Ambivalent Macbeth

Robert S. White

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Format: paperback
222 pages
ISBN: 9781743325483
Publication: 18 May 2018

Macbeth is often read in a singular fashion: either as a cautionary morality tale warning against ambition, or as a psychological study of evil. In Ambivalent Macbeth, renowned Shakespeare scholar R. S. White argues that these differing readings result from a profoundly ambivalent play, and that this quality is a clue to its greatness.

White explores how radical ambivalence permeates the atmosphere, imagery, themes and characterisation of ‘the Scottish play’. He considers Shakespeare’s historical context and source material, and examines key cinematic, theatrical and other adaptations of the play. Throughout, he argues that an open-minded acceptance of ambivalence can inspire a multitude of readings, and that this complexity helps to explain the play’s intriguing longevity.


R.S. White is Winthrop professor of English at the University of Western Australia. He has published many books and articles on Shakespeare, the most recent Shakespeare’s Cinema of Love (Manchester University Press).

Preface and acknowledgements

Prologue: sinners as heroes

1. Contexts of ambiguity: text, sources, history
2. ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair’: the radical ambivalence of Macbeth
3. ‘Nothing is but what is not’: emotional worlds of characters in Macbeth
4. ‘The seeds of time’ and the Macbeths
5. ‘Palter with us in a double sense’: leading ideas – temptation, equivocation, evil
6. ‘This is the very painting of your fear’: imagery and the emotional world of Macbeth
7. Macbeth on stage and screen

Bibliography
Index

'Themed chapters treat an impressive array of topics, including sources, scholarship, character and emotion, time, equivocation, evil, imagery, and dramatic history.'
Ellen Mackay   Studies in English Literature 1500-1900

'[A demonstration of] White’s hope for this work to provide ‘suggestions which other scholars might take up’ ... Ambivalent Macbeth helpfully foregrounds the many questions that Macbeth raises and certainly prompts further research.'
Michael Cop   Parergon

‘For White, Shakespeare poses open and problematic questions, and insists our answers must be indeterminate and inconclusive. [White] goes further to suggest that this is the essence of the quality of the play.’
Barry Gillard   The Australian

‘Having seen two Macbeths already this year ... I was glad to have this exploration of why it is so perennially reinterpretable. … It is informed, too, by his work for the Centre for the History of Emotions, resulting in a fine discussion of the characters’ emotional worlds. Other highlights are the account of the problematics of blending pro-Scot and pro-English sources and of the play’s insistence on the numbers two and three; the performance history; and a revisiting of the almost lost art of the study of Shakespeare’s imagery.’
Lisa Hopkins   Times Higher Education

Format: paperback
Size: 210 × 148 × 12 mm / 8.27 × 5.83 × 0.47 in
222 pages
Copyright: © 2018
ISBN: 9781743325483
Publication: 18 May 2018