Plague and Shakespeare's "Macbeth" Dissertation or Thesis by sinkopayshun

Plague and Shakespeare's "Macbeth"
Presents a historicist interpretation of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" from the perspective of the bubonic plague in early seventeenth-century London.
# 152441 | 7,630 words | 18 sources | MLA | 2010 | CA
Published on Feb 12, 2013 in English (Analysis) , History (European - 17th Century) , Shakespeare (MacBeth)

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This paper analyzes Shakespeare's "Macbeth", highlighting the connection between the environment of Macbeth's Scotland and the environment of early seventeenth-century London, and then arguing that this play has less to do with the power of supernatural beings and more to do with the effects of the fog and filthy air that inhabited the environment in which "Macbeth" was produced and takes place. The paper provides a brief history of the bubonic plague in early seventeenth-century London and, using the perspective of "ecophobia", the paper shows how "Macbeth" reflects and amplifies fears and ideas about the presence of the plague. Finally, the paper considers possible reasons that "Macbeth" has been dogged by the idea of a curse.

Table of Contents:
"Hover through Fog and Filthy Air": Scottish Play, Scottish Plague
The Early Modern Plague: A Brief History
"Macbeth's" Plagued Scotland
Transgressing Boundaries: Playhouse/Plague House
Revisiting the Curse of "The Scottish Play"

From the Paper:

"After Macbeth is named Thane of Cawdor, Duncan appears twice more, and in both scenes, he is stuck on the concept of nature. In act one, scene four, he comes to congratulate Macbeth and Banquo: to Macbeth, he says, "I have begun to plant thee and will labour / To make thee full of growing." He then turns to Banquo to repeat a similar sentiment, to which Banquo replies, "There if I grow, the harvest is your own." Duncan is often read as the light in a world of darkness, and this exchange is a perfect example: amidst a deathly ill landscape, Duncan traffics in language of life, growth, fertility and rejuvenation. This is an odd piece of pastoral scenery set directly in between environments of decay and destruction. I think it's clear, therefore, that Shakespeare intentionally juxtaposed those environments as a way of drawing attention to the competition between environmental elements, between light and dark, between Duncan and Macbeth. Obviously, Duncan and Macbeth cannot live in the same world for much longer; indeed, Duncan will soon suffer his end at Macbeth's bloody hands.
"When Duncan appears with his sons and attendants in act one, scene six, he effectively marks himself for death."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Davies, John. Humours Heau'n on Earth with the Ciuile Warres of Death and Fortune. As Also the Triumph of Death: Or, the Picture of the Plague, According to the Life; as It Was in Anno Domini. 1603. By Iohn Dauies of Hereford. Early English Books, 1475-1640. Printed at London : By A[dam] I[slip], 1609., 1609.
  • Dekker, Thomas. The wonderfull yeare 1603. Wherein is shewed the picture of London, lying sicke of the Plague. At the ende of all (like a mery Epilogue to a dull Play) certaine Tales are cut out in sundry fashions, of purpose to shorten the lines of long winters nights, that lye watching in the darke for us. London: Printed by Thomas Creede, and are to be solde in Saint Donstones Church-yarde in Fleet-Streete. 1603.
  • DeWall, Nichole. "A plague 'o both your houses": Shakespeare and early modern plague writing. Dissertation, Northeastern University, 2008. <>.
  • Estok, Simon C. "Shakespeare and Ecocriticism: An Analysis of 'Home' and 'Power' in King Lear." AUMLA: Journal of the Australasian Universities Modern Language Association 103 (May 2005): 15-41.
  • Gilman, Ernest B. Plague Writing in Early Modern England. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Cite this Dissertation or Thesis:

APA Format

Plague and Shakespeare's "Macbeth" (2013, February 12) Retrieved September 26, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Plague and Shakespeare's "Macbeth"" 12 February 2013. Web. 26 September. 2020. <>