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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: March ::
Re: Killing Duncan
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0255.  Thursday, 30 March 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Scott Shepherd <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 29 Mar 1995 00:29:05 -0500
        Subj:   Killing Duncan
 
(2)     From:   Don Foster <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 29 Mar 1995 09:17:18 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: Killing Duncan
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Shepherd <
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Date:           Wednesday, 29 Mar 1995 00:29:05 -0500
Subject:        Killing Duncan
 
Who said anything about a morality play? Don Foster has pitted himself against
the "conscience" interpretation, which is fine, but he will have to admit I
never mentioned it.
 
I agree! Macbeth's cosmic predicament and his attitude about it comprise a
manifest paramount forefront concern of the play.
 
Now let's concentrate on the actual contention: in the richly metaphysical
speech that includes and follows the dagger hallucination, isn't it true that
Macbeth is working up his courage for the looming event, and isn't it true that
he does it by attributing responsibility to anything at hand, in fact the
universe itself? How does that fit into a theory that says the universe being
responsible is exactly what Macbeth is afraid of?
 
And what do we do with these observations: that he explicitly invokes the
cosmos to assist him ("stars hide your fires" "thou sure and firm-set earth
hear not my steps" et al); that he eventually abandons his human accomplice in
favor of supernatural alliance; and that he believes and hopes his life is
charmed until his last seconds onstage?
 
What Foster says (with a nod to Kenneth Burke) is true:
 
>...murder...is a crime that...dares the metaphysical order to assert itself
 
but this dare takes a different (less willful) shape in a man who thinks the
metaphysical order is on his side.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Foster <
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Date:           Wednesday, 29 Mar 1995 09:17:18 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Re: Killing Duncan
 
A quick p.s. to my last posting on *Macbeth* (which was a rejoinder to Scott
Shepherd):  I seem there to imply that Scott's reading of *Macbeth* represents
"reductive thinking" (Sorry, Scott!). Those who have read Scott's work know
that his work is richly nuanced.  It is not Scott's remarks, but a whole
tradition of oppositional thinking re: *Macbeth* that I find inadequate to
account for Macbeth's layered and conflicted subjectivity.  It has been
tempting to read the tragedy as a simple morality play in which Lady Macbeth
plays the evil angel and Macbeth's Christian conscience the good angel,
struggling for his soul.  Don Foster
 

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