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Macbeth: Easy Questions, Difficult Answers
DERICK MARSH

Macbeth is not an obscure play. The course of the action, unlike that of Hamlet, can easily be summarized. Most readers and audiences can come to some general agreement on what the play is about, provided that they can offer answers to the two major questions of understanding that the play poses. These answers, it need hardly be said, cannot be precise and absolute, since Shakespeare 's plays, like life, never allow us the delusion of perfect understanding. Nevertheless, we do need to decide what we are invited to think and feel about Macbeth and what he does. In particular, we have to consider why he acts as he does; why, in the first place, he kills Duncan, and then why, acting
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If we trace the course of his resolution from that first revealing start, through "Stars, hide your fires ..." and "If it were done ..." to the preparations for the murder and his last-minute qualms, there is little sense of his being dragged in a direction he doesn 't want to go, by what one of our current jargons would call a sexually potent, high-dominance female. The relation between them is more interesting than that. The deed they plan, the murder of a good, old, defenceless King, who is their kinsman and their guest, is so horrible that their natures abhor it, yet, in different ways, they stifle that abhorrence, thinking only of what they want, and not too directly
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of the way they will get it. Lady Macbeth 's reaction is the more obvious of the two: in her famous "unsex me here" speech she tries deliberately to suppress her own humanity, transposing the horror of the deed into images of a terrible resolution, so that she will be able to do something that she knows is vile. Of course she cannot wholly succeed. The sleeping King reminds her of her father; the blood that is spilt returns to haunt her and drive her to distraction. She, like Macbeth himself, is far too vulnerable to be seen as any kind of embodiment of pure evil. Macbeth 's state of mind is more complex, and perhaps therefore more likely to
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