MACBETH by Harold Bloom


A Dagger of the Mind
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The venerable and prolific literary scholar completes his Shakespeare’s Personalities series with a lingering and deeply curious, even troubled, look at the titular character in the legendary play.

Having previously presented brief volumes on Iago, Lear, Cleopatra, and Falstaff, Bloom (Humanities/Yale Univ.) walks us through Macbeth, quoting lengthy passages from the text to illuminate his points. Throughout, the author muses on Macbeth’s “proleptic and prophetic imagination” and wonders—all the way to the final paragraph—what it is about this sanguinary, murderous character that so deeply appeals to audiences. For example, Bloom lingers on the grim and grotesque Macbeth-ordered murder of Macduff’s wife, son, servants. Although Bloom condemns these events (more than once and unequivocally: “his greatest iniquity”), he also notes that, somehow, we still feel something of a loss when Macduff, later, carries Macbeth’s severed head onto the stage for us to see. Although Bloom’s interpretations are invariably sound and based on a lifetime of reading and teaching the play, there are times when he ventures near the border of the plausible. He suggests, for example, that it’s possible the Macbeths have no children because Macbeth suffers from premature ejaculations. The author also devotes attention to Lady Macbeth, at one point calling her a “fierce virago” who “touches her limit at parricide.” Bloom ends with some tributes to the power of Shakespeare’s language and imagination. “Shakespeare’s bounty, like his Juliet’s, is as boundless as the sea. The more you take, the more he has, for his invention and his love for his characters are alike infinite….For all his negativity, Macbeth’s vitality survives in our hearts....absorbing him heightens of sense of being.”

Older readers may wish this clear, concise, empathetic volume were available when they were in school.

Pub Date: April 2nd, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-5011-6425-5
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2019


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