Macbeth and the Gospelling of Scotland

Paul A. Cantor, “Macbeth and the Gospelling of Scotland,” in Shakespeare as Political Thinker, eds. Alvis and West, 31551


Shakespeare develops the tragedy of Macbeth out of this tension between the heroic warrior’s ethic and the gospel truth. The story of Macbeth gave Shakespeare a chance to portray a world in which Christianity has changed the fabric of society, but in which some characters still think back nostalgically to the time before their nation was gospelled. Shakespeare seems to have been drawn to the situation of characters caught between two ways of life, an old and a new. In his tragedies, he often chose locales that allowed him to portray the clas of ethical alternatives; he liked to set the dramatic action at a point of intersection, a place where two antithetical ways of life cross. The Scotland of Macbeth is such a border land. It seems to lie at the crossroads of two different worlds, poised between warlike paganism and saintlike Christianity.

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Interpretation Journal (original article) [pdf]