Ethics: <i>Macbeth</i>

Andy Mousley

in Re-Humanising Shakespeare

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780748623181
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652211 | DOI:
Ethics: Macbeth

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This chapter is concerned with how to live ethically, which is explored via two specific and closely connected sets of ideas. One is the tension evident in Macbeth between the impulse to transgress and the need for ethical boundaries. The second is the importance of the emotions in establishing an affectively oriented psychological dimension to the need for ethical limits. In Macbeth, ethics are rooted even more deeply in sensate and psychological life. Macbeth is a play largely about fear, which is at the centre of its ‘ecology’. In Macbeth, the theatrical polyphony that complicates morality and pits it against the allure of transgression has the effect of weakening ethical truth-claims. Macbeth demonstrates how the threat of the daemonic derives not from a pure, pre-social nature or instinct, clearly distinct from the culture it threatens, but from the return of repressed desire so inextricably bound up with culture.

Keywords: ethics; Macbeth; fear; theatrical polyphony; morality

Chapter.  7727 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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