Date: May 1963
Creator: Edwards, James A.
Description: Whatever are the other merits of Macbeth, it must be classed as one of the most penetrating studies of conscience in literature. Shakespeare does not attempt to describe in the drama how the ordinary criminal would react to evil, but how Shakespeare himself would have felt if he had fallen into crime. 1 The ramifications of this conflict between the conscience of a man of genius and the supernatural forces of wickedness, therefore, assume immense dimensions. "Macbeth leaves on most readers a profound impression of the misery of a guilty conscience and the retribution of crime . . . But what Shakespeare perhaps felt even more deeply, when he wrote this play, was the incalculability of evil--that in meddling with it human beings do they know not what."2 This drama displays an evil not to be accounted for simply in terms of the protagonist's will or his causal relationships to evil. It is an agency which is beyond the power of Macbeth's will; and his conscience, as powerful and imaginative as it is, can only warn him that he is involving himself in a force which will cause him unexpected and hideous mental pain. If there is a moral in ...
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