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The Oxford Shakespeare: Macbeth (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – May 15, 2008
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About the Author
Nicholas Brooke is Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of East Anglia.
- Lexile measure : 900
- Item Weight : 10.2 ounces
- Paperback : 272 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0199535833
- ISBN-13 : 978-0199535835
- Dimensions : 7.6 x 0.8 x 5 inches
- Publisher : Oxford University Press (May 15, 2008)
- Reading level : 13 and up
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #142,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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It has everything I have come to expect and enjoy from Oxford Shakespeare: an excellent introduction that covers all aspects of the play from history to production notes, and challenges actors have and may face. The annotation, footnotes, references, and more are all there. It can be read in total or just the play itself (the annotation providing semantics).
I am no expert on bookbinding or paper. With that said, the jacket and binding seem to be very durable. The paper, although not stated (that I could find) as "acid-free" is certainly of higher quality than the newsprint paper currently popular with many publishers. Unless you are looking for a "quick-read, throw-away" I feel confident you will not be disappointed.
Moreover, as I now reflect on the play after finally having read it a second time, Shakespeare induces the reader into identifying with Macbeth. He is not a thoroughly depraved arch-villain like Edmond in "King Lear", or Iago in "Othello", or Richard III in that eponymous play. Macbeth has human values -- he knows what is right and what is wrong -- but he also is all too human in his "vaulting" ambition. Looking back, I believe I sensed that in high school and found it rather unsettling -- and therefore I remembered MACBETH, the play as well as the character, better than I did, say, "Hamlet". (Incidentally, I think it is bonkers to have run-of-the-mill high-school students read "Hamlet"; I don't think it is so misguided to have them read MACBETH.)
Several other observations: MACBETH gallops along at a phenomenally rapid pace. There is really only one leisurely scene, where the characters take time for relaxed reflection and discussion (Act IV, Scene 3, between Malcolm and Macduff). Relatively uncommon for Shakespeare's plays, there is not a fool with a recurring role (the closest is the drunken porter who is on stage for only about a page in Act II, Scene 3). Also rare for Shakespeare, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth appear to be compatible; they are both extreme characters in each their own way but they have fitted themselves into a relatively happy, well-functioning marriage. The play is studded with memorable lines and phrases, and overall it is tremendously rich and concentrated, even for Shakespeare.
Nonetheless, for me MACBETH does not quite measure up to "The Tragedy of King Lear" and "Hamlet". One reason, I think, is that I find a little too clever and tawdry the handling of the witches' prophecies that Macbeth would never be vanquished "until Great Birnham Wood [comes] to High Dunsinane Hill" and that he would never be harmed by any man "of woman born". In order for Macbeth to meet his inevitable tragic end while at the same time validating the second sight of the witches, Shakespeare has the attacking English army conceal itself behind boughs cut from Birnham Wood, and then has Macduff reveal to Macbeth in the course of their fight to the death that he had been of cesarean birth. This smacks too much of sophistry for me, and it diminishes, if only a tad, the greatness of the play.
I am nearing the end of my Shakespeare reading project. With almost each new play there is additional evidence that Shakespeare's vision of human existence is essentially a nihilistic one. MACBETH (along with "The Tragedy of King Lear") is probably the strongest statement yet of that vision. It certainly contains one of the starkest pronouncements ever of nihilism. These are famous lines, but they are so powerful I feel compelled to repeat them:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle.
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
But then -- if it's nothing, how account for such genius?
Top reviews from other countries
Macbeth is a well-known play, dark, tight and swift-moving as it charts a narrative of ambition, assassination, murder and - perhaps above all - guilt. The psycho-pathology of both Macbeth and the superlative though chilling Lady Macbeth makes this seem very 'modern' in lots of way. The poetry here is magnificent, and new readers will find themselves coming across many well-known quotes.
So all in all this is a great edition of this play and especially useful for students, teachers and readers new to Shakespeare since it includes glosses and notes.