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The Strangeness of Tragedy$
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Paul Hammond

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199572601

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572601.001.0001

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(p.123) 7 Shakespeare
The Strangeness of Tragedy

Paul Hammond

Oxford University Press

The three witches who open the play initiate an unheimlich interruption into the attendant space of the stage. The witches are strange enough in their theatrical manifestation, but more strange is the deformation of time and of space which they inaugurate; the decomposition of any stable form of individual agency which occurs as Macbeth follows the path which they have pointed out. One of the ways in which Shakespeare thinks of evil is that ‘evil can produce a state of affairs in which a given entity is both one thing and its opposite’, and such unresolved antitheses characterize the conceptual world of the play to the point that, seemingly ‘nothing is, but what is not’. Here, the unheimlich becomes the terrain of Macbeth's imagination. The relationship between Macbeth and the dagger which he thinks he sees is one that implicates him in a play of tenses through which the murder (as yet undone) is seen as a deed which is already complete.

Keywords:   Macbeth, Shakespeare, time, space, evil, dagger, murder, unheimlich, witches, agency

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