Shakespeare was born on April23 1564, in Stratford-on-Avon , a prosperous agricultural town in the very heart of England. He was educated at the grammar school of the village along with a younger brother Gilbert.The first printed edition of Macbeth was that which appeared in the first folio of 1623, hence it had never had the advantage of the author’s final revision and it must have circulated among the players in manuscript copies. The unusual shortness of the play and the suspicion of interpolation suggest that the existing play is a stage-version, not the original play.The faulty text and the unusual brevity of the play -(it is the shortest of all the tragedies)- has led many critics to conclude that the original version must have been tempered with by other hands. The resemblance of the witch scene in Macbeth with Middleton’s Witch confirms the view that Middleton had a hand in re-casting particular scenes, probably to suit the taste of the audience.The general atmosphere of the play has been often commented on. It is one of darkness, and thick darkness at that. “It is remarkable,” says Bradley “that almost all the scenes which at once recur to memory take place either at night or in some dark spot. The vision of the dagger, the murder of Duncan, the murder of Banquo , the sleep-walking scene of Lady Macbeth, all came in night-scenes. The witches dance in the thick air of a storm, or the ‘black and mid-night hag’s receiving Macbeth in a cavern. The blackness of the night is to the hero a thing of fear, and even of horror, and that which he feels becomes the sprit of the play.Macbeth is not the greatest of Shakespeare’s tragedies. It is neither so pitiful as Othello nor so awe-inspiring as King Lear: but it is by its comparative simplicity one of the most impressive and instructive.Macbeth, like most tragic heroes of Shakespeare, is a dynamic character. He grows and develops; and our first impression of him is not the last. When we meet him first he appears to be a man not destitute of the feeling of humanity. The frequent references to his splendid qualities of head and heart in the sergeant’s speech, and Duncan’s generous endorsement of them, create in our minds a ‘climate of opinion’ favourable to him. The play begins on a note quit different from the one which it ends.But before long we are made to see another side of the character: Thou wouldst he great, Art not without ambition, but without The illness should attend it: what thou wouldst highly, That wouldst thou holilyAnd it is in these significant words of Lady Macbeth that we find a clue not only to the hero’s character, but the principle which governs, from first to last, Shakespeare’s tragic vision in the play. There is an inner-conflict in the soul of Macbeth, and it is this inner-conflict that gives to Shakespeare’s tragic heroes their unique character.In many respect Macbeth has reminded scholars of the great classical tragedies, chiefly of Aeschylus and of Sophocles. It is classical in its simplicity of plot. If we proceed from impression to details, we will find that no other play of Shakespeare is so haunted by a sense of fatality as Macbeth, though the characters are never reduced to anathema, moving helplessly to their doom. we are made to feel, as in classical tragedies, that the work of that the work of retribution has commenced on the heels of the crime, and it is wrought with the help of agents who in themselves are nothing. Secondly, Shakespeare in this drama has magnified Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and flattened all the subsidiary characters, none of whom, except Banquo in some measure, may be said to have the lineaments of an independent personality. Thirdly, the play is full of that irony in which the Greek tragedians and Sophocles in particular delighted. Fourthly, in Macbeth, as in Greek tragedies, the principle acts of bloodshed are all performed away from the spectator’s sight. “There is nothing here like the blood-boltered culmination of hamlet”. Fifthly, Lady Macbeth has reminded more than one student of the drama of Aeschylus’s Clytemnestra. And yet in spite of its apparently classical appearance Macbeth remains as true to Shakespeare’s tragic vision as any of his other plays. The human interest is never overshadowed by the supernatural, which is characteristics feature of the Greek tragedy.The concept of tragedy is Senecan. Aristotle said that the out-throw of a bad man would not be tragedy at all. But the over throw of a tyrant so as to make kings afraid to be one was a legitimate Senecan convention which Shakespeare followed. Only he is too human-hearted to regard any human being as a mere villain. And so we have in Macbeth ”the story of a noble and valiant man who is brought to his damnation presented in such a way as to arouse our pity and terror”. Besides, the staggering contrast between the noble hero and his horrible deed is, as Stoll points out, an essential feature of Shakespeare’s tragedies.
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