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A Message of Hope or Despair? Dr. Ed Friedlander KCUMB

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1 A Message of Hope or Despair? Dr. Ed Friedlander KCUMB
Macbeth A Message of Hope or Despair? Dr. Ed Friedlander KCUMB

2 Warning: MACBETH is supposed to upset people. It shows life at its most brutal and cynical, in order to ask life's toughest question. This page deals with all this without apology. I have a high regard for truth and I talk plain. If you want something nice, please leave now.

3 This Is NOT "Family Entertainment."
When we first hear of Macbeth, he has just cut an enemy open ("unseamed") from belly button ("nave") to throat ("chops"). The king shouts "Oh valiant cousin! Worthy gentleman!"

4 At their party, a witch shows her friends the chopped-off thumb of a ship's pilot wrecked on his way home. She’s angry with a lady who was munching chestnuts and wouldn't share them. Her plan? Revenge by causing a nine-day storm to make her sailor husband miserable.

5 Still not family entertainment …
Lady Macbeth, soliloquizing, prays to devils to possess her and give her a man's ability to do evil. Lady Macbeth berates her husband and ridicules his masculinity in order to make him commit murder.

6 Evil? Predestination? You may be asked, "What is the nature of evil in "Macbeth"? Again, you'll need to decide for yourself.

7 Evil? Predestination? Some people will decide that the Macbeths are victims of supernatural forces beyond anybody's control.

8 Evil? Predestination? Other people will decide that the talk about
predestination simply reflects the folk-tale, or that the Macbeths' era and/or their outlook on life guarantee that something really bad will happen to them.

9 Evil? Predestination? continued
Perhaps despite the supernatural trappings of witches and talk about DEVILS,

10 BAD HUMAN habits and behaviors.
are nothing more or less than BAD HUMAN habits and behaviors.

11 Is Macbeth bad luck? Producing Macbeth is supposed to be unlucky. Fires, falls, and weapon injuries have plagued past productions. Superstition requires those involved in productions not to say the play's title, but rather "The Scottish Play".

12 A Rooted Sorrow Your instructor may talk about Macbeth beginning as a good and fine man, possessing the tragic flaw of ambition, upsetting the divinely-ordained natural order, and so forth.

13 A Rooted Sorrow -- continued
On the other hand, Macbeth seems -- from the play's bloody beginning -- to be one of many thugs in a society in which power is gained and maintained by killing other thugs, and where loyalty is at best provisional.

14 Are You a Man? As you go through the play, look for the repeated theme of "WHAT IS A REAL MAN?" Like nowadays, there is no consensus.

15 Are You a Man? -- continued
Lady Macbeth wants to lose her femininity so she can be cold-blooded and commit murder like a man does.

16 Are You a Man? -- continued
Macbeth, having second thoughts, tells his wife that it's UNMANLY to murder your benefactor while he is asleep.

17 Are You a Man? -- continued
Lady Macbeth gets abusive and tells him this will make him more of a man.

18 Are You a Man? -- continued
Macbeth flatters his wife, saying she has such "undaunted mettle" that she won't have any baby girls, only baby boys. And there’s more . . .

19 A Rooted Sorrow -- continued
Lady Macbeth doesn't seem to think that there's anything really unusual about the idea of murdering a guest, and she assumes it's occurred to her husband as well.

20 A Rooted Sorrow -- continued
Does Shakespeare believe that there is a deep morality underpinning human society, or does he not believe this? Or, does he let you decide?

21 A Rooted Sorrow -- continued
Shakespeare's insight goes far deeper. So far as I know, this is the first work in English that focuses on the isolation and meaninglessness that result from selfishness and cruelty.

22 What Does It All Mean? “Fair is foul and foul is fair.” In Macbeth, things are seldom what they seem, and we often don't know what's really happening.

23 What Does It All Mean? -- continued
The play is full of ambiguity and double meanings, starting with the prophecies. The day is extremely foul (weather) and extremely fair (MacDonwald’s been disemboweled.)

24 What Does It All Mean? – still wondering
Is the dagger a hallucination, or a supernatural phantom?

25 What Does It All Mean? – politics and purpose
Shakespeare chose his subject matter and some plot details to please James I. But as always, his deeper purpose seems to be to show us our own lives and make us think.

26 What Does It All Mean? The key question that Shakespeare seems to ask is this. Is human society fundamentally AMORAL, DOG-EAT-DOG? If so, then Macbeth is right, and human life itself is meaningless and tiresome.

27 What Does It All Mean?-- continued
Or do the hints of a better life such as King Edward's ministry, Malcolm's clean living, and the doctor's prescription for pastoral care, display Shakespeare's Christianity and/or humanism?

28 What Does It All Mean? -- continued
It's a dark play. The light of goodness seems still fairly dim. But evil always appeals more to the imagination, while in real life, good is much more fun.

29 What Does It All Mean? -- continued
Is the message of Macbeth one of despair, or of hope?

30 What Does It All Mean? I don't know. You decide.

31 Credit Where Credit Is Due
Dr. Ed Friedlander (KCUMB) wrote the content of this PowerPoint presentation and assembled the visuals. Your teacher edited Dr. Friedlander’s material and had a bit of fun with the font colors and sizes. P.S. This is what happens when real-life doctors and lawyers get to share their enthusiasm for literature.

32 Just google pathguy macbeth to read more . . . And now, for the bona fide MLA-format credit (drum roll, please )

33 Source Friedlander, Ed. “Enjoying "Macbeth" by William Shakespeare.” 25 Dec The Pathology Guy. 28 Oct <>.

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