortures as those of guilt; but her husband sees them as evidences only of a “mind diseased,” which a physician may perhaps cure.”
Martin Cheung (2A) Shakespeare’s Tragic Villain”Booth argues that Macbeth … “is not a naturally evil man, but a man who has every potentiality for goodness.” Booth also points out the effect that Macbeth’s limited role in the on-stage murders has on his sympathetic portrayal.”
Martin Cheung (2B) Shakespeare’s Tragic Villain”We see nothing … We have only Macbeth’s conscience-stricken lament. What would be an intolerable act if depicted with any vividness becomes relatively forgivable when seen only afterward in the light of Macbeth’s remorse.”
Martin Cheung (2C) Shakespeare’s Tragic Villain”His death is more nearly a personal loss than was Duncan’s … his murder is shown on the stage. His dying words … are unselfishly directed to saving his son. We are led to the proper, though illogical, inference: it is more wicked to kill Banquo than to have killed Duncan.”
Martin Cheung (2D) Shakespeare’s Tragic Villain”Lady Macduff is more vividly portrayed even than Banquo, although she appears on the stage for a much briefer time … Macbeth is kept as little to blame as possible. He does not do the deed himself,”
Martin Cheung (3A) Macbeth and the Gospelling of Scotland”a more fully Christian land … England is explicitly said to have a saint as a king, Edward the Confessor … In the most unchristian act of contemplating another murder, Macbeth thinks in Christian terms … he has given up his “eternal jewel” to the devil for the sake of Banquo’s heirs, not his own. “
Martin Cheung (4A) Macbeth and the Metaphysics of Evil”Vivid animal disorder-symbolism is recurrent in the play and the animals mentioned are for the most part of fierce, ugly, or ill-omened significance … All this suggests life threatening, ill-omened, hideous: and it culminates in the holocaust of filth prepared by the Weird Sisters in the Cauldron scene.”
Martin Cheung (4B) Macbeth and the Metaphysics of Evil”Not that the persons are ‘bad characters’. They are not ‘characters’ at all … They are but vaguely individualized, and more remarkable for similarity than difference. All the persons are primarily just this: men paralysed by fear and a sense of evil in and outside themselves. They lack will-power: that concept finds no place here.”
Martin Cheung (5A) Macbeth: The Pattern of Idea and Action”Macbeth and Satan: both are always conscious of the evil they embrace; both have excessive ambition and pride; and both openly defy the natural law of God, the devil by rebelling against his maker and Macbeth by calling on satanic forces in order to gain the kingship.”
Martin Cheung (5B) Macbeth: The Pattern of Idea and Action”The witches represent evil, tempting man’s sinful nature by means of prophecy; Banquo, in contrast to Macbeth, stands as a kind of morality figure who is able to resist the witches’ temptation because the grace of God inherent in his nature is stronger than his propensity to sin”
Martin Cheung (5C) Macbeth: The Pattern of Idea and Action”Lady Macbeth, who supports her husband in his wrong moral choice and quells the forces in him opposed to evil, signifies an unnatural reversal of the common symbol of woman as the giver of life and nourishment.”
Martin Cheung (5D) Macbeth: The Pattern of Idea and Action”Ribner then examines Duncan’s murder, arguing that this specific act of evil corrupts all levels of creation, contaminating the family, the state, and the physical universe.”
Martin Cheung (5E) Macbeth: The Pattern of Idea and Action”As symbols of evil, the witches are made contrary to nature. They are women with the beards of men; their incantation is a Black Mass, and the hell broth they stir consists of the disunified parts of men and animals, creation in chaos … The witches hold forth the promise of worldly good,”
Martin Cheung (5F) Macbeth: The Pattern of Idea and Action”The figure of the wolf is an appropriate one, for here Macbeth allies himself with the destroyer of the innocent lamb, symbolic of God, just as he allies himself with the ravisher Tarquin, the destroyer of chastity, symbolic in the Renaissance of the perfection of God.”
Martin Cheung (5G) Macbeth: The Pattern of Idea and Action”That Macbeth cannot say ‘amen’ immediately after the murder is the first clear sign of his alienation from God.”
Martin Cheung (6A) Shakespeare’s Imagery and What It Tells Us”Another constant idea in the play arises out of the symbolism that light stands for life, virtue, goodness; and darkness for evil and death. ‘Angels are bright’, the witches are ‘secret, black, and midnight hags’, and as Dowden says, the movement of the whole play might be summed up in the words, ‘good things of day begin to droop and drowse’.”
Martin Cheung (6B) Shakespeare’s Imagery and What It Tells Us”sin is a disease – and Scotland is sick … Malcolm speaks of his country as weeping, bleeding, and wounded … while Caithness calls Malcolm himself the ‘medicine of the sickly weal’, ‘the country’s purge’.”
Martin Cheung (6C) Shakespeare’s Imagery and What It Tells Us”the unnaturalness of Macbeth’s crime … Macbeth himself says that Duncan’s wounds ‘look’d like a breach in nature for ruin’s wasteful entrance,’ and Macduff speaks of his murder as the sacrilege of breaking open the Lord’s anointed temple.”
Martin Cheung (6D) Shakespeare’s Imagery and What It Tells Us”constant and recurring images of blood … Macbeth’s description of himself wading in a river of blood … the picture of him gazing, rigid with horror, at his own blood-stained hand and watching it dye the whole green ocean red.”
Martin Cheung (7A) Macbeth and Witchcraft”[the witches] are connected with disorder in nature (not only thunder and lightning but also ‘fog and filthy air’) … they reverse moral values (‘Fair is foul, and foul is fair’)”
Martin Cheung (7B) Macbeth and Witchcraft”As Mark Rose says … ‘the third scene opens with the Witches alone, after which Macbeth enters and they hail him by his various titles. The fifth scene opens with Lady Macbeth alone, practicing witchcraft. . . . And when Macbeth enters she, too, hails him by his titles.'”
Martin Cheung (7C) Macbeth and Witchcraft”The first act of the play is framed by images of witchcraft, rebellion and murder … a world turned upside down, in which owls kill falcons, horses revolt against men and cannibalize each other, and night strangles day.”
Martin Cheung (7D) Macbeth and Witchcraft”parallels between Macbeth and the story of … the Book of Samuel … Jane Jack has explored this … “Like Saul, Macbeth hears from the witches the confirmation of what he most fears. The crisis … is the victory of the witches: the resolution … is the judgement passed on Macbeth””
Martin Cheung (8A) Questioning Biblical Typology in Macbeth”the Captain “cannot tell” Macbeth and Banquo “meant to bathe in reeking wounds / Or memorize another Golgotha” … to align them with the Old Testament paradigm … to affiliate them with the New Testament prefiguration that would end in the second coming.”
Martin Cheung (8B) Questioning Biblical Typology in Macbeth”When Duncan’s murder is discovered … Macduff says:Most sacrilegious murder hath broke openThe Lord’s anointed temple and stole thenceThe life o’ th’ building!”
Martin Cheung (9A) William Shakespeare’s Macbeth”Though there is no explicit Devil in the play, there is something diabolical in “Macbeth.” The Weird Sisters symbolize evil for Shakespeare. They are the “instrument of darkness” as they stand for the murky region of man’s soul.”
Martin Cheung (9B) William Shakespeare’s Macbeth”Lady Macbeth’s sleep-walking was a sign of diabolical possession in the eyes of an Elizabethan audience … a doctor is no help; Lady Macbeth needs divine aid. … unnatural apparitions: the daggers floating in the air, the spirit of Banquo, and the various nightmares”
Martin Cheung (9C) William Shakespeare’s Macbeth”in Elizabethan times … man fitted in a Great Chain of Being … Man, having both a spirit and a body, would form a special link in this order of things. The macrocosm was reflecting the microcosm and parallels could be established between both”

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