Chapter

A Harmless Suggestion

Robert Rowland Smith

in Death-Drive

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780748640393
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671601 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748640393.003.0007
A Harmless Suggestion

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This chapter looks at the place of rhetoric and belief in the composition of death. Enter Macbeth, that character for whom the ‘suggestion’ by the witches of accession to the throne is powerful enough to ‘shake’ his ‘single state of man’ and bring forward his own end. The notion of suggestion is applied to ideology, which works very much like suggestion, by ‘suggesting’ ideas and actions to vulnerable subjects who may be induced to give up their lives to serve a dominant set of values. Death inhabits the heart of suggestion, as an ever-present possibility, or, in slightly more political terms, ideology carries with it the threat of death, offered as the chance for self-sacrifice. In both cases, death is the telos of seduction; there is a death-drive of rhetoric, of the art of persuasion, of the formation of words, of the fabrication of images and, in the case of Macbeth, of the conjuring of fantasies — fair and foul, crown and dagger — that hang in the air.

Keywords: death; rhetoric; belief; Macbeth; suggestion; death-drive

Chapter.  14832 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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