Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 376. Tuesday, 22 June 1993.
Date: Monday, 21 Jun 93 15:29:00 BST
Subject: Another Re: Duncan
Comment: SHK 4.0375 Another Re: Duncan
I don't think that you'd need to be a new historicist or cultural
materialist to realise that poor Bill Godshalk has got a peculiar attack of
characteritis. Macduff's absence from his family is symptomatic of something
much larger in the play. If what Godshalk says is correct, then Macduff's
"feeling" the death of his wife and family is a sham, and there is little
evidence for that other than the kind of unbridled chewing on the insane
root that takes the reason prisoner.
The Malcolm question is more dificult to resolve. The question is WHY does
he test Macduff. Perhaps UNLIKE his father, whom we might regard from a
modern perspective as being politically naive (i.e. he isn't machiavellian
enough, but like Altofront in The Malcontent (1605) he is "too suspectless"),
Malcolm knows the problems of evil masquerading as good even though he has
done nothing evil himself. In a play where it is often difficult to tell the
difference between the two from surfaces, this is an important point, and
indicates that Malcolm is unlikely to become the prisoner of the ambition
which his father's straighforwardly feudal system produces.
As for guessing who might have bumped off Duncan had Macbeth not done so,
this seems to me to be equally fruitless. Banquo has almost as much motive
for doing so but doesn't, and he says why at the beginning of Act 2:
"Merciful powers, restrain in me those thoughts that nature gives way to in
repose". The interesting question is, surely, what "thoughts" he's referring
to. What IS it that Banquo is afraid of in his unconscious? Macbeth, I
suggest, is the epitome of that which in his waking hours Banquo (and
possibly Macduff too) represses.
Dept. of English Studies
University of Stirling