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Action and Accountability in Macbeth
They say that life is what you make of it. Though there is much in the fabric of Shakespeare’s tragedies that complicates the relationship between action and accountability with regard to the tragic heroes, it cannot be assumed, simply because they find themselves in a difficult position, that they are engulfed and rendered powerless by the events that unfold in their midst. Even Iago, Shakespeare’s evil incarnate, remarks, “ ‘Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus…we have reason to cool our raging motions, our carnal stings, our unbitted lusts” (1.3:316-326). Circumstance, then, simply does not negate guilt or responsibility. Given reason, we are capable both of the good and the evil behavior that seals our fate. This idea is especially important to a moral reading of Macbeth The true calamity of this and all other tragic Shakespearean plays lies not in the circumstances that Macbeth finds himself in, but what he chooses to make of those circumstances. Ultimately, it is Macbeth himself who serves as the instrument of his downfall. …
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