Since Shakespeare’s time it has been recognized that Macbeth is a play about ambition accompanied by ambivalence, and about the intersection between human desires and other forces that might motivate historical events, whether providential or demonic. What relation does the play propose between dramatic action and the self? To what extent can we understand human beings as the agents of the narrative of history, if history is a narrative at all? In this seminar we will historicize these questions, reading Macbeth in tandem with contemporary documents about witchcraft and political succession, as well as a few scenes from Shakespeare’s romances and Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, in order to reconstruct some of the literary, political and philosophical debates in which Shakespeare was participating.
Seminar led by Amelia Zurcher, Marquette University