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Seminar no.

William Shakespeare: Sonnet 66
In Sonnet 66, the poet laments the corruption and dishonesty of the world, from which he desires to be released.
This is a sonnet which strikes a chord in almost any age, for it tells the same old story, that bribery and influence reign
supreme, and that no inherent merit is ever a guarantee of success. For that depends on social structures and conditions
already set in place long ago. As often as not they aid and promote the unworthy, the malicious, the wealthy, the
incompetent and those who are just good at manipulation of the system. A parallel passage is found in Hamlet, in the
famous To be or not to be soliloquy, but Hamlets world-weariness springs from rather different causes.
Sonnet 66 conveys negative feelings, in the form of moral. Consisting of one long sentence whose parallel
clauses are all general and often figurative, this sonnet presents a catalogue of reigning evils which makes it a powerful
and perennial text for the times. From the standpoint of the speaker the poem might be called a death wish with reasons
The opening words signify more than emotional exhaustion and frustration. Tired with all these tells us that the
poet is fed up, disgusted with all of the evils which follow, and thus longs for death to bring rest and oblivion. After a
sharp contrast between the gifts of Nature and those of Fortune, a moral or intellectual antithesis is implied in every line
of the list. It is a desperate list of grievances of the state of the poets society. The speaker criticizes three things: general
unfairness of life, societal immorality, and oppressive government. Lines 2 and 3 illustrate the economic unfairness
caused by ones station or nobility. Lines 4-7 portray disgraced trust and loyalty, unfairly given authority, as by an
unworthy king "Gilded honour shamefully misplaced", and female innocence corrupted "Maiden virtue rudely
strumpeted". Lines 8, 10, and 12, as in lines 2 and 3, characterize reversals of what one deserves, and what one actually
receives in life. In the last line, the speaker declares that the only thing keeping him alive is his lover. This stresses the
fact that his lover is helping him survive.
Sonetul 66
Romanian Version

Tired with all these, for restful death I cry: (a)

As to behold desert a beggar born, (b)
And needy nothing trimmed in jollity, (a)
And purest faith unhappily forsworn, (b)
And gilded honour shamefully misplaced, (c)
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted, (d)
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced, (c)
And strength by limping sway disabled, (d)
And art made tongue-tied by authority, (e)
And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill, (f)
And simple truth miscalled simplicity, (e)
And captive good attending captain ill. (f)
Tired with all these, from these would I be gone, (g)
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone. (g)


Tired with all these, for restful death I


As to behold desert a beggar born,


And needy nothing trimmed in jollity,


Stul de toate, chem odihna morii:

Azi Meritu-i milog de cum se nate,
i-n pomp-l scald pe Netrebnic sorii,
i dalbul Crez trdarea crud-1 pate,
i Cinstea-i pus-n locuri de ocar,
i-n lat desfrul Vergura o strnge,
i-amar surghiun Virtutea o-mpresoar,
i-Avntul nou Puterea chioap-l frnge,
i glasul Artei Legile-1 sugrum,
i-i dascl Minii doctorul Prostie,
i numele-Adevrului e Glum,
i Ru-i sus, iar Binele-n robie;
Stul de toate, mi-a dori pieirea,
Doar c, de mor, pustie-mi las iubirea.

1.Tired with all these = exhausted, wearied,

disgusted with all these - then follows the list of social
evils with which he is tired.
2. As = as, for example, all these following.
desert = a deserving person, a worthwhile person. In each
succeeding line either praiseworthy or degenerate
qualities are personified. Thus

all refer to the

purest faith



perfection etc.


And purest faith unhappily forsworn,


And gilded honour shamefully misplaced,


And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,





3. needy nothing = a nonentity who is needy

because he is lacking in all good qualities. At first glance
it appears that the phrase suggests the opposite of that
intended, for being in a list of socially desirable types
whom society has oppressed, one automatically accepts it
as being of the correct type to fit the general flow of the
poem i.e. one of the better and praiseworthy examples.
Further consideration shows that this is not so, and needy
nothing turns out to be one of the indecent who has
managed to get himself dressed in the latest fashion, no
doubt at the expense of desert in the line above.
trimmed in jollity = (undeservingly) dressed in frivolous
and expensive clothes and ornaments.
4. purest faith = one who exhibits trust and
trustworthiness; one who is pure in heart.
unhappily = through evil fortune, unluckily; wretchedly.
forsworn = tricked by false promises, betrayed.
5. As in line 3, gilded honour is not an example
of virtue ill-treated, but of unworthiness well rewarded.
Gilded honour stands for the ceremony and outfit of
office and authority, the gold regalia (the distinctive
clothing worn and ornaments carried at formal occasions
as an indication of status) of office, but here it is
misplaced, because it has been awarded to those who are
not fit to receive it.
6. maiden virtue = pure virtue; an innocent
rudely strumpeted = forced to become a whore,
proclaimed a whore. Figuratively, virtue is forced into
evil ways. The resemblance of the word strumpet to
trumpet hints at the possibility of public shaming of the

7. right perfection = genuine/authentic, honest

wrongfully perfection.
wrongfully = sinfully, unjustly.


And strength by limping sway disabled,


And art made tongue-tied by authority,

8. strength = the strength of knowing the right

course of action.
limping sway = influence, which is typified by a
crippled/disabled/lame, a person dragging ones feet who
is working behind the scenes. The irony is that strength,
which is healthy and hearty, is disabled by influence and
corruption, which is limping and crippled, but
nevertheless manages to make strength like himself.
Youth in any age can feel itself repressed by precedent,
tradition, and the influence and authority of those already
in power. In Elizabethan England, being of the right
family and having contacts with those who could pull
strings was vital for success, and many talented youths
must have discovered that their prospects were severely
spoiled by the conventions of the times and the limited
prospects for advancement.
9. art = skill, knowledge. A person who
possesses these.
authority = a person in authority; this could refer
to censorship, which did operate in Elizabethan times,
though rather unpredictably.


And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill,


And simple truth miscalled simplicity,


be gone,

And captive good attending captain ill.

Tired with all these, from these would I

Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.

10. folly = stupidity, ignorance.

doctor-like - as an academic doctor; pretending to be
learned. Skill is used by Shakespeare of the physicians
art also, so the reference could here be to a doctor of
controlling = restraining, exercising authority over,
skill - used in a general sense to signify those
who have knowledge, those who are skilled in a branch
of science. But perhaps the reference is more to an
academic situation, in which a person showing off
academic dress controls those who are more
knowledgeable than him, but who do not have such a
high academic standing. In the traditional personification
of Folly, such as that depicted in Erasmuss In Praise of
Folly, he was given learned pomposity and academic
garb to suit it.
11. simple truth = plain truth, unadorned truth.
miscalled = wrongfully named.
simplicity = stupidity, idiocy.
12. captive = having been captured; enslaved,
having no freedom;
attending = serving in a domestic capacity;
taking instruction from.
captain ill = evil (an evil person) in a position of
authority. The title referred to a military rank, but was
often used in a more general sense to mean a military
person in high authority
13. Wearied with all this graft and corruption, I
wish to escape from it all.
Save that = except that.
to die = by dying; if I die.
I leave my love alone = I abandon my
love and leave him defenceless; the only thing that I
regret leaving is my love.

Macbeth Synopsis
Three witches agree to meet again on a heath in order to accost Macbeth after the days battle. 1.2 King Duncan,
fighting against the rebel Macdonald, receives a report from a bleeding captain about Macbeths valiant deeds in the
battle: Macbeth has killed Macdonald, and he and his comrade Banquo have met the fresh assaults of Macdonalds
Norwegian allies. Ross brings the news that Macbeth has defeated the King of Norway and his associate, the traitorous
Thane of Cawdor: Duncan condemns Cawdor to death and confers his title on Macbeth. 1.3 The three witches hail
Macbeth by his current title, Thane of Glamis, and then as Thane of Cawdor and as future king: before vanishing they tell
Banquo that though he will not be king his descendants will. Ross and Angus bring the news that Macbeth is now Thane
of Cawdor: reflecting on the witches prophecy, now partly fulfilled, Macbeth is already imagining the murder of Duncan.
1.4 Duncan, after hearing a report from his son Malcolm of the death of the former Cawdor, welcomes Macbeth and
Banquo, before declaring Malcolm the Prince of Cumberland and his heir. Duncan means to be Macbeths guest at
Inverness, towards which Macbeth sets off to inform his wife, conscious that he must now remove both Malcolm and
Duncan if the witches prophecy is to be fulfilled. 1.5 Lady Macbeth reads a letter from Macbeth describing his meeting
with the witches, and, aware of the conscience which may hold back his ambition, she is ready to urge him on to the
murder of Duncan. A servant brings the news of Duncans impending arrival: Lady Macbeth calls on the forces of
darkness to make her cruel and unwomanly enough to be an instigator of Duncans murder. When Macbeth arrives she
urges him to dissemble with Duncan and promises to do her part. 1.6 Duncan and his nobles, including his sons Malcolm
and Donalbain along with Macduff, the Thane of Fife, are welcomed to Inverness by Lady Macbeth. 1.7 Briefly alone
while Duncan dines, Macbeth reflects in horror on the crime he is on the verge of committing, for no motive but ambition,
and when Lady Macbeth comes to find him he renounces their plot to kill the King. By taunting him for unmanliness and
inconstancy, however, she persuades him to resume his original purpose, saying she will get Duncans chamberlains
drunk so that the Macbeths can make it appear that they are the culprits.

2.1 After midnight, Banquo and his son Fleance are met by Macbeth: Banquo opens the subject of the witches, but
Macbeth says they will discuss them on another occasion. After the departure of Banquo and Fleance, Macbeth, awaiting
the bell which will be Lady Macbeths signal that it is time to kill Duncan, sees a vision of a dagger, at first clean but then
bloodstained, beckoning him towards Duncans chamber. The bell rings and he goes to commit the murder. 2.2 Lady
Macbeth, having drugged Duncans grooms and left their daggers ready for her husband to use, awaits Macbeth. When he
arrives he is terrified by what he has done and fearful of discovery, convinced he has heard a voice cursing him with
eternal insomnia: he is still clutching the bloodstained daggers, which Lady Macbeth has to take back to Duncans
chamber. Macbeth feels he will never be able to get his hands clean of the blood. He is frightened by the sound of
knocking at a door: Lady Macbeth leads him away to wash his hands and change into a nightgown. 2.3 A drunken porter,
also disturbed by knocking, indulges a fancy that he is the porter at the gates of Hell before finally admitting Macduff and
Lennox, to whom he discourses about the effects of drink.
Macbeth arrives and conducts Macduff, calling by appointment to awaken the King, to Duncans door: Lennox describes
the ominous storms of the past night. A horrified Macduff brings the news of Duncans murder and awakens the
household while Macbeth and Lennox go to the chamber: Lady Macbeth, Banquo, Macbeth, Lennox, Malcolm, and
Donalbain assemble and learn both of Duncans death and of Macbeths sudden killing of the two apparently guilty
chamberlains on reaching the fatal chamber with Lennox. While Macbeth is explaining that righteous anger overcame his
judgement, Lady Macbeth faints. Banquo urges the others to dress and arm themselves: left alone, Malcolm and
Donalbain, convinced that they too are intended victims, resolve to flee. 2.4 Ross is discussing further omens with an old
man when Macduff arrives: he reports that it is thought the two chamberlains had been paid to kill Duncan by the fugitive
Malcolm and Donalbain, and that Macbeth, chosen as Duncans successor, has gone to Scone to be crowned. Although
Ross means to attend the coronation, Macduff is on his way home to Fife.
3.1 Banquo recognizes that the witches prophecies to Macbeth have been fulfilled, and suspects him of Duncans
murder; he wonders if their remarks about his own descendants will also come true. Macbeth, arriving with Lady
Macbeth, Lennox, Ross, and other nobles, invites Banquo to a feast that evening and asks in detail about where he and
Fleance mean to ride that afternoon. Dismissing his court, the insecure Macbeth summons two murderers, reflecting bitterly on the pointlessness of his crime if Banquos descendants are destined to inherit the throne. He instructs the
murderers to kill Banquo and Fleance. 3.2 Lady Macbeth also feels that their achievement of an anxious throne is
worthless. When Macbeth arrives, envying the dead Duncans freedom from fear, she urges him to feign cheerfulness at
the feast. He hints darkly at the impending murder of Banquo and Fleance but does not confide that he has already
commissioned it. 3.3 The two murderers, joined by a third, kill Banquo, but Fleance escapes. 3.4 Macbeth is called away
from the feast by the two murderers, who report their partial success. Rejoining the party, he alone sees Banquos ghost
sitting in his place, and speaks in guilty horror. Taking him aside, Lady Macbeth rebukes him for his visible distraction,
and after the ghost leaves he is able to compose himself and apologize to his guests for what he claims is merely an
indisposition. The ghost returns, however, and Macbeth speaks to it in such terror that Lady Macbeth has to dismiss the
company. Left alone with his wife, Macbeth comments on Macduff s absence from the feast, and resolves to consult the
witches again. 3.5 The three witches are rebuked by Hecate for their dealings with Macbeth: Hecate is summoned away
by spirits, with whom she sings. 3.6 Lennox, recognizing that Macbeth is responsible for the murders of Duncan and
Banquo, talks with a Lord, who reports that Macduff has gone to the English court to join Malcolm and to urge the
English king to provide military aid against Macbeth.
4. 1The witches, subsequently joined by Hecate, prepare a dreadful potion. Macbeth arrives and insists that they call
forth their spirits to provide him with further insights into the future. An armed head warns him to beware of Macduff; a
bloody child tells him he cannot be harmed by any man born of woman; and a crowned child holding a tree tells him he
will never be defeated until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane. Encouraged, Macbeth insists that the witches tell him
whether Banquos descendants will indeed rule Scotland: to his horror he is shown a procession of eight kings, the last
holding a mirror, with Banquos ghost smiling and indicating that they are his descendants. After the witches vanish, Lennox brings the news that Macduff has fled to England. Alone, Macbeth resolves to have MacdufPs family killed at once.
4.2 Lady Macduff laments her husbands absence to Ross, and speaks of it with her young son after Ross leaves. A
messenger warns that they are in immediate danger, and flees: shortly afterwards murderers arrive, stab the boy to death,
and pursue the screaming Lady Macduff. 4.3 In England Malcolm speaks warily with Macduff, professing a suspicion
that he may have been sent by Macbeth, especially since he has left his family in Macbeths power. Malcolm goes on to
tell Macduff that he is unfit to be king in Macbeths place, claiming to be lascivious, greedy, and generally vicious: when
Macduff, despairing for Scotland, finally repudiates him, Malcolm says he is now convinced of Macduff s sincerity and is
in fact innocent of all crimes, having maligned himself only as a test. He has indeed already secured English aid. A doctor
tells of the English Kings miraculous ability to cure scrofula. Ross brings the news that Macduff s wife, children, and
servants have all been killed: overcome by grief and self-reproach, Macduff vows revenge on Macbeth.
5.1 A gentlewoman has brought a doctor to witness Lady Macbeths habitual sleepwalking: Lady Macbeth duly arrives,
obsessively washing her hands, and speaking guiltily of Duncans murder and the deaths of Lady Macduff and Banquo.
5.2 Scottish nobles, including Lennox, go to Birnam to rendezvous with Malcolms English army. 5.3 At Dunsinane
Macbeth, convinced of his invulnerability, learns of the English armys approach: he reflects that he may as well die,
however, having forfeited the respect and friendship that make life worth living. He asks the doctor about Lady Macbeths health, but despairs of a cure for her sorrows. Angry and coarse with his staff, he dons his armour. 5.4 Malcolm
instructs his army to carry boughs cut in Birnam Wood as camouflage. 5.5 Macbeth, with his servant Seyton and soldiers,
learns that Lady Macbeth is dead: he feels life is futile. A messenger brings the news that Birnam Wood is apparently
coming to Dunsinane: Macbeth feels that he is doomed, but resolves to fight defiantly. 5.6 Malcolm places the English

nobleman Siward and his son in the vanguard of their army. 5.7 In the battle Macbeth, convinced he can only be killed by
a man not born of woman, kills Young Siward. 5.8 Macduff seeks Macbeth. 5.9 Siward tells Malcolm Macbeths castle
has surrendered. 5.10 Macduff confronts Macbeth: they fight, but Macbeth tells Macduff of his presumed invulnerability.
Macduff, however, tells Macbeth he was born by Caesarean section. Despairing, and cursing the witches equivocation,
Macbeth still refuses to surrender, and the two resume their combat. Macbeth is killed. 5.11 Malcolm and his nobles,
knowing they have won the battle, await news of the missing. Siward stoically accepts the reported death of his son.
Macduff brings Macbeths head, and Malcolm is hailed as King of Scotland: he makes his nobles earls.
Macbeth is a study of the human potential for evil; it illustratesthough not in a religious context the JudeoChristian concept of the Fall, humanitys loss of Gods grace. We see the triumph of evil in a man with many good
qualities. We are made aware that the potential for evil is frighteningly present in all of us and needs only the wrong circumstances and a relaxation of our desire for good. The good in Macbeth cries out poignantly through his feverish
imagination, but his worldly ambition, the influence of Lady Macbeth (though she too has an inarticulate angel struggling
against her own evil), and the instigation of a supernatural power all combine to crush his better nature. By the end of the
play Macbeth has collapsed beneath the weight of his evil, and the desperate tyrant has so isolated himself from society
and from his own moral sensibilitythat for him life seems "a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying
nothing" (5.5.26-28).
Macbeths despair strikes a responsive chord in modern audiences and readers partly because it resembles an
existentialist response to the uncertainties of modern life. Though Shakespeare was not a philosopher, and in the 17th
century existentialism had not been formulated, he nevertheless understood the potential for social and emotional collapse
in the absence of morality. Macbeth and his lady chill us with their monstrous perversion of principles so obviously
pertinent to people in all periods.
Shakespeares depiction of evil in Macbeth has two aspects, natural and supernatural. The former is the portrait of
the man, Macbeth; the latter is the representation of the supernatural world. Evil exists outside the protagonist in the
world of black magic, represented most strikingly by the Witches. The appearance of these embodiments of the devil in
1.1 establishes the plays tone of mysterious evil. The Witches cause Macbeth to respond in ways that are "Against the
use of nature" (1.3.137), and his mind "is smotherd in surmise, / And nothing is, but what is not" (1.3.141-142). When
Macbeth finally recognizes that their predictions were not what they seemed, he denounces "thequivocation of the fiend,
/ That lies like truth" (5.5.43-44). He
thus touches on their most important quality: The Witches deform the lives they interfere with because they
disturb a necessary element of human society: its dependence on mutual trust.
other emblems of the supernatural in Macbeth are the omens associated with the murder of Duncan. As he
approaches the deed, Macbeth remarks on the ominous night: "Nature seems dead, . . . Witchcraft celebrates . . ." (2.1.5051). Moments later, Lady Macbeth hears an owls hoot and the sound of crickets, both traditional omens of death.
Lenoxs account of the nights terrifying storm is full of ancient superstition told in explicit detail, with "strange screams
of death" (2.3.55), earthquakes, and dire prophesies by owls. In 2.4 the old Man and Rosse intensify the motif when they
discuss the days strange darkness, the killing of a hawk by an owl, and the deadly combat among Duncans horses. These
are gross disruptions of nature that signify the presence of active evil.
The supernatural world is the most extreme example of power that is beyond human control, and it is therefore an
apt symbol for the unpredictable forces of human motivation. This larger aspect of evil influences our impression of its
more particular manifestation in the man Macbeth. Thus, the pervasive magic in the world of Macbeth supports our
awareness that the behavior of the protagonist is, in human terms, unnatural. The portrayal of the evildoer, while
convincing, is not psychological in intent; instead, it emphasizes the mystery of human behavior. The play presents
possibilities and influencesMacbeths political ambition, Lady Macbeths urging, the Witches bald temptation but
we still wonder why Macbeth does what he does. Macbeth is revolted by himself, and his self-awareness makes his
descent even more appalling; it also maintains our consciousness of the power of evil. He succumbs to temptation in an
almost ritualistic way. He acknowledges each evil and then proceeds, prepared to accept "deep damnation" (1.7.20) from
the time he first recognizes temptation until he is left with no alternative but death.
Macbeths relation to evil is symbolic. Lady Macbeth, too, though she rejects her husbands scruples, is entirely
aware that the proposed murder is evil. She avoids mentioning it too explicitly, and she cannot bring herself to do the
deed herself. Finally, her anguished madnesspresented in 5.1 and confirmed by her suicidedemonstrates her inability
to absorb what she has helped to unleash. Thus, she too presents the weakness of humanity in the face of evil. We
recognize that they are susceptible to the mental ravages of guilt, and this keeps us from seeing either Macbeth or Lady
Macbeth as simply a monstrous sociopath. In fact, much of the plays tension is created because neither of them can
simply accept their evil callously. Thus, Macbeth is as much a victim of evil as its instrument, and he is doubly symbolic
as a negator of the good in humanity.
Macbeth clearly sees that his evil is a perversion of human values, and the fact that he persists in the face of this
awareness demonstrates a profound moral disorder. Indeed, disorder permeates his world. Disrupted sleepcommonly
considered a symptom of guilt in Shakespeares day and in our ownplagues both Macbeth and his wife. He hears a
voice predict, "Macbeth shall sleep no more!" (2.2.42) as he commits the murder, and later he speaks of "these terrible
dreams that shake us nightly" (3.2.18-19). Lady Macbeth demonstrates the disorder physically in the sleepwalking scene
(5.1). Macbeth even envies the murdered Duncan, for "After lifes fitful fever he sleeps well" (3.2.23).

Emotional disorder is particularly strongly presented in a repeated emphasis on sexual dysfunction. Lady
Macbeth makes sex a weapon in her efforts to spur Macbeths ambition. She casts aspersions on his sexuality when she
equates it with his fear. "Such I account thy love" (1.7.39), she says, and adds, "When you durst do it, then you were a
man" (1.7.49). In 3.4 she uses the same technique when she urges him to conquer his fear of Banquos Ghost. She calls
the bloody-handed Macbeth "My husband!" (2.2.13) when he has just killed the king. Thisthe only time she calls him
"husband"sug-gests that she finds him sexually impressive in his gore. She also distorts her own gender in a startling
fashion when she prays, "Spirits . . . unsex me here" (1.5.40-41), and she perversely elevates and then denies her maternal
instincts in a vivid description of infanticide in 1.7.54-59. In 2.3.28-35 the Porter delivers a short description of sexual
dysfunction from drink just at the moment when Duncans murder, accomplished but not yet discovered, hangs over the
plays world, emphasizing the motif. Mac-beths later withdrawal from his wifehe excludes her from his plans for
Banquo and she takes no part in his story thereaftersuggests that their marriage has been destroyed, not strengthened,
by their immersion in evil.
This motif, combined with the obvious pleasure that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth take in each other upon their
first meeting in the play (1.5.54 ff.), has led most modern actors and directors to present their relationship as highly
charged sexually, sometimes including sadomasochistic bouts of slapping and grappling. However, the text could also
support the suggestion of an icy incapacity to express themselves sexually. In either light, sex is an issue between
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, and the normal marital relationship is pathologically distortedone way or anotherby the
force of the evil to which they commit themselves.
The theme of unnatural disorder is reinforced throughout the play. When Macbeth first considers murdering the
king, he acknowledges the evil of the deed with a vivid image of the disorder of the elements, "Stars, hide your fires!"
(1.4.50). His doubts are stimulated by his subconscious recognition that there is no possible way to integrate his desires
with the proper order of things. once Macbeth is fully committed to his evil course, this lack of integration is manifested
in 3.4. He is horribly isolated at the banquet when only he sees Banquos Ghost. His response, the decision to return to the
Witches, illustrates nicely the widening difference between himself and other men.
The contrast is stressed in the comparison of Macbeth and Macduff, which becomes an important theme at this
point in the play. In 3.6 Lenox and another Lord discuss Macduffs opposition to Macbeth in terms of holiness versus
evil. Perhaps most forceful are the parallel impressions of Macduff and Macbeth in grief. Macduffs response to news of
the massacre of his family is a powerful demonstration of true humanityhe must "feel it as a man" (4.3.221). Macbeths
reaction to Lady Macbeths death"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, / Creeps in this petty pace ..." (5.5.1920)is the wretched cry of a man so used to evil that he has lost his emotional reflexes. Macbeths advanced disorder
also manifests itself more violently when he alternates between despair and rage in Act 5. He now lacks the capacity for
normal emotions.
The force that affects the man also affects the whole society in which he lives. The evil created by the Witches
inspires mistrust throughout the world of the play. Significantly, after the Witches "overture" in 1.1 the play opens with
the suppression of a treasonous rebellion. Duncans "absolute trust" (1.4.14) in the Thane of Cawdor was misplaced, and
with broad irony, Shakespeare permits the king to award the defeated rebels title to another man he should not trust.
Though trust is still available to the characters, it is already misplaced. once Duncan has been killed, doubt and confusion
grow. This development is signaled by the Porters allusions to treachery and to the doctrine of "equivocation," a
justification for lying (see GARNET, HENRY). Duncans sons feel the world is faithless. They fear that they shall
themselves be murdered, and they suspect everyone, particularly one who would be most reliable in a morally sound
world, their own relative, Macbeth: ". . . the near in blood / The nearer bloody" (2.3.138-139).
Rosse describes vividly the overwhelming lack of trust that afflicts the land ruled by Macbeth: ". . . cruel are the
times, when we are traitors, / And do not know ourselves . . . [and] know not what we fear, / But float upon a wild and
violent sea" (4.2.18-21). The subsequent quasi-comical dialogue on treachery between Lady Macduff and her Son offers
another slant on the same phenomenon, as does the deliberately false nature assumed by Malcolm to test Macduff, in 4.3.
At the plays climax, Macbeth discovers that he has been the victim of the "equivocation of the fiend / That lies like truth"
(5.5.43-44), and thus reprises the Porters motif. only with Macbeths defeat and death can honesty return. Siward is
proud that his son died having "paid his score" (5.9.18). When he hails Malcolm as the new king, Macduff wants to
express what is in his mind; and Malcolm, in response, declares his wish to be "even with" his supporters (5.9.28). The
malaise generated by Macbeths evil is dissolved, and "the grace of Grace" (5.9.38) has returned to the world of the play.
As Malcolm begins to conduct the business of the state, we see that the motif of mistrust has been significant for
the plays secondary theme, a political one. Throughout his career, Shakespeare was concerned with the influence on
society of the moral quality of its leadersthis issue dominates the HISTORY PLAYS, for instanceand in Macbeth he
applies his ideas to a tale of ancient Scotland. Like many of the histories, Macbeth begins and ends with a battle (one
reported, one enacted), and the fate of the country is never ignored. The travails of Scotland while governed by the evil
usurper are clearly presented, especially in the conversation among Malcolm, Macduff, and Rosse in 4.3. The fate of
Scotland is a parallel development to Mac-beths descent into evil. This strengthens our awareness of his decline, but it
also stresses the important lesson that the immoral behavior of a societys leader is a dangerous disease, capable of
producing widespread catastrophe.
The political aspect of the play also had a contemporary significance for Shakespeares original audiences. The
alliance of English and Scottish forces against Macbeth predicts the joining of the two countries under King JAMES I in
1603, a recent event still prominent in the public eye, and Jamess rule is pointed to more directly in the apparition of
future rulers presented in 4.1. Moreover, the enormity of regicide, combined with the Porters allusions to the trial of

Henry Garnet, will have brought forcibly to mind the recently exposed Gunpowder Plot, giving the play a thrilling
relevance to the biggest political story in many years.
When he devised his drama of personal evil and public affairs, Shakespeare drew on the history of Scotland as
presented in his source, Raphael HOLIN-SHEDs Chronicles, but much of his version varies from Holinshed for he was
interested in drama, not history. These inaccuracies are of no consequence, for the plays bold art generates more power
than could a dispassionate presentation of real facts. Macbeth, which contains some of Shakespeares greatest poetry,
offers one of literatures most striking accounts of an individual souls descent into the darkness of evil, and its resulting
isolation from society. Macbeths rejection of morality, and its con-sequencesthe loss of his soul and the disruption of
the society that he influenceshorrifies us. This is a drama that is as terrifying as the plots and wars of real usurpers and