Play Commentary
             MOTTO: Know you not that I must be about my mother's business

  •       Each commentary applies the Sonnet philosophy
          to the plays and poems of Shakespeare
          to reveal their inherent meaning.

    The Institute for the Quaternary Evolution in Shakespearen Thought
    The Quaternary Institute
        Quaternary Institute & Quaternary Imprint



    The first edition of the 4 volume set William Shakespeare's Sonnet Philosophy [2005] is still available.


    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005

    Nature Template <i>Sonnet</i> Numbers

    Nature template (Sonnet numbers)

    The previous commentaries in this volume followed the development of Shakespeare’s philosophy through the long poems of 1593 and 1594 and the shorter poems of 1601 and 1609, to show that the Sonnets were published in 1609 as the definitive expression of a philosophy that had its gestation in the period before the first plays written in the early 1590s. The commentaries have also shown that Love’s Labour’s Lost (1596) and Measure for Measure (1604) cannot be understood except as intended expressions of the philosophy eventually articulated in the Sonnets.
          Before considering the evidence for the philosophy in Shakespeare’s last history play (Henry VIII, 1613), the present commentary will demonstrate that the Tragedy of Macbeth (1606) cannot be understood except in terms of the Sonnet philosophy. The priority of nature, the dynamic of female and male, the increase argument, and the logic of truth and beauty are pivotal to the meaning of the play. Beginning with the forces of nature and the Witches’ refrain of the first few lines that ends with, ‘fair is foul, and foul is fair’(1.1.12), the play is based in Shakespeare’s appreciation of the natural logic of life.
          By articulating his philosophy definitively in a set of sonnets, Shakespeare avoided the issues of authenticity that arose when the plays were reworked for varying performance conditions and for the unregulated publishing market. However much a play was altered, cut, or rewritten for the playhouses and for publication, the Sonnet philosophy provides a common point of reference for the author’s content.
          Because the Sonnet philosophy has not been understood for 400 years, it has not been possible for commentators to determine the meaning of the plays. Disputes over interpretation arise principally because of their ignorance of the Sonnet philosophy. Their problems multiply when there are two or more versions of the same play. In their desire to resolve real or perceived difficulties, they criticise or offer remedies that invariably reveal their psychological or religious prejudices.
          Macbeth is one of eighteen plays for which the 1623 Folio provides the only version. Unlike Hamlet, Othello and King Lear, there are no bad or doubtful quartos to add to the complexity of interpretation. Yet the text of Macbeth still arouses debate. Commentators, ignorant of the Sonnet philosophy, are doubly dissatisfied when they expect the play to be sympathetic to their traditional beliefs.
          Because Macbeth is one of the shorter plays, they suggest Shakespeare or someone else had a hand in its abridgment. Ironically, again, they remedy the supposed difficulties according to their religious prejudices. While some think the play was abridged, others think it is complete as it is. Even amongst those who want changes or additions, there is an acceptance that the Folio text is surprisingly coherent, leading to the circular suggestion that maybe Shakespeare himself did the shortening.
          The nature of the debate is symptomatic of the commentators’ ignorance of the Sonnet philosophy. Because the philosophy articulated in the Sonnets is the philosophy behind all the play and poems, an appreciation of its logic is required to reveal the play’s meaning. And because the philosophy corrects centuries of biblical and Platonic apologetics, the discomfort commentators experience is a consequence of having their traditional psychological expectations profoundly challenged by Shakespeare’s consistent philosophy.

    Analysis of Macbeth

    Nature is the constant background against which the tragedy of Macbeth unfolds and finds its resolution. The forces of nature in the form of ‘Thunder and Lightning’ precede the first words of the Witches. And the Witches speak first because they represent the logic of the female derived from nature, albeit in a form affected by the orthodox male-based delusions typified by Macbeth.

    Thunder and Lightning. Enter three Witches.

    First Witch. When will we three meet again?
    In Thunder, Lightning, or in Rain?
    Second Witch. When the Hurley-burley's done,
    When the Battle's lost, and won.
    Third Witch. That will be ere the set of Sun.
    First Witch. Where the place?
    Second Witch. Upon the Heath.
    Third Witch. There to meet with Macbeth.
    First Witch. I come, Gray-Malkin.
    All. Padock call anon: fair is foul, and foul is fair,
    Hover through the fog and filthy air. (1.1.2-13)

          The priority of nature over the female and the female over the male, established in the first lines of Macbeth, is in keeping with the priority of nature over the sexual dynamic in the Sonnets. The word Nature/nature occurs frequently throughout the play, whereas the word God occurs infrequently. It appears in a greeting, as an expletive, or is used by a character (principally Malcolm) whose initial youthful idealism is associated with the adolescent psychology of traditional religious belief.
          Although the male God appears infrequently, his logical counterparts, the Devil and the Witches, are ubiquitously present throughout the play. The three Witches in particular represent the corruption of the feminine intuition by the excessive male-based expectations idealised as God. Shakespeare uses Macbeth’s self-serving faith in the Witches’ predictions to parody the illogicality of belief in the priority of a male God over nature.
          The transformation of idealised good into its logical opposite evil is addressed throughout the Sonnet sequence to the Master Mistress and throughout the plays. Sonnet 14 is specific in dismissing faith in ‘heaven’ and the telling of ‘fortunes’ as a basis for truth and beauty. It argues in favour of a logic based in the sexual dynamic in nature. In Macbeth, Shakespeare examines the consequences when sainted ‘nobleness’ and ‘honour’ are divorced from natural logic. Macbeth’s transition from honour and goodness to an illogical faith in the Witches reflects the self-regard behind his previous achievements.
          But sonnet 14 not only dismisses faith and augury as a basis for judgment. It also brings to a logical conclusion the increase argument of the first 14 sonnets. Without the possibility of increase, there can be no judgment or knowledge. As the play unfolds, Macbeth’s disregard for natural logic is apparent in both his dependency on self-serving ideals and in his (and Lady Macbeth’s) explicit rejection of the logic of increase. Not surprisingly then, as the Macbeths follow God/Satan into the hell of excessive idealism and swear off children, they are haunted by the image of a baby, which recurs throughout the play.
          So, beginning with the Witches’ incantation, Shakespeare signals his intention to examine the implosion that occurs when idealised belief shows a disregard for natural logic. He begins with an acknowledgment of the priority of the female in nature but, by introducing the female in the form of a witch, he indicates that the female is initially viewed through the prejudice of male-based ideals.
          In the Mistress sequence of the Sonnets, beauty and truth are derived from the female, who is at unity with nature. The logical progression from nature, through the sexual dynamic to beauty and then truth, means truth is not a self-sufficient quality but a process of continuous judgment between right and wrong based in natural logic. The Witches give witness to their inherent female logic by expressing their sensitivity to the logic of truth with their refrain ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’, and their prediction that the ‘battle’ will be ‘lost, and won’.
          As with the Sonnet philosophy, the characters in Macbeth represent both people in the world and personae in the mind. The play establishes a logical relation between the characters in the drama and the psychological dynamic of the mind. The Witches exist at the periphery of Macbeth’s everyday world, but are also representatives of his state of mind under the influence of excessive male-based idealism. Because Shakespeare’s logic is impeccable, commentators who expect a literal history play or sympathy for their malebased beliefs are seriously disturbed by the underlying philosophy, which challenges both prejudices.
          The first scene, then, establishes the play as a battleground where Shakespeare will demonstrate his natural logic through characters that represent its argument places. In the first few lines, he outlines the logic of the action that, by the end of the play, shows a way out of the ‘foggy and filthy air’ of malebased delusions. Consistent with the Witches’prediction that the battle will be ‘lost, and won’, Macbeth is the heroic winner who then loses his judgment. But, by the play’s end, his loss enables Malcolm to become a more circumspect winner. From Macbeth’s good comes evil, and from his evil comes good.
          When scene 2 opens, the Witches’ allusion to a ‘battle’ is given dramatic form in the ‘bloody’ fight between King Duncan and his foes. Appropriately, Shakespeare introduces the male dynamic in scene 2, after nature and the female dynamic were introduced in scene 1. The distinction between female and male is immediately apparent in that the female logic has an overview of the battle, whereas the males are blindly immured within it.
          The description of the battle by the sergeant/captain at the beginning of the scene, establishes the play as a critique of the male-based excesses, and in particular of Christ’s bloody sacrifice at Calvary. The ‘bloody man’ who enters in the first line, as a symbol of male intransigence, is compared forty lines later to the definitive expression of male bloodletting epitomised by the ‘reeking Wounds’ of Christ on ‘Golgotha’.

    What bloody man is that? he can report,
    As seemeth by his plight, of the Revolt
    The newest state. (1.2.18-20)

    Except they meant to bathe in reeking Wounds,
    Or memorise another Golgotha. (1.2.60-1)

          Shakespeare begins Macbeth with the recognition that the pivotal moment in biblical transcendence is a bloody consequence of the illogical prioritising of the male over the female. When the sergeant/captain or ‘bloody man’ describes the ‘rebel’ forces of Macdonwald as ‘multiplying the Villainies of Nature’, he gives voice to the dire contradictions that occur when male-based aspirations prevail against the priority and balance of nature.
          In keeping with the logic of the play, King Duncan and his son Malcolm are both blind to the dire consequences of prioritising the male, so are unable to give an account of their ‘plight’. Instead, their dilemma is expressed by a bloodied sergeant/captain whose experience of males in ‘battle’ reminds him of two swimmers who, in ‘clinging’ together, only increase their chance of drowning. Before the play’s end, Duncan will die for his blindness, while Malcolm will gain a partial insight into their transgressions.
          In clinging together, and so rejecting the female, the males nearly choke ‘their Art’. In sonnet 14 ‘Art’ is the grounding in which ‘truth and beauty’ thrives through ‘store’ or increase. Ironically, these ‘good’ men are in danger of drowning (‘choke their Art’) in the element associated with the female.

    Doubtful it stood,
    As two spent Swimmers, that do cling together,
    And choke their Art. (1.2.26-8)

          The fight between the ‘merciless…Rebel’ Macdonwald and ‘brave’ Macbeth, not only ‘multiplies the villainies of Nature’, or the worse possibilities in nature, but turns ‘Fortune’ into a ‘Whore’. Macbeth anticipates his own fate by ‘disdaining Fortune’. When he ‘unseams’Macdonwald from the ‘Nave to the Chops’ and cuts off his head, he rehearses the final moments of Act 5 when he discovers Macduff was untimely ripped from his mother’s womb in lieu of a natural birth.

                                  The merciless Macdonwald
    (Worthy to be a Rebel, for to that
    The multiplying Villanies of Nature
    Do swarm upon him
    ) from the Western Isles
    Of Kerns and Gallogrosses is supplied,
    And Fortune upon his damned quarry smiling,
    Showed like a Rebel’s Whore
    : but all’s too weak:
    For brave Macbeth (well he deserves that Name)
    Disdaining Fortune, with his brandished Steel,
    Which smoked with bloody execution
    (Like Valour’s Minion) carved out his passage,
    Till he faced the Slave:
    Which ne’er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
    Till he unseamed him from the Nave to the Chops,
    And fixed his head upon our Battlements. (1.2.28-42)

          The Sonnet logic is again reinforced when the Captain compares the progress of the battle to the forces of nature. As mankind is part of nature, it comes as no surprise that the natural cycle, from the apparent ‘comfort’ of Spring to the ‘discomfort of shipwracking storms and direful thunder’, is used to convey the fortunes of his wars.

    As whence the Sun ’gins his reflection,
    Shipwracking Storms, and direful Thunders:
    So from that Spring, whence comfort seemed to come,
    Discomfort swells
    : Mark King of Scotland, mark,
    No sooner Justice had, with Valour armed,
    Compelled these skipping Kerns to trust their heels,
    But the Norwegian Lord, surveying vantage,
    With the furbished Arms, and new supplies of men,
    Began a fresh assault. (1.2.44-52)

          When asked if Macbeth and Banquo were dismayed, the Captain again uses nature-based metaphors to explain. He agrees they were dismayed but notes with irony that they were as sparrows set on by eagles, or a hare by a lion. As happens in nature, the predator can be bested by its prey.

    Yes, as Sparrows, Eagles;
    Or the Hare, the Lion: (1.2.55-6)

          Each of the three times the Captain speaks he prefaces his account with a metaphor from nature. In the Sonnets Shakespeare establishes the priority of nature over the idealised Gods of man, because only in nature are there situations with logic comparable to the deeds of men. When he looks to the idealised God, he sees a paragon bereft of the multiplicities of life. The Captain’s triple affirmation of natural logic could be seen as a counterpoint to the three denials of Peter before Christ’s crucifixion at Golgotha.
          It should not surprise then that the Captain, when he ‘says sooth’ or tells the truth about Macbeth and Banquo’s exploits, invokes the male-driven bloodletting on Golgotha. The Gospels re-articulate the anti-nature prejudice of the male-based priority established in Genesis. As a ‘bloodied sergeant’ who is fainting from his wounds, the Captain sees somewhat dimly (‘I cannot tell’) into the illogicality of the situation.

    If I say sooth, I must report they were
    As Cannons over-charged with double Cracks,
    So they doubly redoubled strokes upon the Foe:
    Except they meant to bathe in reeking Wounds,
    Or memorise another Golgotha
    I cannot tell: but I am faint,
    My Gashes cry for help. (1.2.57-63)

          But Duncan, the King who is about to be murdered for his part in the male charade, sees only a honourable correspondence between the Captain’s ‘words’ and his ‘wounds’. The mention of Golgotha elicits a paraphrase of the idealistic doctrine, the ‘Word made Flesh’.

    So well thy words become thee as thy wounds,
    They smack of Honour both: Go get him surgeons. (1.2.64-5)

          When Ross and Angus enter, Lenox notes a peculiar look in Ross’ eyes.

    What a haste looks through his eyes?
    So should he look, that seems to speak things strange. (1.2.69-70)

          In the Sonnets, the eyes are the source of truth and beauty as the dynamic of understanding. In Ross’ case there is ‘a haste’ in his ‘look’ contrary to the logic of truth and beauty presented in the Sonnets. Shakespeare, within the space of 50 or so lines, has characterised the relation of nature to God (the Witches), and female to male as contrary to the natural logic he articulates in the Sonnets. With deliberate irony, he has Ross greet Duncan with the entity who is the perpetrator of his battles and who is unable to save him from the deadly consequences of Macbeth’s transition from the ideal to its evil counterpart.

    God save the King. (1.2.71)

          Ross not only brings news of the victory over the resurgent Norwegians, he also signals the beginning of Macbeth’s slide into God-based evil. By describing Macbeth as ‘Bellona’s Bridegroom’, he identifies the moment at which Macbeth completely forgoes the logic of nature and the sexual dynamic to become the ‘bridegroom’ of the Goddess whose persona is already over-weighted toward the masculine. Historically, the male God of Genesis usurped the priority of the Goddess. The mention of Bellona anticipates the shift to the masculine that will soon occur in Lady Macbeth as she encourages her husband’s God-like ambition.

    Till that Bellona’s Bridegroom, lapped in proof,
    Confronted him with self-comparisons,
    Point against Point, rebellious Arm ’gainst Arm,
    Curbing his lavish spirit: (1.2.79-82)

          With Ross’ account of the battle, Shakespeare establishes a logical relation between the fortunes of battle and the give and take of argument. He reiterates the logical connection between the actions of his play and the dynamic of truth and beauty. The play presents his natural logic because his characters represent critical places in his argument.
          The King, on hearing of the Thane of Cawdor’s treachery awards the Thaneship to Macbeth. Shakespeare has the King end the scene by summarising the state of play.

    What he hath lost, Noble Macbeth hath won. (1.2.94)

          Scene 3 begins, as does scene 1, with the three Witches entering to the sound of thunder. Shakespeare again uses the agency of the Witches to establish the logical relationships articulated in the Sonnets between nature, the Mistress and the Master Mistress. As the Witches await the arrival of Macbeth, who like the Master Mistress is an immature idealist, the first Witch recounts how she intends to confront a ‘Wife’ and ‘Husband’ with the logic of the sexual dynamic in nature.
          She relates that when the ‘Sailor’s Wife’, who has sex as if she ‘munched and munched’ on ‘Chestnuts in her Lap’, tells the ‘Witch’ to be off she decides to teach the husband a lesson. Like a ‘sieve’, but unlike him because she does not have a ‘tail’, she will drain him endlessly for ‘Seven nights, nine times nine’. Appropriately, the male is given the number 9 (as is the Master Mistress of the Sonnets) to indicate the logical requirement to recover his unity by recovering his relationship with the Mistress, here represented by the three Witches with their parody of malebased delusions.
          As they discuss their plans, the Witches recite a litany of sexual allusions from ‘killing Swine’, to ‘Chestnuts in her Lap’, to ‘rump-fed Ronyon’, to ‘the very Ports they blow’, to ‘I’ll drain him dry as Hay’, to ‘dwindle, peak and pine’, to ‘homeward he did come’. Also significant is the paraphrase by the first Witch of the content of the second and third quatrains of sonnet 116. The occurrence of words like Ports (‘ever fixed mark’), Card (‘compass’), Bark and Tempest, indicate that the Witches in Macbeth, through their overview of the female/male dynamic, act the part of the Poet of the Sonnets in bringing about a return to natural logic.
          The Witches’ intent within the context of the play is to rehearse the logical redress for Macbeth’s idealised conceits.

    First Witch. Where hast thou been, Sister?
    Second Witch. Killing Swine.
    Third Witch. Sister, where thou?
    First Witch. A Sailor’s Wife had Chestnuts in her Lap,
    And munched, & munched, and munched:
    Give me, quoth I.
    Aroynt thee, Witch, the rump-fed Ronyon cries.
    Her Husband’s to Aleppo gone, Master o’th’ Tiger:
    But in a Sieve I’ll thither sail,
    And like a Rat without a tail,
    I’ll do, I’ll do, and I’ll do.
    Second Witch. I’ll give thee a Wind.
    First Witch. Th’art kind.
    Third Witch. And I another.
    First Witch. I my self have all the other,
    And the very Ports they blow,
    All the Quarters that they know,
    I’th’ Ship-man’s Card.
    I’ll drain him dry as Hay:
    Sleep shall neither Night nor Day
    Hang upon his Pent-house Lid:
    He shall live a man forbid:
    Weary Sev’nights, nine times nine,
    Shall he dwindle, peak, and pine:
    Though his Bark cannot be lost,
    Yet it be Tempest-tost.
    Look what I have.
    Second Witch. Show me, show me.
    First Witch. Here I have a Pilot’s Thumb,
    Wrackt, as homeward he did come.
    Third Witch. A Drum, a Drum:
    Macbeth doth come.
    All. The weird Sisters, hand in hand,
    Posters of the Sea and Land,
    Thus do go, about, about,
    Thrice to thine, and thrice to mine,
    And thrice again, to make up nine
    Peace, the Charm’s wound up. (1.3.98-135)

          Macbeth is the immature idealist for whom the Witches offer either a recovery of his feminine sensibility or else a redoubling of his masculine delusions. How he responds will determine his fate. He has the same logical characteristics as the Master Mistress of the Sonnets whose overly idealistic expectations lead him to act contrary to natural logic.
          When Macbeth and Banquo enter, Macbeth signals his inability to appreciate the Sonnet logic by bemoaning the day in a phrase used by the Witches at the end of scene 1. What for the Witches is an acceptance of their logical relation to nature, is for Macbeth an expression of his apprehension before nature.

    So foul and fair a day I have not seen. (1.3.137)

          Then, in a brilliant parody of male-based priorities, Banquo asks the Witches if they are indeed ‘Inhabitants o’th’Earth’. The Witches seem like the male God of the Bible who apparently does not ‘inhabit’ the Earth and who ‘seems to understand’ but does not ‘speak’. And just as the male God usurps the priority of the female in nature, the Witches ‘should be Women’ but yet have ‘beards’. For Shakespeare the male God of the Bible who usurps Mother Nature must be a cross-dressed female.

                                        What are these,
    So withered, and so wild in their attire,
    That look not like th’Inhabitants o’th’Earth,
    And yet are on’t? Live you, or are you aught
    That man may question? You seem to understand me,
    By each at once her choppy finger laying
    Upon her skinny Lips
    : you should be Women,
    And yet your Beards forbid me to interpret
    That you are so. (1.3.138-46)

          The Witches predict that Macbeth will be Thane and then King. Noticing that the predictions alarm Macbeth, Banquo wants to know, ‘in the name of truth’, if the Witches are fantastical or real. Macbeth and Banquo’s inability to discern the ‘truth’ is a consequence of their commitment to an idealised view of the world, which has illogical consequences for the dynamic of truth and beauty. If they were aware of the logic Shakespeare articulates in the Sonnets, such a question would be redundant and their subsequent actions and judgments would not be so self-serving.

    Good Sir, why do you start, and seem to fear
    Things that do sound so fair? i’th’name of truth
    Are ye fantastical, or that indeed
    Which outwardly you show? (1.3.151-4)

          The Witches in Macbeth have a very specific function. Whenever they appear they are contextualised by nature and, as females who were introduced before the males, they establish the logical priority of the female over the male. They have none of the arcane powers and resources traditionally attributed to witches. Their role, by contrast, is to ensure that the natural order prevails against the abuses of the idealising imagination typified by the only characters who see them, Banquo and Macbeth.
          In keeping with the injunction of sonnet 14, the Witches do not derive their powers from the stars or the heavens, but from naturally occurring animals and plants. And in keeping with the logic of the Sonnets, which argue for the priority of increase over truth and beauty, the Witches predictions are principally related to issues of human posterity or events, like the movement of Birnam Wood, that seem to abjure the Laws of Nature but end up having a natural explanation.
          Banquo’s next observation, based as it is on the predictions the Witches have already made about Macbeth’s lineage, defines the logical focus of their concerns. Banquo’s insight reveals that he is slightly more in touch with natural logic than Macbeth.

    If you can look into the Seeds of Time,
    And say, which Grain will grow, and which will not,
    Speak then to me, who neither beg, nor fear
    Your favours, nor your hate. (1.3.158-61)

          Macbeth demonstrates his inadequacy with the series of questions he puts to the Witches after they have responded to Banquo. To Macbeth’s selfish male-based expectations they seem like ‘imperfect Speakers’ who exhibit a ‘strange Intelligence’ with their ‘Prophetic greetings’. The capitals on the critical words in the Folio highlight Macbeth’s double confusion.

    Stay, you imperfect Speakers, tell me more:

    to be King,
    Stands not within the prospect of belief,

    Say from whence
    You owe this strange Intelligence, or why
    Upon this blasted Heath you stop our way
    With such Prophetic greeting?
    Speak, I charge you. (1.3.170-9)

          Not only can Macbeth not understand how they are able to say what they say, his adherence to a way of thinking in which ‘Speakers’ use their ‘Intelligence’ to make ‘Prophetic’ utterances (as in the Bible) prevents him from appreciating the source of their insights. Appropriately, as he strives to understand the Witches’powers using his iidealised self-regard, they disappear.
          The role of the Witches in the play is brought into focus when they ‘vanish’. As with other magical or otherworldly beings in Shakespeare, the Witches have both a function in the theatrics of the drama and represent personae in the mind of characters such as Macbeth. Shakespeare’s understanding of the artificiality of drama, and his awareness of the logic of external events and their internal equivalents, creates a perpetual slippage between the characters as representatives of historical or imaginary persons and the potential of the play to incite responses in the mind.
          The differing responses of Macbeth and Banquo to the ‘vanishing’ cover both possibilities. When Banquo relates their disappearance to earthly phenomena like the bursting of bubbles, Macbeth raises the possibility of them being not ‘corporeal’. He wishes they had stayed, which leads Banquo to wonder if their own ‘reason’ is at fault. Again it is Banquo who points to the primary cause of the Witches’appearance. They have come to correct the male-based delusions that the Poet addresses in the Master Mistress sequence of the Sonnets.

    Banquo. The Earth hath bubbles, as the Water has,
    And these are of them: wither are they vanished?
    Macbeth. Into the Air: and what seemed corporal,
    , as breath into the Wind.
    Would they had stayed.
    Banquo. Were such things here, as we do speak about?
    Or have we eaten on the insane Root,
    That takes the Reason Prisoner? (1.3.170-7)

          To Ross’ announcement that Macbeth is now Thane of Cawdor Banquo responds, ‘can the Devil speak true?’(1.3.213). Ross’ earlier hope that God might save the King begins its slide as the Witches are cast in the role of the Devil or God’s logical counterpart. Male-based prejudice blames the female for the excesses of idealised expectations, while it refuses to acknowledge that the idealisation of the male as God leads logically to evil consequences (about to be addressed in the play).
          In Macbeth Shakespeare consciously parodies the writings of the Bible. When Ross enters he mentions that the King ‘reads’ thy ‘personal Venture in the Rebel’s fight’ and then that Macbeth ‘makes strange Images of death’, as thick as ‘Tale’ can ‘Post with Post’. The editors of both the Cambridge and Oxford editions emend the ‘Tale’ to ‘hail’. They replace Shakespeare’s precise critique of literal belief in the written word with a vacuous proverbial saying. Shakespeare anticipates the blindness of those who pervert his critique of their inconsistent beliefs.
          Macbeth, unable to evaluate the implications of his position, gloats over the accuracy of the Witches’ prediction. Considering they were merely articulating the consequences of his immature vision, he is doubly blind. Again it is Banquo who muses on the philosophical implications.

    But ’tis strange:
    And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
    The Instruments of Darkness tell us Truths,
    Win us with honest Trifles, to betray’s
    In deepest consequence. (1.3.232-6)

          The Sonnet philosophy’s appreciation of the dynamic of truth and beauty, because of its consistent derivation from nature and the sexual dynamic, provides a means to determine right from wrong that avoids contradiction. True and false, fair and foul, are inherent in any circumstance. The lesson of the Sonnets teaches the Master Mistress that calling beauty or any form of sensation (smell or God) ‘Truth’ will result in unintended consequences. Banquo notices the contradiction and apprehends that it is a ‘consequence’ of what has transpired but, because he is unable to acknowledge the priority of the female over the male, does not know what to make of it.
          If Banquo is confused about the logic of truth and beauty, then Macbeth is doubly so. Constrained by the traditional inversion of natural logic, he sees ‘Truth’ as a singular effect, as when it is associated with the idea of God, so is disturbed when he is confronted with ‘two Truths’.

    Two Truths are told,
    As happy Prologues to the swelling Act
    Of the Imperial Theme. I thank you Gentlemen:
    This supernatural soliciting
    Cannot be ill; cannot be good
    If ill? why hath it given me earnest of success,
    Commencing in a Truth? I am Thane of Cawdor.
    If good? why do I yield to that suggestion,
    Whose horrid Image doth unfix my Heir,
    And make my seated Heart knock at my Ribs,
    Against the use of Nature? Present fears
    Are less than horrible Imaginings:
    My Thought, whose Murder yet is but fantastical,
    Shakes so my single state of Man,
    That Function is smothered in surmise,
    And nothing is, but what is not. (1.3.238-53)

          Shakespeare intrudes elements of the Sonnet logic into Macbeth’s selfish male-based confusion. As the Sonnet logic is the logic of humankind despite its unwillingness to recognise it, Macbeth’s uncanny experience with the Witches makes him have doubts about his previous certainties, forcing him to rationalise the gap between ‘Truth’ and nature.
          ‘Supernatural soliciting’ (of God or Devil) cannot be ‘good’ or ‘ill’, because logically it involves the sensory realm of the unworded or untold. The ‘two Truths’ only become distinct when they are ‘told’. Only in the telling is the dynamic of truth engaged. Macbeth is at a loss because his current belief system contradicts the natural logic of truth. He intuits, though, that his potential for ‘Heirs’ is unfixed because his ambitions set him against ‘Nature’. His need to murder the King, driven by his male-based ambition, ‘shakes’ his belief in the ‘single state of Man’, whose primary symbol is the biblical God. Ironically, his evil desires momentarily make him aware that the traditional priority of the male over the female is a ‘surmise’. He experiences the sense of abyss or void (‘what is not’) that occurs when the traditional pretensions suddenly seem like ‘nothing’.
          The tragedy of Macbeth is laid out in these 16 lines. It is the tragedy of the belief in the priority of the male (God) over the female (nature) addressed logically in the Sonnets and articulated with terrifying precision in the great tragedies. As commentators do not understand the natural logic in the Sonnet philosophy, they wrongly decide that Macbeth’s confusion is also Shakespeare’s.
          When Macbeth breaks from his ‘rapture’, his determination to be King prevails. He calls on ‘Time, and the Hour’, as constructs of the human mind, to see him through the ‘roughest Day’. He excuses his distraction by dismissing his thoughts of nature as a momentary lapse or ‘dullness of brain’ where ‘things forgotten’ attempt to reassert their natural logic against his God/Devil-like ambitions.
          At the beginning of scene 4, the King asks if the Thane of Cawdor is dead, to which his son Malcolm reports that he died repentant and was equitable in death (consistent with Shakespeare’s appreciation of life and death in the Sonnets). In light of the events to come, their exchange suggests Macbeth wronged the Thane of Cawdor.

    Nothing in his Life became him,
    Like the leaving it. He died,
    As one that had been studied in his death
    To throw away the dearest thing he owed,
    As ’twere careless Trifle. (1.4.287-91)

          The King’s blindness to Macbeth’s ambition, despite his claim that he can ‘find the Mind’s construction in the Face’ (1.4.293), is equaled by Macbeth’s false allegiance of ‘Duty’. With sardonic wit Shakespeare has the King offer Macbeth a place ‘full of growing’, as if naturally.

    I have begun to plant thee, and will labour
    To make thee full of growing. (1.4.314-5)

          Banquo, again, is circumspect. He offers to return the ‘harvest’ proffered by the King. And the King’s blindness to the meaning of his own words is confirmed when he establishes his estate on Malcolm by evoking the ‘stars’, which are proscribed by the Sonnet philosophy.

    But signs of Nobleness, like Stars, shall shine
    all deservers. (1.4.328-9)

          Macbeth, in his previous aside, attempted to rationalise Banquo’s concern for ‘Truth’. Now Shakespeare gets him to ruminate on the King’s mention of ‘stars’ to show once again how close yet how far he is from natural logic.

    The Prince of Cumberland: that is a step,
    On which I must fall down, or else o’er-leap,
    For in my way it lies. Stars hide your fires,
    Let not Light see my black and deep desires:
    The Eye wink at the Hand; yet let that be,
    Which the Eye fears, when it is done to see. (1.4.336-54)

          Shakespeare creates a clear distinction in sonnet 14 between those systems of thought that look to the stars or heaven for guidance and the logical derivation of truth and beauty from the eyes. So when Macbeth wishes to shield his actions from the ‘stars’ he aligns his mind-set with those beliefs considered illogical in the Sonnets. He does not want the ‘Light’ from the stars to witness his black desires.
          His desires, though, originate in his denial of the logic of the eyes, or the logic of increase in nature. Shakespeare has Macbeth unwittingly acknowledge natural logic when he keeps the ‘Eye’ from seeing what the hand does. Throughout Shakespeare’s works, the ‘Eye’ carries a double reference to the eye of the face and the eye of sex. Macbeth’s problem and the consequences of his devotion to the ‘single state of Man’ are epitomised in his desire for power and in the language he uses to sustain his evil intent.
          In scene 5 Lady Macbeth receives a letter from her husband that reveals his susceptibility to fantasy. He reports that the Witches spoke with more ‘than mortal knowledge’, and vanished by turning themselves into ‘air’. Upon reading of the Witches’ predictions for Macbeth, Lady Macbeth expresses doubt about his capacity to fulfill his ‘metaphysical fate’. Shakespeare sets out to demonstrate that the faith in fate, by those entranced by metaphysical systems, is never sufficient to allow the run of events to self fulfill. Macbeth is already thinking murder to achieve his ends. And now his wife wants to lend a hand to ensure he does not fail. The Macbeths’ tragedy is in the preemption of ‘Nature’ by two humans who give their masculine personae full rein (in imitation of the mythological male God and his counterpart the Devil).

    Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be
    What thou art promised: yet do I fear thy Nature,
    It is too full o’th’ Milk of human kindness,
    To catch the nearest way. Thou would’st be great,
    Art not without Ambition, but without
    The illness should attend it. What thou wouldst highly,
    That would’st thou holily:wouldst not play false,
    And yet would’st wrongly win.
    Thould’st have, great Glamis, that which cries,
    Thus thou must do, if thou have it;
    And that which rather thou do’st fear to do,
    Than wishest should be undone. High thee hither,
    That I may pour mine Spirits in thine Ear,
    And chastise with the valour of my Tongue
    All that impedes thee from the Golden Round,
    Which Fate and Metaphysical aid doth seem
    To have thee crowned withal. (1.5.361-76)

          The Macbeth marriage is truly one made in male-based heaven. The immature masculine Macbeth, who battles and fantasises his way to power, is matched by his wife whose masculine ‘Spirits’ will chastise Macbeth so that he will more ‘holily’ commit murder, against any remnants of his inner nature, or feminine side. Macbeth’s longer speeches at 1.3.170 and 1.3.238, are counterpointed by Lady Macbeth’s first words. Shakespeare establishes the Macbeths (as he does with a number of the principal protagonists in the other plays) as representatives of the illogicalities and consequent injustices of biblical priorities.
          Lady Macbeth’s next words, a few lines later, are even more explicit in identifying the root cause of the tragedy. Her earlier mention of ‘Tongue’ (1.5.374) heralds her admission now of her determination to deny the logic of increase in nature. She calls on the male-based ‘Spirits’ to cover her with their ‘Hell’ so that her inculcated fear of the God of ‘Heaven’ will be muted.

    The Raven himself is hoarse,
    That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
    Under my Battlements. Come you Spirits,
    That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
    And fill me from the Crown to the Toe, top-full
    Of direst Cruelty:make thick my blood,
    Stop up the access, and passage to Remorse,
    That no compunctious visitings of Nature
    Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
    Th’effect, and hit. Come to my Woman’s Breasts,
    And take my Milk for Gall, you murdering Ministers,
    Where-ever, in your sightless substances,
    You wait on Nature’s Mischief. Come thick Night,
    And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of Hell,
    That my keen Knife see not the Wound it makes,
    Nor Heaven peep through the Blanket of the dark,
    To cry, hold, hold. (1.5.389-406)

          Lady Macbeth intends to do Nature a ‘Mischief ’ by renouncing her natural logic. She even dulls the guilt she might experience because of her male-based beliefs.
          Shakespeare, over the last 5 scenes, has been relentless in identifying the logical cause of the tragedy of Macbeth. To achieve their ambitions the Macbeths reject their innate logic for the extempore logic of ‘time’ and male priority. Their ability to deceive the King and others as the events unfold is guaranteed by the King’s inability to read Macbeth’s ‘face’. Lady Macbeth reinforces the male-based blindness when she talks of both ‘time’ and ‘beguiling’.

    O never,
    Shall Sun that Morrow see.
    Your face, my Thane, is as a Book, where men
    May read strange matters, to beguile the time.
    Look like the time, bear welcome in your Eye,
    Your Hand, your Tongue: look like the innocent flower,
    But be the Serpent under’t. He that’s coming,
    Must be provided for: and you shall put
    This Night’s great Business into my dispatch,
    Which shall to all our Nights and Days to come,
    Give solely sovereign sway, and Masterdom. (1.5.415-25)

          Once the logic of nature is abjured, then the capacity to tell good from ill is forfeited. Lady Macbeth knows that a ‘face’ is ‘as a Book, where men may read strange matters, which can readily be used to ‘beguile the time’. She identifies the ‘Book’ with the Bible when she exhorts Macbeth to use his ‘Eye, Hand, and Tongue’ to look like the innocent flower and hide his ‘Serpent’ persona beneath. Ironically, they will not achieve rapprochement with ‘sovereign’Nature or achieve ‘Masterdom’over their immaturity. They act contrary to the logic of nature by failing to address the inadequacy typified by the Master Mistress of the Sonnets.
          In her previous statement Lady Macbeth could not be clearer in her intent to go against her female logic and nature. She then addresses the implications of her scheme for the logic of truth. Consistent with the dynamic of truth and beauty in the Sonnets, she appreciates that truth or the process of saying, verbal or written, is susceptible to deceit (sonnet 138 deals with this possibility explicitly). The function of the Rose in the Sonnets, as a symbol of the logic of beauty, is evoked in her imagery of the ‘innocent flower’ and ‘Serpent under’t’. Consistent with Shakespeare’s critique of biblical contradictions in the play, she uses the serpent imagery associated with Genesis.
          As Duncan approaches Macbeth’s castle, Shakespeare has him and Banquo unwittingly contextualise the events about to unfold within the castle by remarking on the enduring processes of nature in the countryside about and in the castle walls. While the castle’s ‘seat’ or environs ‘recommend’ themselves to the King’s ‘senses’, it is Banquo again who notices the features that best evoke the fecundity of nature, whose potentiality the Macbeths have just forsworn.

    King. This Castle hath a pleasant seat,
    The air nimbly and sweetly recommends it self
    Unto our gentle senses.
    Banquo. This Guest of Summer,
    The Temple-haunting Barlet does approve,
    By his loved Masonry, that the Heaven’s breath
    Smells wooingly here: no Jutty frieze,
    Buttress, nor Coign of Vantage, but this Bird
    Hath made his pendant Bed, and procreant Cradle,
    Where they must breed, and haunt: I have observed
    The air is delicate. (1.6.434-44)

          In a parody of what has gone before, Shakespeare not only makes the King incapable of discerning natural logic except through his ‘senses’, Banquo’s bird is ‘Temple-haunting’ and ‘must breed, and haunt’ in the delicate ‘air’. In Macbeth and Banquo’s encounter with the Witches, who are Church-derided females that haunt the Christian conscience, their predictions are limited to lines of breeding and, when they seem to vanish, they ‘haunt’ the ‘air’ of befuddled males.
          When the King greets Lady Macbeth, he further reveals his commitment to the male-based hierarchy. For the second time in the play the word God is interjected to reveal, in the light of future events, the meaninglessness of such greetings. Immediately after Banquo has evoked the natural logic of the ‘Temple-haunting Barlet’, Shakespeare has the King confound his offering of ‘Love’ with the mention of ‘God’.

    The Love that follows us, sometime is our trouble,
    Which still we thank as Love. Herein I teach you
    How you shall bid God-ield us for your pains,
    And thank us for your trouble. (1.6.446-9)

          In Macbeth’s soliloquy at the beginning of scene 7, Shakespeare lets him ponder the logic of truth and beauty, though from the vantage of his ‘Vaulting Ambition’. Macbeth wishes the guilty ‘consequence’ from a murder, ‘if it were done quickly’, would be effervescent. He would prefer, if the act was successful, there should be no judgment, as if ‘we’d jump the life to come’. Like Duncan who can only ‘sense’ natural logic, and so has his beauty dynamic divorced from his truth dynamic, Macbeth wants to avoid the logic of truth, or the judgment of saying what is right and wrong.

    If it were done, when ’tis done, then ’twere well,
    It were done quickly: If the Assassination
    Could trammel up the Consequence, and catch
    With his surcease, Success: that but this blow
    Might be the be all, and the end all. Here
    But here, upon this Bank and School of time,
    We’d jump the life to come. (1.7.475-81)

          The desire to defer judgment to a life to come, as in Christian dogma, seems feasible when all value is posited in a God who inhabits the after life. But in the Sonnet logic the idea of an absolute God is a fiction arising from a heightened sensation in the mind. Macbeth’s ‘vaulting Ambition’ not only exposes the illogicality of such an expectation, it also forces him to concede that in the natural world ‘we still have judgment here’.

    But in these Cases,
    We still have judgment here, that we but teach
    Bloody Instructions, which being taught, return
    To plague the Inventor. This even-handed Justice
    Commends the Ingredience of our poisoned Chalice
    To our own lips. (1.7.481-6)

          Macbeth’s is a double dilemma. He is Duncan’s ‘Kinsman and his Subject’. His allegiance is both natural toward a fellow human being and formal toward the God invoking King. He wants to escape judgment both ‘here’ and, according to his beliefs, in ‘the life to come’ When he thinks of murdering Duncan, Duncan’s virtues seem like ‘Angels’ compared with the damnation he associates with the deed.
          His double damnation is captured in the comparison of the natural image of ‘a naked new-born-Babe’ and in the fantasy image of ‘Heaven’s Cherubin’. Together they will ‘blow the horrid deed in every eye’. As in the Sonnets, the ‘eye’(both of head and body) is the source of truth and beauty. Macbeth senses the absence of a natural motive that would ‘prick the sides of his intent’, and also senses the inadequacy of his male-based ‘ambition’ to justify the deed.

    And Pity, like a naked New-born-Babe,
    Striding the blast, or Heaven’s Cherubin, horsed
    Upon the sightless Couriers of the Air,
    Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,
    That tears shall drown the wind. I have no Spur
    To prick the sides of my intent, but only
    Vaulting Ambition, which o’erleaps it self,
    And falls on th’other. (1.7.495-502)

          Macbeth’s dilemma, at the heart of the tragedy of his play, arises from the confusion of the natural and the imaginary in his mind. His struggle or ‘battle’ between natural logic and his inconsistent beliefs is a consequence of his unconditional male-based ambitions. His inability to determine the correct priority between nature and God leaves him in a state of doubt, susceptible to the machinations of a female who has intentionally denied her female logic for masculine mind-based ambition.
          So when Lady Macbeth enters, and Macbeth tells her of his desire to ‘proceed no further in this Business’, she accuses him of an inability to ‘act’ on his ‘desire’. When he says he can go no further as a ‘man’ she challenges his status as a ‘man’ and puts her status as a female on the line. The imagery and the language of their exchange make it crystal clear that Shakespeare’s critique is of the excesses of male-based religions and the social/political expectations based on such illogical beliefs.

    Lady Macbeth.                   Art thou afeared
    To be the same in thine own Act
    , and Valour,
    As thou art in desire?

    Macbeth. Prithee Peace:
    I dare do all that may become a man,
    Who dares no more, is none.
    Lady Macbeth. What Beast was’t then
    That made you break this enterprise to me?
    When you durst do it, then you were a man:
    And to be more that what you were, you would
    Be so much more the man
    . Nor time, nor place
    Did then adhere, and yet you would make both:
    They have made themselves, and that their fitness now
    Does unmake you. I have given Suck, and know
    How tender ’tis to love the Babe that milks me,
    I would, while it was smiling in my Face,
    Have plucked my Nipple from his Boneless Gums,
    And dashed the Brains out, had I so sworn
    As you have done to this. (1.7.516-38)

          Lady Macbeth’s admission that she has previously ‘suckled’ a child compounds the implications of her willingness to repudiate her natural disposition. In Love’s Labour’s Lost, Jaquenetta is pregnant before the play begins, as is Juliet in Measure for Measure. Their pregnancies establish the background of natural logic against which the idealistic male-driven excesses of the four Lords and Angelo (respectively) are redressed. In Macbeth the realisation that the Macbeths had a child before the action begins both establishes the base of natural logic and heightens the tragedy as the principals disavow their natural selves for God-like ambition.
          The brain-driven nature of their intent is expressed graphically. Lady Macbeth’s description of what she will do with the grooms is a perfect image of the consequences of the denial of nature. As Shakespeare’s critique is directed principally at the Bible, the word ‘Swinish’ seems apt.

    That Memory, the Warder of the Brain,
    Shall be a Fume, and the Receipt of Reason
    A Limbeck only: when in Swinish sleep,
    Their drenched Natures lies as in a Death, (1.7.546-9)

          But Macbeth is still pondering the implications of Lady Macbeth’s readiness to repudiate her female logic by prioritising her masculine persona. He concludes that the world will become a male dominated preserve, a logical consequence of taking traditional mythology literally.

    Bring forth Men-Children only:
    For thy undaunted Mettle should compose
    Nothing but Males. (1.7.554-6)

          In varying degrees and in differing ways Duncan, Banquo, Macbeth, and Lady Macbeth are aware that they are in a compromised relationship with nature. The degrees of their faith in the male-based ideal are evident in their varying ability to acknowledge the falseness of their beliefs. Duncan is unreflective and will die because he is not circumspect enough to sense the danger. Banquo has insights but does not see their relevance to the circumstances, so he also dies. Lady Macbeth is completely cynical in that she knows her natural status but decides to act against it for immediate advantage so appropriately kills herself.
          Macbeth, because he is reflective, sees the inconsistencies. But because he lacks the logic the Poet of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, he is unable to resist the wiles of his masculinised wife. His intuitive awareness of the mind’s offence against the body, with its negative consequences for truth and beauty, allows him to sum up at the end of Act 1.

    I am settled, and bend up
    Each corporal Agent
    to this terrible Feat.
    Away, and mock the time with fairest show,
    False face must hide what the false Heart doth know. (1.7.563-6)

          By applying the Sonnet logic it is possible to makes sense of the shift that occurs in Macbeth’s personality when he is exposed to ‘Vaulting Ambition’. Like the Master Mistress of the Sonnets, his already overly idealistic temperament is susceptible to further male-based excesses. He responds to the honours bestowed by the King, and to the predictions of the Witches, by scheming to ensure his succession. But he is also assailed by doubts and might have shelved his plans if Lady Macbeth had not disowned her feminine persona to encourage his masculine ascendancy. Unlike the Mistress of the Sonnets, who has her feminine and masculine personae in balance, Lady Macbeth opts for the masculine immaturity epitomised by the Master Mistress.
          As Act 2 begins, immediately after the Macbeths’ deepening descent into male psychology, Shakespeare seems to mark the transition by reference to a couple of secondary features of the Sonnet structure. The Mistress has 28 sonnets in her sequence suggesting a symbolic relation to the lunar cycle, and the pattern of 12x12 sonnets within the whole set is a structural relation that keys in the logic of time. And significantly the word time occurs only in the Master Mistress sequence.

    Banquo. How goes the Night, Boy?
    Fleance. The Moon is down: I have not heard the
    Banquo. She goes down at Twelve. (2.1.571-4)

          So when Banquo asks Fleance ‘how goes the Night’, Shakespeare has him say that ‘the Moon is down’ to which Banquo responds ‘and she goes down at Twelve’. The first three lines of Act 2 indicate that the Mistress has been downgraded to the status of the immature male who is beholden to the audit of time.
          Banquo then notes, in keeping with his other insights from Act 1, the rousing of the powers of nature in response to the Macbeths’ intent. He observes that the stars are ‘out’ because the sexual dynamic (‘husbandry’) is reasserting itself in ‘Heaven’. He pitifully calls on ‘Merciful Powers’ for assistance to hold back the natural consequences of the day’s deeds.

    There’s Husbandry in Heaven,
    Their Candles are all out: take thee that too,
    A heavy Summons lies like Lead upon me,
    And yet I would not sleep:
    Merciful Powers, restrain in me the cursed thoughts,
    That Nature gives way to in repose. (2.1.577-82)

          The conversation between Banquo and Macbeth, that follows Macbeth’s entry, is a study in blindness and double talk. The king goes to bed in ‘unusual pleasure’ and ‘measureless content’. Banquo’s account of the King’s idealistic mind-set shows him doubly blind to the scheming Macbeths. Macbeth’s response can be read either as a musing on his recent acquiescence to Lady Macbeth or an apology for not giving the King his full attention.

    Being unprepared,
    Our will became the servant to defect,
    Which else should free have wrought. (2.1.592-4)

          And Macbeth and Banquo’s uneasy alliance over the promises of the Witches is beginning to collapse. When Banquo tells Macbeth of a dream about the three ‘Sisters’, they go through a pantomime of ‘Honour’ and ‘Allegiance’ without directly confessing their ambitions.
          With the departure of Banquo, Fleance, and Macbeth’s servant, Macbeth experiences delusions that reveal the psychological basis of his lust for power. He sees a ‘Dagger’ before him but finds it is an illusion he cannot ‘Handle’. He asks why it is not ‘sensible’ to touch as well as sight. He is forced to recognise that it is ‘but a Dagger of the Mind’.

    Is this a Dagger, which I see before me,
    The Handle toward my Hand? Come, let me clutch thee:
    I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
    Art thou not fatal Vision, sensible
    To feeling, as to sight? Or art thou but
    A Dagger of the Mind. (2.1.613-18)

          If the sexual symbolism of the Dagger is acknowledged, then Macbeth is experiencing the consequences of his denial of the logic of the sexual dynamic in nature. The Dagger becomes a ‘fatal Vision’ because its imaginary state creates a dangerous illusion in the Mind. Shakespeare’s point is made clear when he calls such an illusion of the mind ‘a false Creation’. Anti-nature ‘Mind’ prioritising biblical thought is a ‘false Creation’ because the ‘bloody Dagger’ castrates the increase dynamic in nature and renders the truth and beauty dynamic inconsistent. The Macbeths’ masculine avowal in the previous Act aligns them with the masculine God of traditional thought.

                                        a false Creation,
    Proceeding from the heat-oppressed Brain?
    I see thee yet, in form as palpable,
    As this which now I draw.
    Thou Marshall’st me the way that I was going,
    And such an Instrument I was to use.
    Mine Eyes are made the fools o’th’other Senses,
    Or else worth all the rest: I see thee still;
    And on thy Blade, and Dudgeon, Gouts of Blood,
    Which was not so before. There’s no such thing:
    It is the bloody Business, which informs
    Thus to mine Eyes. (2.1.618-29)

          Macbeth sees the illusory Dagger in a ‘form’ as palpable as the one he draws from his scabbard. But its illusion is to the mind’s eyes alone, because it is a ‘false Creation’ of the ‘Brain’, like the God of the Bible. The Dagger takes form before the mind’s eyes so fooling the other senses (taste, smell, touch, and hearing). In the Mistress sequence, the Poet not only sees the Mistress, she is also evident to the other senses (sonnet 130). Macbeth can see that the ‘Gouts of Blood’ are illusions generated by the ‘bloody Business’ he and Lady Macbeth are planning.
          As Macbeth rationalises the illusion, he draws a parallel to his experience with the Witches. When he and Lady Macbeth kill half of nature by definitively renouncing the female logic of life, ‘Witchcraft’ is the consequence. Macbeth affirms, with Shakespeare’s prompting, that the denial of natural logic by male-based systems of thought, such as Judeo/Christian, creates of the female a masculinised hag. Hecat’s paleness is a reflection of her diminished femininity in the light of biblical dogma.

                            Now o’er the one half World
    Nature seems dead
    , and wicked Dreams abuse
    The Curtain’d sleep:Witchcraft celebrates
    Pale Hecat’s Offrings: (2.1.629-32)

          Ironically Macbeth compares himself to Tarquin, whose overcharged male immaturity is documented in Lucrece. And he concedes that his blind philosophical use of words to rationalise his situation could take the heat out of his resolve. Despite his previous characterisation of Duncan as an angel, he now accepts that Duncan when murdered could go to either ‘Heaven, or to Hell’.
          Lady Macbeth begins the second scene of Act 2 by affirming the pact with ‘Death’, or the male God, she made with Macbeth against ‘Nature’ or life.

    That Death and Nature do contend about them,
    Whether they live, or die. (2.2.655-6)

          But even she is still susceptible to the natural logic of life. To show that she cannot logically forsake her natural birth, Shakespeare has her fail to kill the grooms because one of them resembled her ‘Father’. The incident recalls the argument of sonnet 13, in which the youth is reminded he had a father. Then to demonstrate further the self-willed paradox of avowing faith in a male God, Shakespeare has Macbeth recount his inability to say ‘Amen’, when one of the King’s sons stirs and says ‘God bless us’. Considering Macbeth’s recent renewal of his male-based pact with his wife, his concern at his inability to reply ‘Amen’, with a pun on the words ‘a men’, is a sardonic piece of humour on Shakespeare’s part.
          But Shakespeare goes further when he more explicitly identifies why Macbeth cannot say ‘Amen’. Ironically Macbeth invokes not the God of the Bible to relieve his mind-driven crime, but the soothing ‘balm’ of nature. His problem, though, is that he has ‘murdered Sleep’ or his recourse to Nature’s nourishment in ‘Life’s Feast’.

    Me thought I heard a voice cry, Sleep no more:
    Macbeth doth murder Sleep, the innocent Sleep,
    Sleep that knits up the raveled Sleeve of Care,
    The death of each day’s Life, sore Labor’s Bath,
    Balm of hurt Minds, great Nature’s second Course,
    Chief nourisher in Life’s Feast
    . (2.2.691-6)

          Having taken a life, Macbeth becomes preeminently aware of the ‘course’ of life in which the ‘innocence of sleep’ is evidence of nature’s benefit. He recognises intuitively, thanks to Shakespeare, that the ‘balm’ for ‘hurt Minds’ is natural logic. Lady Macbeth, though, has closed her mind to nature so she asks, ‘What do you mean?’ Ironically, Macbeth responds as if he had overheard her speech confounding ‘Death and Nature’.
          Lady Macbeth, now committed to her masculine ambitions, draws the connection between Macbeth’s previous nobility and his recent tendency to think negatively.

                                  why worthy Thane,
    You do unbend your Noble strength, to think
    So brain-sickly of things: (2.2.703-3)

          She persists in her cynical slippage from natural logic to a mind prioritised mentality that blocks out the logic of the body and the world. In her challenge to Macbeth’s ‘infirmness of purpose’, she effectively describes the status of the Master Mistress of the Sonnets who wants to be immortalised in poetry and whose ‘eye’ is the immature eye of idealising adolescence.

                                  the sleeping and the dead,
    Are but as Pictures: ’tis the Eye of Child-hood,
    That fears a painted Devil. (2.2.712-4)

          Macbeth responds by characterising her Ur-shift toward the masculine as having world devastating consequences, as if the Ocean as nature loses its greenness to become bloody red.

    Will all great Neptune’s Ocean wash this blood
    Clean from my Hand? no: this my Hand will rather
    The multitudinous Seas incarnadine,
    Making the Green one, Red. (2.2.721-4)

          Macbeth’s apprehensive awareness of the magnitude of his crime, and Lady Macbeth’s dismissive suggestion that a ‘little Water clears us of this deed’ (Pontius Pilate), is accompanied by a persistent sound of ‘knocking’. As the Macbeth’s retire to clean off evidence of their deeds, they leave the Porter to open the gate.
          Before the knocking began, other than the murder of Duncan and grooms by the scheming Macbeth’s, the atmosphere in Macbeth’s castle has seemed ‘heavenly’. The ‘God-saved’ Duncan was called an ‘Angel’ by Macbeth and is asleep in ‘measureless content’, Macbeth’s ‘nobleness’ and virtues have been commended, and Lady Macbeth, the ‘most kind hostess’, has been sent a ‘diamond’ by the King.
          But when the bell rang at the end of Macbeth’s soliloquy, after he had murdered Duncan, he equivocated as to whether Duncan will go to ‘Heaven, or to Hell’. So even before the Porter opens the gate it is not clear whether those inside the castle are in ‘Heaven’ or in ‘Hell’. In sonnets 129 and 144, Shakespeare regards heaven and hell as interchangeable states in which one’s heaven can be another’s hell. The theme appears in a number of the plays and in the long poems. And the transformation of heavenly characters into their devilish opposites is also a persistent theme.
          So, when the Porter addresses Macduff and Lenox, who wait outside the gate, he takes the vigour of their knocking as a sign of desperation. If they are knocking to get into heaven, would they be so persistent, so they might be knocking on the gates of hell. And the idea of ‘knocking’, with its sexual overtones (continued in the sexual innuendoes in the ensuing exchange), suggests the place to which they are so eager to gain entry is confused as to whether it is heaven or hell.

    Here’s a knocking indeed: if a man were
    Porter of Hell gate, he should have old turning the
    Key. Knock. Knock, Knock, Knock. Who’s there
    i’th’ name of Belzebub? Here’s a Farmer, that hanged
    himself on th’expectation of Plenty: Come in time, have
    Napkin’s enow about you, here you’ll sweat for’t. (2.3.744-9)

          The image of the Farmer who hoarded his harvest for better prices, but ironically killed himself when the next harvest was bumper, provides an analogy for those who think they deserve to go to heaven but find their imagined heaven to be a real hell. They mortgage their futures against ‘time’, hence the Porter welcomes impatient ‘time’ into the hell of it own expectations.
          At the next knock, the Porter asks Macduff and Lenox ‘Who’s there in that other Devil’s name’. The ‘other Devil’ or the complement to ‘Belzebub’ is God, the Devil’s logical counterpart. Satan and God once co-existed in unison so here God is given his alternate designation. The equivocation between God and the Devil in the logic of ‘Faith’ sets ‘scale against either scale’, hence committing ‘treason enough for God’s sake’.

    Knock, Knock. Who’s there in the other Devil’s Name?
    Faith here’s an Equivocator, that could swear in both
    the Scales against either Scale, who committed Treason
    enough for God’s sake
    , yet could not equivocate to Heaven:
    oh come in, Equivocator. (2.3.749-54)

    The relationships in ‘Faith’ slip between the meanness of an ‘English Tailor’ to the suggestiveness of ‘French Hose’. The Tailor, thinking he has arrived at heaven, is invited in to ‘roast (his) Goose’.

                                        Knock. Knock,
    Knock, Knock. Who’s there? Faith here’s an English
    Tailor come, hither, for stealing out of a French Hose:
    Come in Tailor, here you may roast your Goose. Knock.
    Knock, Knock. Never at quiet: What are you? But this
    Place is too cold for Hell. I’ll Devil-Porter it no further:
    I had thought to have let in some of all Professions, that
    Go the Primrose way to the everlasting Bonfire. (2.3.754-61)

          The Porter does not ask ‘Who are you?’but ‘What are you?’ Is the equivocating entity God or Devil. But, when he begins to feel the cold of the night, he ceases his banter with a final quip about those of ‘all Professions’ who imagine their ‘Faith’ has them on the ‘Primrose way’ to heaven but are headed instead for the ‘Bonfire’ of hell.
          Sardonically, as Macduff and Lenox enter, the Porter asks to be remembered in ‘prayer’. Macduff, who has overheard the Porter’s tirade against equivocators, asks if the cause of the ‘lying’ or the need for prayer was the Porter’s lateness to bed. The pun on ‘lie/lie’ recalls the couplet of sonnet 138. There the Poet intentionally equivocates with the Mistress to demonstrate the logic of truth in words and its necessary connection to the increase dynamic in nature.

    Therefore I lie with her, and she with me,
    And in our faults by lies we flattered be. (Sonnet 138.13-14)

          And the Porter’s response recalls the equivocation of Peter before Christ’s crucifixion.

    Faith Sir, we were carousing till the second Cock:
    And Drink, Sir, is a great provoker of three things. (2.3.767-8)

          When asked to describe the three things, the Porter draws a logical relationship between equivocation and the consequences of ‘drink’ on sexual performance. By relating the equivocation of ‘Faith’ to the inability to sustain sexual performance, Shakespeare identifies the erotic nature of all faiths that deny the priority of increase (or the body dynamic) over the mind. The faiths are ‘Lies’ because they do not acknowledge their basis in natural logic.

    Marry, Sir, Nose-painting, Sleep, and Urine.
    , Sir, it provokes, and unprovokes: it provokes
    the desire, but it takes away the performance. Therefore
    much Drink may be said to be an Equivocator with
    Lechery: it makes him, and it mars him; it sets him on,
    and it takes him off; it persuades him, and dis-heartens
    him; it makes him stand to, and not stand to: in conclusion,
    equivocates him in a sleep, and giving him the Lie,
    leaves him. (2.3.770-8)

          To Macduff ’s observation that the ‘drink gave thee the Lie last Night’, the Porter agrees but, in keeping with his role as Shakespeare’s insightful persona-cum-gatekeeper he tells of how he ‘cast’ the ‘lie’ from his ‘Throat’. Again, the Porter’s awareness of the logical connection between the sexual and the verbal gives expression to the Sonnet philosophy.

    That it did, Sir, i’the very Throat on me: but I
    requited him for his Lie, and (I think) being too strong
    for him
    , though he took up my Legs sometime, yet I
    made a Shift to cast him. (2.3.780-3)

          Shakespeare, as he does with other characters of a similar social status, uses the role of the Porter to bring to the surface of the play aspects of his underlying philosophy that are pertinent to the action. The Porter’s lack of religious prejudice and social pretension makes him an ideal vehicle through which to summarise in colloquial language what is not evident to those who consider themselves above him in station. Ironically, commentators dismiss the Porter’s insights by insisting his part in the play reflects Shakespeare’s use of a conventional character derived from morality plays to counterpoint St Peter who mans the gate of heaven. But the opposite is the case as Shakespeare uses the convention to show how his natural logic is already evident in the thoughts and actions of an individual considered mean. The commentators’ embarrassment at the Porter’s language ironically reflects their inability to accept the lying or equivocation in their own beliefs.
          The philosophical interlude with the Porter precedes the discovery by Macduff of the murdered Duncan. As Lenox and Macduff attempt to account for the murder they reveal their remove from natural logic. Lenox attributes to the night storm an ability to ‘Prophecy with Accents terrible’ and Macduff laments the murder of the King as the ‘sacrilegious’ breaking open of the ‘Lord’s anointed Temple’. Their descriptions, immediately after the Porter says he has ‘shifted’ past the debilities of drink, show their inability to conceive of the gratuitous murder as a logical consequence of their malebased excesses.
          When Lady Macbeth emerges, Macduff further demonstrates his blindness to the logic of evil by patronising the over masculinised ‘Lady’.

    O gentle Lady,
    ’Tis not for you to hear what I can speak:
    The repetition in a Woman’s ear,
    Would murder as it fell. (2.3.840-3)

          Macbeth, in keeping with the Porter’s analysis, covers his guilt with lies and equivocation. And in equivocating, his language hints at his hidden crime.

    Had I but died an hour before this chance,
    I had lived a blessed time: for from this instant,
    There’s nothing serious in Mortality:
    All is but Toys:Renown and Grace is dead,
    The Wine of Life is drawn, and the mere Lees
    Is left this Vault, to brag of. (2.3.852-7)

          Yet, unlike Macduff and Lenox, Macbeth does not turn to the God and associated beliefs that have led to the calamity. Instead, as Shakespeare’s protagonist, and after informing the King’s sons that the ‘Spring, the Head, the Fountain of your Blood is stopped’, he talks of ‘Nature’. He is caught between his gross desires and a raw consciousness of their natural implications.

    Who can be wise, amazed, temp’rate, and furious,
    Loyal and Neutral, in a moment? No man:
    Th’expedition of my violent Love
    Out-run the pauser, Reason. Here lay Duncan,
    His Silver skin, laced with his Golden Blood,
    And his gash’d Stabs, looked like a Breach in Nature.
    For Ruin’s wasteful entrance: there the Murderers,
    Steep’d in the Colours of their Trade; their Daggers
    Unmannerly breeched with gore: who could refrain,
    That had a heart to love; and in that heart,
    Courage, to make’s love known. (2.3.873-83)

          Malcolm, who by the play’s end learns something of Shakespeare’s intent, recognises in the bloody scene before him an ‘argument’ to which he and Donalbaine should give ‘tongue’. Instead they decide to flee to England and Ireland respectively for fear of being murdered themselves.
          Banquo sums up by invoking the conceit that has lead to the collapse of heaven into hell.

                            Fears and scruples shake us:
    In the great Hand of God I stand, and thence,
    Against the undivulged pretense, I fight
    Of Treasonous Malice. (2.3.898-901)

          Banquo’s comments convey Shakespeare’s brilliant heightening of the irony where the embattled males are unable to perceive the logic of their blindness to fate.
          As the others avow assent, Macbeth summaries the logical contradiction evident in their expectation of help from the male-based God.

    Let’s briefly put on manly readiness. (2.3.904)

          Macbeth opened with the sounds and sights of nature and the Witches as females who were in accord with nature. Since the introduction of the embattled males, and Lady Macbeth’s determination to deny her feminine side, the logic of nature has been hidden from the Macbeths and other characters. Their only recourse has been to invoke the male God whose illogic is driving their unnatural acts.
          So when Ross meets an Old Man identified as ‘Father’, or an aging religious, he characterises the heaven’s as ‘troubled with man’s Act’ in which Night seems to dominate Day’s shame, and the Old Man calls the weather ‘unnatural’. The Old Man cites the instance of an Owl that kills a Falcon while defending its nest as evidence of the unnaturalness of the climate. Ross adds the observation that Duncan’s horses ‘broke their stalls’ and bit each other as if they were at ‘War with Mankind’.

    Ross. Ha, good Father,
    Thou see’st the Heavens, as troubled with man’s Act,

    Old man. ’Tis unnatural,
    Even like the deed that’s done:

    Ross. Turned wild in nature, broke their stalls, flung out,
    Contending ’gainst Obedience, as they would
    Make War with Mankind. (2.4.929-45)

          The Old man and Ross correctly identify the problem as ‘man’s Act’and ‘Mankind at War’, but are prejudiced by their male-based faith to see the violent storm as evidence of unnatural occurrences or signs. In sonnet 14 Shakespeare dismisses such heavenly augury.
          Then Shakespeare, with exquisite irony, has Ross note that Macbeth’s accession to the throne is contrary to primogeniture.

    ’Gainst Nature still,
    Thriftless Ambition (2.4.961-2)

    The Old Man, or Father, adds the final note of pious goodwill, which Shakespeare’s play identifies as the cause of men’s ‘Thriftless Ambition’.

    God’s benison go with you, and with those
    That would make good of bad, and Friends of Foes. (2.4.977-8)

          Banquo opens the third act with a tacit admission of complicity in the murderous events that follow his encounter with the Witches. He ‘fears’ that Macbeth has ‘foully’ (not fairly) attained the kingship, but he will not say so (‘but hush, no more’) for fear of jeopardising the kingship for his ‘Posterity’.

    Thou hast it now, King, Cawdor, Glamis, all,
    As the weird Women promised, and I fear
    Thou playd’st most foully for’t: yet is was said
    It should not stand in thy Posterity,
    But that my self should be the Root, and Father
    Of many Kings. If there come truth from them,
    As upon thee Macbeth, their Speeches shine,
    Why by the verities on thee made good,
    May they not be my Oracles as well
    And set me up in hope. But hush, no more. (3.1.982-91)
          When Macbeth enters to request Banquo’s presence at the ‘solemn Supper’ (echoes of Christ’s Last Supper), Banquo confirms that he will put self-interest ahead of justice.

    Let your Highness
    Command upon me, to the which my duties
    Are with a most indissoluble tie
    For ever knit
    . (3.1.1000-3)

          Banquo further realises that his life and that of his son Fleance are in danger. He resolves to ride until the hour of ‘Supper’ to avoid being killed by Macbeth. With supreme irony, Shakespeare has Macbeth play his Christlike hand by expressing a desire to be alone ‘till Supper’ and sardonically wishing Banquo a ‘God be with you’.
          When alone, Macbeth ruminates on the logic of increase in ‘Nature’. Shakespeare, immediately after he has Macbeth use the word God for the first time, examines the relation between Macbeth’s own God-like ambition, which has seen him and Lady Macbeth forswear the idea of posterity, and Macbeth’s worry that Banquo and his ‘Seeds’ will benefit from his murderous desire. Again the deep irony is in the comparison of Macbeth’s status with the similar status of a biblical fatherless, motherless and childless God who sends his ‘son’ to earth as a symbol of eternal childlessness to sustain the priority of the imagination over physical increase.
          Macbeth’s ‘Royalty’ has been achieved through a double murder. First the murder of his natural self and then the murder of the lineal king Duncan. Now he realises that Banquo is still capable of the ‘Royalty of Nature’.

    To be thus, is nothing, but to be safely thus:
    Our fears in Banquo stick deep,
    And in his Royalty of Nature reigns that
    Which would be feared. (3.1.1038-41)

          Macbeth sees a new threat in Banquo’s circumspection and his avoidance of danger. And Banquo, unlike Macbeth, has not vowed to forsake his natural logic. As evidence, Macbeth remembers that Banquo asked the Witches to ‘speak’ of his prospects.

                                  He chid the Sisters,
    When first they put the Name of King upon me,
    And bad they speak to him. Then Prophet-like,
    They hailed him Father to a Line of Kings. (3.1.1047-50)

          The Macbeths’ tragedy is that they have forsworn both their own desire for further offspring for the sake of Kingship, and are faced with the need to murder all other pretenders to the throne who have children or wish to have children. Their plight recalls the argument of sonnet 11, where the youth is rebuked that if all were like him in their disregard for the logic of increase, then in ‘three-score years the world would be done away’. Macbeth’s similar idealised or God-like self-regard leads him to murder the possibility of increase, starting with Banquo and Fleance, continuing with Macduff ’s wife and children and ending only when he encounters one who was ‘not of woman born’.

    Upon my Head they placed a fruitless Crown,
    And put a barren Scepter in my Grip,
    Thence to be wrenched with an unlineal Hand,
    No Son of mine succeeding: if it be so,
    For Banquo’s Issue have I filed my Mind,
    For them, the gracious Duncan have I murdered,
    Put Rancours in the Vessel of my Peace
    Only for them, and mine eternal Jewel
    Given to the common Enemy of Man,
    To make them Kings, the Seeds of Banquo Kings. (3.1.1051-60)

          Macbeth recognises that his actions have alienated him from his sexual nature. He bemoans the loss of his sexual prowess or ‘eternal Jewel’ that has become a ‘fruitless Crown’, and a ‘barren Scepter’. Because he would have to murder all mankind to ensure his current God-like rule, he has made the sexual propensity of ‘Man’ his ‘common Enemy’.
          When the murderers enter, Macbeth claims that Banquo was responsible for the murderers’ previous bad ‘fortune’. Macbeth then argues that neither the patience of their inner ‘nature’, nor their ‘Gospelled…prayer’ should distract them from their revenge. Shakespeare has his natural/ unnatural creation Macbeth equivocate between his natural inclinations and his God-like desires. He has him question first the murderers’ inner ‘nature’, and then their learned habits of prayer.

    Do you find your patience so predominant,
    In your nature, that you can let this go?
    Are you so Gospelled to pray for this good man,
    And for his Issue, whose heavy hand
    Hath bowed you to the Grave, and beggar’d
    Yours for ever? (3.1.1085-90)

          Macbeth’s facetious comment that Banquo is a ‘good man’, or a man of God who has ‘beggared’ the murderers’ kin, elicits from the first murderer an affirmation that they are ‘men’.

    We are men, my Liege. (3.1.1091)

          From the moment the males were introduced in the first line of act 1 scene 2 with ‘What bloody man is that?’ Shakespeare, in the unfolding tragedy, has critiqued the role of idealised masculine conceits. In act 1 scene 7 Macbeth asked if they should ‘bring forth Man-Children only’, and in act 2 scene 2 he could not ‘pronounce Amen’ to the ‘God save us’ from one of Duncan’s sons. Now, after Macbeth characterises Banquo as hiding the dark side of his maleness behind the one-sided goodness of the male God of the Gospel, the murderers affirm their willingness to confront Banquo with the hidden maleness of Banquo’s injustices, albeit transferred to him by Macbeth.
          But Macbeth wants to be sure of his ‘men’. In the ‘Catalogue of men’ there are many types of men as there are many types of ‘Dogs’. But ‘Nature’ has also created a ‘valued file’ that distinguishes men by a ‘particular addition’. If the murderers have a ‘station in the file’ above the ‘worst rank of Manhood’, such as deceiving types like Macbeth/Banquo, then Macbeth will entrust them with the mission to kill their common enemy.

    Ay, in the Catalogue ye go for men,
    As Hounds, and Greyhounds, Mongrels, Spaniels, Curs,
    Shoughs, Water-Rugs, and Demi-Wolves are clipt
    All by the Name of Dogs: the valued file
    Distinguishes the swift, the slow, the subtle,
    The House-keeper, the Hunter, every one
    According to the gift, which bounteous Nature
    Hath in him closed
    : whereby he does receive
    Particular addition from the Bill,
    That writes them all alike: and so of men.
    Now if you have a station in the file,
    Not i’th’worst rank of Manhood, say’t,
    And I will put that Business in your Bosoms,
    Whose execution takes your Enemy off,
    Grapples you to the heart; and love of us,
    Who wear our Health but sickly in his Life,
    Which in his Death were perfect. (3.1.1092-108)

          Shakespeare, anticipating sonnets 67 and 68, has Macbeth appeal first to the murderers’ inner ‘nature’ and then to their place in ‘Nature’ at large. Consistent with the logic of the Sonnets, Nature is evoked as the primary entity, while the God of the gospels is associated with the ‘good man’ or the status of the adolescent idealising Master Mistress of the youth sonnets.
          Ironically, like Barnardine the murderer in Measure for Measure, both murderers state that they have come to care for neither life nor death. Despite Macbeth’s elaborate rationale, they were already prepared to murder without concern for their own lives.

    Second Murderer. I am one, my Liege,
    Whom the vile Blows and Buffets of the World
    Hath so incensed, that I am reckless what I do,
    To spite the World
    First Murderer. And I another,
    So weary with Disasters, tugged with Fortune,
    That I would set my Life on any Chance,
    To mend it or be rid on’t
    . (3.1.1109-16)

          At the beginning of scene 2, when Lady Macbeth gives voice to her doubts, Shakespeare has her reflect on the relation of ‘desire’ and ‘content’. In an unguarded moment, he has her thoughts express the natural logic of the Sonnets. In the Sonnet logic, desire motivated by an unnatural lust for power lacks ‘content’. The issue is addressed in the first sonnet, where the word ‘content’ refers to both peace of mind and the content of the Poet’s verse that articulates the natural logic of life. And sonnet 55 is particularly precise in relating ‘contents’ to the appreciation of the logic of increase in nature.

    Nought’s had, all’s spent.
    Where our desire is got without content:
    ’Tis safer, to be that which we destroy,
    Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy. (3.2.1157-60)

          Not only is inner peace destroyed, it is evident to others that something is awry. The analogy with biblical thought is inevitable. Despite the promises of the male God, who dismisses nature and increase as sinful, the Christian mind is perpetually tormented by its relation to original sin. To outsiders its discomfort is a consequence of the illogicality of biblical desires.

    How now, my Lord, why do you keep alone?
    Of sorriest Fancies your Companions making,
    Using those Thoughts, which should indeed have died
    With them they think on: things without all remedy
    Should be without regard: what’s done, is done. (3.2.1162-6)

          Macbeth confirms the biblical allusions when he echoes Lady Macbeth’s concerns. Like the God who consigned Satan to the everlasting fires of Hell, Macbeth says,

    We have scorched the Snake, not killed it:
    She’ll close, and be her self, whilst our poor Malice
    Remains in danger of her former Tooth
    But let the frame of things dis-joint,
    Both the Worlds suffer,
    Ere we will eat our Meal in fear, and sleep
    In the affliction of these terrible Dreams,
    That shake us Nightly: Better be with the dead,
    Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace,
    Than on the torture of the Mind to lie
    In restless ecstasy.
    Duncan is in his Grave:
    After Life’s fitful Fever, he sleeps well,
    Treason has done his worst: nor Steel, nor Poison,
    Malice domestic, foreign Levy, nothing,
    Can touch him further. (3.2.1167-82)

          Shakespeare’s dramatic design, in which the Sonnet philosophy forms the background to which the Macbeths and the other characters act out their biblical-like fantasies and delusions, means that natural logic is the default position for their deliberations. It is not surprising, then, to find the Macbeths talking in terms of the arguments of the increase sonnets and poetry and increase sonnets as they attempt to disguise their intentions. They seek to conceal within their faces (‘the Mind to lie’) the beauty (‘eye’) and truth (‘tongue’) of their ‘Hearts’.

    Lady Macbeth. Come on:
    Gentle my Lord, sleek o’er your rugged Looks,
    Be bright and Jovial among your Guests to Night.
    Macbeth. So shall I Love, and so I pray be you:
    Let your remembrance apply to Banquo,
    Present him Eminence, both with Eye and Tongue:
    Unsafe the while, that we must lave
    Our Honors in these flattering streams,
    And make our Faces Vizards to our Hearts,
    Disguising what they are. (3.2.1183-92)

          Lady Macbeth, who has already declared her willingness to forgo her natural disposition to bear a child, reminds Macbeth that Banquo and Fleance’s eternity can be curtailed by eliminating their capacity to increase or copy themselves.

    But in them, Nature’s Copy’s not eterne. (3.2.1196)

          Macbeth, though, unbeknown to his wife, has already shortcut nature for Banquo and his son. His evocation of day turning to night is symptomatic of his own shift from good and noble Macbeth to ‘bad’ Macbeth. He projects onto the natural cycle of day to night his inevitable slide from an idealistic male to an ‘embattled’ male.

                            ere the Bat hath flown
    His Cloister’d flight, ere to black Hecat’s summons
    The shard-born Beetle, with his drowsy hums,
    Hath rung Night’s yawning Peal,
    There shall be done a deed of dreadful note. (3.2.1198-202)

          To affirm Macbeth’s complete acceptance of Lady Macbeth’s willingness to act contrary to nature, Shakespeare again uses the image of the ‘eye’ as Macbeth describes how he will ‘tear to pieces’ the ‘Bond’ of increase.

    Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest Chuck,
    Till thou applaud the deed:Come, feeling Night,
    Scarf up the tender Eye of pitiful Day,
    And with thy bloody and invisible Hand
    Cancel and tear to pieces that great Bond,
    Which keep me pale. (3.2.1204-9)

          Not only are the Macbeths going against the logic of increase in nature, they also turn the logic of truth and beauty against itself. Shakespeare has Macbeth gives voice to the illogicality in biblical thought where a male God created world ironically perverting the relationship of good and evil, resulting in greater evil.

    Thou marvell’st at my words: but hold thee still,
    Things bad begun, make strong themselves by ill: (3.2.1213-4)

          When the murderer gives an account of Banquo’s death in scene 4, he affirms the object of the assassinations is to kill ‘Nature’. Macbeth, when told that Fleance lives, comforts himself that he will not ‘breed’ for a while.

    Murderer. I, my good Lord: safe in a ditch he bides,
    With twenty trenched gashes on his head;
    The least a Death to Nature.
    Macbeth. Thanks for that:
    There the grown Serpent lies, the worm that’s fled
    Hath Nature that in time will Venom breed,
    No teeth for th’present. (3.4.1285-91)

          The context for the entry of the ghost of Banquo was established at the beginning of the play. The Witches depart before the males enter in Act 1 scene 2 and only Macbeth and Banquo witness the Witches in Act 1 scene 3. While Duncan and the other Lords are characterised as having overly masculine personae, with Ross and the Old Man in Act 2 scene 4 fantasising at the events of the night’s storm (and later Lady Macbeth has her own fantasy about blood), only Macbeth and Banquo are willing to intervene to ensure their masculine ascendancy to Kingship. So with Banquo dead, Macbeth is the only male who remains delusional about power.
          When the guests assemble for dinner, Lady Macbeth, in her attempt to alleviate the concern of the Lords, extends the earlier allusions to Christ’s Last Supper. Not only has Macbeth apparently been afflicted with his delusion since young, his ‘Friends’, if they offend him, could extend his ‘Passion’.

    Sit worthy Friends:my Lord is often thus,
    And hath been from his youth. Pray you keep Seat,
    The fit is momentary, upon a thought
    He will again be well. If much you note him
    You shall offend him, and extend his Passion,
    Feed, and regard him not. Are you a man? (3.4.1321-6)

          Lady Macbeth’s rhetorical question ‘Are you a man?’ again brings into focus the logical conditions that are behind the tragedy of Macbeth. Shakespeare ironically has Lady Macbeth challenge Macbeth’s willingness to be more of a man than his physical maleness provides. His delusory mind, with its ‘Passion’ from youth, is a consequence of being more male than maleness logically allows. Shakespeare has Macbeth acknowledge the nature of the delusion when he says he is a ‘bold’ man who has gone past the ‘Devil’ who was cast off by God. He has become even more like God in his absolute maleness.

    Ay, and a bold one, that dare look on that
    Which might appall the Devil. (3.4.1327-8)

          Lady Macbeth’s response confirms Macbeth’s over-masculinised condition, and her part in its manifestation is confirmed by his response to the illusion before him. She characterises his ‘fear’ as if it were a return to the natural logic of the ‘story’ of grandmother and mother that she has rejected.

    O proper stuff:
    This is the very painting of your fear:
    This is the Air-drawn-Dagger which you said
    Led you to Duncan. O, these flaws and starts
    (Imposters to true fear) would well become
    A woman’s story, at a Winter’s fire
    Authorised by her Grandam: shame it self,
    Why do you make such faces? When all’s done
    You look but on a stool. (3.4.1329-37)

          When Macbeth speaks to the apparition of Banquo, Lady Macbeth again expresses her concern that he cannot handle being the absolute masculine man.

    What? Quite unmanned in folly. (3.4.1344)

          Macbeth persists in referring to the biblical Passion as he wonders why those murdered ‘now rise again’.

    Blood hath been shed ere now, i’th’olden time,
    Ere humane Statute purged the gentle Weal:
    I, and since too, Murders have been performed
    Too terrible for the ear. The times has been,
    That when the Brains were out, the man would die,
    And there an end: But now they rise again
    With twenty mortal murders on their crowns,
    And push us from our stools. This is more strange
    Than such a murder
    is. (3.4.1347-55)

          Appropriately there is no ‘speculation’ in the ghost’s ‘eyes’ in keeping with the travesty of truth and beauty consequent on the abrogation of natural logic. Macbeth, preferring a wild animal to the ghost, says he would insist he is ‘the Baby of a Girl’ if Banquo would come to life again. Shakespeare has him wish his logical connection to nature was restored, but when the ghost vanishes Macbeth again asserts he ‘is a man’.
          Macbeth’s distraction is consistent with a belief in ‘augurs’ (3.4.1406) that was dismissed in sonnet 14. The ‘secret’st man of Blood’ or Christ similarly arises from such arcane expectations. Macbeth determines to seek out the ‘weird Sisters’ to discover ‘by the worst means, the worst, supposedly for mine own good’. He is to return to the imaginary masculinised females to find out how to do his masculine worst, for his own good. Such a good is the ‘strange and self-abuse’ of idealistic fantasies. Lady Macbeth, for all her masculine posturing, ironically recognises that ‘the season of all Natures’ or sleep, will ease their fears.
          The entry of Hecat in scene 5 was anticipated by Macbeth in scene 2. Contrary to general opinion that the part of Hecat is an interpolation by another playwright, her role is pivotal to establishing the logical centre of the play. When the three masculinised Witches entered at the beginning of the play, they established the female priority over the embattled males of scene 2. Now just after the play’s mid-point Hecat enters to recover the priority of the Witches’ feminine personae over their masculine personae. She berates them for being ‘over-bold’ with Macbeth, and identifies herself as the ‘Mistress’ of their charms.

    Have I not reason (Beldams) as you are?
    Saucy, and over-bold, how did you dare
    To Trade, and traffic with Macbeth
    In Riddles, and Affairs of death;
    And I the Mistress of your Charms,
    The close contriver of all harms,
    Was never called to bear my part,
    Or show the glory of our Art? (3.5.1432-9)

          The Mistress of the Sonnets bears the same characteristics as Hecat, who Shakespeare identifies as the Mistress’ dramatic counterpart. She is the female in nature who is in command of both her feminine and masculine personae and, as the source of beauty and truth, can wisely contrive ‘harm’to others, as well as direct adolescent males toward maturity. Her assessment of Macbeth follows her words of rebuke to the three Witches.

    And which is worse, all you have done
    Hath been for a wayward Son,
    Spiteful, and wrathful, who (as others do)
    Loves for his own ends, not for you. (3.5.1440-3)

          The mention of the ‘Moon’ recalls the numerological identification of the Mistress of the Sonnets with the lunar number 28, and further connects the logical role of Hecat to Shakespeare’s natural logic.

                                  This night I’ll spend
    Unto a dismal, and a Fatal end.
    Great business must be wrought ere Noon,
    Upon the Corner of the Moon
    There hangs a vap’rous drop, profound,
    I’ll catch it ere it comes to ground;
    And that distilled by Magic flights,
    Shall raise such Artificial Sprites,
    As by the strength of their illusion,
    Shall draw him on to his Confusion. (3.5.1450-9)

          Hecat will employ ‘the glory of our Art’ to lead Macbeth to the fate his selfishness warrants. By catching the profound ‘vap’rous drop’ from the ‘Corner of the Moon’ she will, with consummate irony, channel her parthenogenetic autoerotic energies to form the ‘Artificial Sprites’ or virtual apparitions to mimic the Macbeths’ ‘confused’ anti-nature theology. Lady Macbeth’s willingness to dash a baby’s head will be revisited on them when a ‘Bloody Baby’ is conjured to prophesise their fate.
          Hecat’s final judgment of Macbeth identifies the ‘Mortals’ chiefest Enemy’ as ‘Security’. Macbeth, like an adolescent idealist who bases his thought on illogical male-based belief, places his ‘hopes’ in ‘Wisdom’ above rather than trust ‘Fate’ and ‘Death’ that are part of the natural processes of life.

    He shall spurn Fate, scorn Death, and bear
    His hopes ’bove Wisdom, Grace, and Fear:
    And you all know, Security
    Is Mortals’ chiefest Enemy. (3.5.1460-3)

          The conversation between Lennox and another Lord at the conclusion of Act 3 establishes that they do not yet suspect Macbeth of the murders. Neither is it clear whether the army Malcolm and Macduff are organising is to act against Macbeth. The two Lords’ use of the words ‘Heaven’, ‘absolute’, and ‘holy Angel’ characterises their blindness to Macbeth’s deceit.
           Act 4 opens with the Witches singing around a steaming cauldron. Significantly the ingredients in the brew consist of natural plant, animal, and human parts. While some of the ingredients are not commonplace and their names are sometimes bitingly satirical none of them is other than natural. When Hecat enters, she bids the Witches sing ‘like’ Elves and Fairies. Her instruction to simulate ‘Elves and Fairies’ anticipates her magisterial control of the childish illusions that will soon spellbind Macbeth. Hecat’s role as the special effects director in Macbeth has its counterpart in Shakespeare’s patent use of theatrical illusion in all his plays.
          In keeping with the illusory status of the Witches, Macbeth’s first words locate them in the realm of hallucinations or dreams. Effectively they are personae of his mind.

    How now you secret, black, and midnight Hags?
    What is’t you do? (4.1.1577-8)

          When he asks what they ‘do’ they respond in unison, ‘A deed without a name’. The Witches employ intuitions that precede speech. According to the Sonnet logic they are evoking the dynamic of sensations or beauty, which is logically prior to the possibility of saying or truth. After all, Macbeth began with the Witches as the female dynamic within nature who appreciate the logic of beauty and truth or the dynamic of ‘fair’ and ‘foul’.
          Macbeth is aware that he ‘conjures’ the Witches, but wonders how they can ‘know’ the future in advance. He runs through a list of his male-based expectation of Witches until he exhausts them. Then he recalls the Witches’ specialty for predicting the ‘treasure of Nature’s Germaine’. (Germaine relates to parenthood in the sense of ‘from the same race’ from the ME or OF ‘germain’.)

    I conjure you, by that which you Profess,
    (However you come to know it) answer me:
    Though you untie the Winds, and let them fight
    Against the Churches: Though the yesty Waves
    Confound and swallow Navigation up:
    Though bladed Corn be lodged, and Trees blown down,
    Though Castles topple on their Warder’s heads:
    Though Palaces, and Pyramids do slope
    Their heads to their Foundations: Though the treasure
    Of Nature’s Germaine, tumble together,
    Even till destruction sicken: Answer me
    To what I ask you. (4.1.1580-91)

          Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have already shown their willingness to risk the ‘destruction’ of their powers of parenthood to achieve kingly power. Appropriately, when given a choice between hearing his fate from the Witches’ ‘mouths’ or from their ‘Masters’, Macbeth elects to hear from their ‘Masters’. Hecat has identified herself as the Mistress, so Macbeth’s preference means he will hear from the equivalent of the Master Mistress or adolescent male of the Sonnets. Shakespeare, in keeping with his critique of male-based delusions, has the first Witch add to the brew the animal prohibited to Jews. The ‘Sow’ that eats its ‘nine Farrow’ relates the ‘Masters’ to the number 9 associated with the Master Mistress in the Sonnets.

    Pour in Sow’s blood, that hath eaten
    Her nine Farrow: Grease that’s sweaten
    From the Murderer’s Gibbet, throw
    Into the Flame. (4.1.1598-601)

          Nature, as ‘Thunder’, again heralds the Witches’ revelations. They tell Macbeth he cannot speak to the apparitions as they already ‘know his thoughts’. Shakespeare emphasises the logical relationship that exists between the characters of the play and their equivalents as personae in Macbeth’s mind.
          The first apparition is an ‘Armed Head’. It lacks a body because it represents the logic of the embattled idealising males whose mind-based beliefs deny the logic of their bodies. The second apparition is a ‘Bloody Child’ who announces, ‘none of woman born shall harm Macbeth’. After the characterisation of the males as ‘Bloody Men’ in the first Act, the ‘Bloody Child’ characterises their adolescent idealistic mentality, with its disregard for the logic of increase.
          Macbeth finds no cause for concern in the first two revelations. He reckons he will ‘sleep in spite of Thunder’, or the inevitability of nature. The third apparition is a ‘Child Crowned, with a Tree in his hand’ who predicts that Macbeth will never be vanquished until Birnan Wood comes to Dunsinane Hill. Again Macbeth is buoyed, feeling assured he will ‘live the Lease Of Nature’ or his natural term of life. When he asks to know if Banquo’s ‘issue’ will ‘Reign in the Kingdom’, the Witches refuse to say, but he insists on knowing. He is shown a series of eight Kings with Banquo the last holding a mirror that shows Banquo’s descendants as Kings.

    Thou art too like the Spirit of Banquo:Down:
    Thy Crown does sear mine Eye-balls. (4.1.1659-60)

          Macbeth distraught, calls the Witches ‘Filthy Hags’, but they sardonically humour him by ‘Charming the Air’ and dancing before they ‘disappear’.
          Macbeth’s response, like that of any frustrated idealist, is to resort to a greater ‘ill’ in an attempt to recover his disappearing good. On hearing of Macduff ’s flight to England, he resolves to kill Macduff ’s wife and children. Through Macbeth’s actions, Shakespeare characterises the terrible and unrelenting consequences of any overly idealistic system of belief when believed in literally.

    And even now
    To Crown my thoughts with Acts: be it thought and done:
    The Castle of Macduff, I will surprise,
    Seize upon Fife; give to th’edge o’th’Sword
    His Wife, his Babes, and all unfortunate Souls
    That trace him in his Line
    . No boasting like a Fool,
    This deed I’ll do, before this purpose cool,
    But no more sights. (4.1.1701-8)

          So far, most of the males in the drama have had their characters defined. The delusions of Macbeth and Banquo have been explored and Duncan has revealed a surprising lack of prescience even for a King. The sons of Duncan and Banquo have been characterised by their flight, while Ross and Lennox have appeared as dutiful lords. The Porter revealed more of himself that the others but then he was drunk and had nothing to lose, as was the case with the murderers.
          Macduff, the male character who plays a major role in the second half of the play, so far has had little to say that has not been determined by the action (the murder of Duncan) and what he has said has revealed his loyalty to the King. Critically, though, he earlier revealed his patronising attitude to Lady Macbeth.

    O gentle Lady,
    ’Tis not for you to hear what I can speak:
    The repetition in a Woman’s ear,
    Would murder as it fell. (2.3.840-3)

          It should come as no surprise, then, that Macduff ’s wife has little regard for her husband. After Hecat has characterised Macbeth as an immature male, and after the Witches inform him that he will be harmed by ‘none of woman born’, and before Macduff has a lengthy conversation with Malcolm in Act 4 scene 3, Macduff ’s ‘unnaturalness’ is explored. In scene 2 Shakespeare adds a male-driven idealism to Macduff ’s character that makes him both of unnatural birth and an immature idealist.
          The telling irony in Macbeth is that Shakespeare has Macbeth killed by a fellow idealist. Of the principal characters, only Malcolm will rise out of the bloodletting of the embattled males as one who best recognises that the evil of self-delusion exhibited by his father can only be conquered by a critical reappraisal of his female and male personae.
          Macduff ’s wife begins scene 2 by challenging Ross’ patronising attitude.

    Wife. What had he done, to make him fly the Land?
    Ross. You must have patience Madam.
    Wife. He had none:
    His flight was madness: when our Actions do not,
    Our fears do make us Traitors.
    Ross. You know not
    Whether it was his wisdom, or his fear. (4.2.1712-8)

          Significantly, Macduff ’s wife is not called ‘Lady Macduff ’ in the Folio. Shakespeare, as he does with the Witches who precede the males in the first Act, represents the females countering the presumptuousness of the male. The wife’s response to Ross’ claim that Macduff could act with ‘wisdom’ is scathing. Macduff is not only incapable of acting according to reason, he does not show ‘love’ and, says his wife, he lacks the ‘natural touch’.

    Wisdom? To leave his wife, to leave his Babes,
    His Mansion, and his Titles, in a place
    From whence himself does fly? He loves us not,
    He wants the natural touch
    . For the poor Wren
    (The most diminutive of Birds) will fight,
    Her young ones in her Nest, against the Owl:
    All is the Fear, and nothing is the Love;
    As little is the Wisdom, where the flight
    So runs against all reason. (4.2.1719-27)

          The reasoning of Macduff ’s wife anticipates the logic of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Her complaint is that Macduff ’s flight to save his own life reveals his selfishness. It exposes his willingness to act contrary to nature, so that the priority of the female over the male and the logic of increase and the basis of reason or truth and beauty is distorted. The Sonnet ‘Wisdom’ respects the priorities in nature and so delivers according to reason.
          But Ross will not be deterred from intensifying his patronisation of the female and the lionising of his fellow male.

    My dearest Coz,
    I pray you school your self. But for your Husband,
    He is Noble,Wise, Judicious, and best knows
    The fits o’th’Season
    . I dare not speak much further,
    But cruel are the times, when we are Traitors
    And do not know ourselves: when we hold Rumour
    From what we fear, yet know not what we fear,
    But float upon a wild and violent Sea
    Each way, and move
    . I take my leave of you:
    Shall not be long but I’ll be here again:
    Things at the worst will cease, or else climb upward,
    To what they were before. My pretty Cousin,
    upon you. (4.2.1728-40)

          Ross’ speech is a bizarre mixture of condescension, pretentiousness, misapplied natural metaphors (‘Seasons’, ‘wild and violent Sea’), pious hopes, and a final condescension accompanied with a fatuous blessing. His malebased inability to address the issues of natural logic, outlined by Macduff ’s wife, leads her to brush off his waffle and state the logical crux directly.

    Father’d he is,
    And yet he’s Father-less. (4.2.1741-2)

          As Macduff is the father of his son, his actions have made his son fatherless. The implication, in the context of the wife’s ‘natural’ thought and Ross’ idealistic wishful thinking, is that the Christ-like son cannot have a father if after fatherhood the ‘father’ does not act like a natural father. The critique of the excesses of male-based idealism in Macbeth, and in the Master Mistress sequence of the Sonnets, is brought into focus immediately before Macduff sets out to overcome Macbeth in ‘battle’.
          Ross senses he has been bested, so he plays the ‘fool’ and departs before being further embarrassed by the wise wife.

    I am so much a Fool, should I stay longer
    It would be my disgrace, and your discomfort.
    I take my leave at once. (4.2.1743-5)

          Macduff ’s son has listened with interest to the exchange between his mother and Ross. She, aware that he has not missed anything, in mockserious banter suggests his father is dead. The son responds by mimicking her complaint about Macduff ’s unnatural flight.

    Wife. Sirra, your Father’s dead,
    And what will you do now? How will you live?
    Son. As Birds do Mother.
    Wife. What with Worms, and Flies?
    Son. With what I get I mean, and so do they. (4.2.1746-50)

          The son then switches the by-play by interjecting that his ‘Father is not dead for all your saying’. Consistent with the Sonnet logic, that ‘saying’ is the dynamic of truth, Shakespeare has the son distinguish between the effect of words and their basis in fact. The mother, hearing her son make the distinction, insists that his father is dead (because for her Macduff is dead to his natural self), and asks the son what he will do to get another ‘Father’. In keeping with the logic of the increase argument, the mother and son play with the idea that any man could have been the son’s father.

    Wife. Yes, he is dead:
    How wilt thou do for a Father?
    Son. Nay how wilt thou do for a Husband?
    Wife. Why I can buy me twenty at any Market.
    Son. Then you’ll buy ’em to sell again.
    Wife. Thou speak’st withal thy wit,
    And yet i’faith with wit enough for thee. (4.2.1757-63)

          The wife recognises that her son is drawing on his resources of natural logic to keep up with her double talk, which simultaneously takes account of Macduff ’s flight and the male-based idealism that drives it and his inability to ‘touch’ her naturally. Her son speaks, despite the youthfulness of his wit, with ‘wit enough’ to appreciate her drift. (The editors’ emendation of ‘withal’ to ‘with all’ removes the sense that the son is responding with the intuitive correctness of natural logic from his as yet unprejudiced mind.)
          The son shows his awareness of his mother’s intended meaning when he asks if his father is a ‘Traitor’. For the mother, Macduff is a traitor to his logical role as a male in relation to her and her son. As the son has heard Ross’ disingenuous excuses, he quickly realises that the ‘fool’ Ross, who has sworn allegiance to the priority of both the male God and King, cannot help but ‘lie’.

    Son. Was my Father a Traitor, Mother?
    Wife. Ay, that he was.
    Son. What is a Traitor?
    Wife. Why one that swears, and lies.
    Son. And be all Traitors, that do so?
    Wife. Every one that does so, is a Traitor,
    And must be hanged.
    Son. And must they all be hanged, that swear and lie?
    Wife. Every one.
    Son. Who must hang them?
    Wife. Why, the honest men.
    Son. Then the Liars and Swearers are Fools: for there
    Are Liars and Swearers enow, to beat the honest men,
    And hang up them. (4.2.1764-77)

          The relationship between swearing and lying is explored in the Mistress sonnets that consider the logic of truth (sonnets 138 to 152). Sonnets 138 and 152 particularly consider the act of swearing and the implications for saying what is true or false. Because the Poet of the Sonnets is establishing his logical relation to the Mistress, and because she is unrelenting in expecting him to act and think maturely, the exchange between Macduff ’s wife and her young son is particularly poignant. Her reference to ‘honest men’ is wonderfully oxymoronic in its identification of the logical cul-de-sac created by idealistic males.
          With deeply sardonic humour, in the same breath as the ‘Wife’ asks ‘God’ for help she acknowledges her son’s natural lineage from the monkey. The son accepts the logic that if God the Father were dead then he could ‘quickly have a new Father’.

    Wife. Now God help thee, poor Monkey:
    But how wilt thou do for a Father?
    Son. If he were dead, you’d weep for him: if you
    would not, it were a good sign, that I should quickly
    have a new Father
    Wife. Poor prattler, how thou talk’st. (4.2.1778-83)

          The wife’s final comment to her son recognises how successfully he has mimicked the readiness of idealists to recreate themselves under new male Gods. The recreation has occurred a multitude of times in mythologies since the time of the monkey. Shakespeare, as he does so decisively in the Sonnets, and in the poems and other plays, characterises the illogical belief in the literalness of the Christian mythology as the prattle of adolescent males.
          A messenger enters, and before he warns the Wife of impending danger, he acknowledges her ‘state of Honour’ as ‘perfect’. While determined not to ‘fly’ because she has not ‘done harm’, she recognises there are evil consequences to everyone from those whose thoughts or actions generate potential for ‘harm’.

    Whether should I fly?
    I have done no harm. But I remember now
    I am in this earthly world: where to do harm
    Is often laudable, to do good sometime
    Accounted dangerous folly. Why then (alas)
    Do I put up that womanly defence,
    To say I have done no harm? (4.2.1794-800)

          Editors emend ‘whether’ to ‘whither’. In so doing they destroy the Wife’s philosophic deliberation and replace it with the psychology of religious fear. The Wife is at ease in herself as she reflects on the relation between her womanly ‘reason’ and the ‘folly’ of Macduff. In the Sonnets, the Mistress similarly is the repository of truth and beauty who continually reminds the Poet of the illogical consequences of reverting to his adolescent idealism. The emendation removes the priority from the female, making her seem lost without the guidance of a male. The tragedy of Macbeth is due to the prejudiced presumption against the natural logic of life typified by maledriven idealists who belittle ‘womanly defence’.
          With the death of Macduff ’s wife and child, the next scene examines the effects of the recent events on Malcolm and Macduff and the consequences when Macduff discovers his family is murdered. Commentators and critics have called this scene the ‘only tedious one in the play’ (Chambers 1923?) and that in some passages Malcolm’s language has ‘the formality of courtesy complicated by suspicion’(Oxford 1990). Their belittlement of the scene corresponds to their similar claim that Cordelia’s response to Lear (1.1.102-10) is a formal statement without meaning.
          Yet, for the way it points to the critique of the Master Mistress in the Sonnet philosophy, the scene is most significant in the tragedy of Macbeth. Malcolm, of all the characters in Macbeth, is prepared to examine his own culpability in the battle of male-based ideals. Malcolm’s reflections are those of a young man who has glimpsed something of the natural logic of his birthright despite his exposure to the illogical consequences of prioritising the male over the female in the male-God based world of his father, King Duncan.
          Malcolm’s first words establish his empathy for his feminine side. In imagery loaded with sexual symbolism he wants to restore his maleness to a balance with its female roots.

    Let us seek out some desolate shade, and there
    Weep our sad bosoms empty. (4.3.1814-5)

          If Malcolm is the Master Mistress of the Sonnets who, under the influence of the Poet, has begun to reconcile his male driven desire for power with the priority of the female, then Macduff, as correctly characterised by his wife, is still a headstrong male. He counters Malcolm’s statement with imagery whose symbolism equates his belligerence with that of ‘Heaven’. If Malcolm wishes to ‘weep’ in the woman’s ‘shade’, Macduff will hold his ‘mortal’ or penile sword like ‘good men’ against their ‘downfall’ which, consistent with the doctrine of original sin, is their ‘Birthdom’.

    Let us rather
    Hold fast the mortal Sword: and like good men,
    Bestride our downfall Birthdom: each new Morn,
    New Widows howl, new Orphans cry, new sorrows
    Strike Heaven on the face, that it resounds
    As if it felt with Scotland, and yelled out
    Like Syllable of Dolour. (4.3.1816-22)

          While Shakespeare allows Malcolm a simple statement of his feelings, Macduff speaks with the oratorical falsity of a male sundered from his birthright. The ‘Widows’ and ‘Orphans’ who want to ‘strike Heaven (or God) on the face’ are victims of good men with mortal swords who deny their natural logic. Dramatically, Shakespeare has Macduff pontificate before an audience that has heard his wife accuse him of neglecting her and their children.
          Malcolm, having identified his logical roots in the female, is now able to comment with insight on his and Macduff ’s opposing views. When Macduff raises the ‘Syllable of Dolour’, Malcolm says that if he believed, as Macduff does, in such a God he too would ‘wail’. He only believes, though, in what he ‘knows’ and not in an imaginary God. So he will ‘redress’wrongs only on the basis of friendship.

    What I believe, I’ll wail;
    What know, believe; and what I can redress,
    As I shall find the time to friend: I will. (4.3.1823-5)

          Taking Macduff to task, Malcolm points out that the same Macbeth who now is so hated was once ‘thought honest’ and even ‘loved’ by Macduff. While Malcolm is younger than Macduff, he mockingly offers himself as the sacrificial ‘Lamb’ to appease Macduff ’s ‘angry God’. Within the first few lines of the scene, Shakespeare equates the illogicalities of the Christian faith with Macduff ’s belligerent attitude.

    What you have spoke, it may be so perchance.
    This Tyrant, whose sole name blisters our tongues,
    Was once thought honest: you have loved him well
    He hath not touched you yet. I am young, but something
    You may discern of him through me, and wisdom
    To offer up a weak, poor innocent Lamb
    To appease an angry God. (4.3.1826-32)

          Malcolm draws the predictable response from the blind idealist Macduff, and then subjects Macduff to another biblical analogy to show the dangers of belief in an absolute God.

    Macduff. I am not treacherous.
    Malcolm. But Macbeth is.
    A good and virtuous Nature may recoil
    In an Imperial charge
    . But I shall crave your pardon:
    That which you are,my thoughts cannot transpose;
    Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell.
    Though all things foul, would wear the brows of grace
    Yet Grace must still look so
    . (4.3.1833-40)

          Shakespeare puts in Malcolm’s mouth a withering attack on the pious falseness of maintaining a belief in the absolute goodness of a God who gives birth to the greatest evil. Malcolm realises he will not change Macduff ’s beliefs with ‘thoughts’. He realises that it took the death of his father, Duncan, to make him see the reality behind the ‘Grace’ (that) must ‘look so’.
          Macduff responds to Malcolm’s challenge like a disenchanted idealist who swings from impossible hope to forlorn scepticism. Malcolm suggests that the way for Macduff to resolve his doubts is in the ‘strong knots of Love’ or the logic of increase within nature.

    Macduff. I have lost my Hopes.
    Malcolm. Perchance even there
    Where I did find my doubts.
    Why in that rawness left you Wife, and Child?
    Those precious Motives, those strong knots of Love,
    Without leave-taking. I pray you,
    Let not my Jealousies, be your Dishonours,
    But mine own Safeties: you may be rightly just,
    Whatever I shall think. (4.3.1841-9)

          Malcolm’s circumspection, though, does not have the desired effect. Instead, Macduff postures again as if the source of ‘Tyranny’ comes completely from without, and so requires no personal reassessment. Not hearing Malcolm’s logic, he avows he would not be a ‘Villain’.

    Bleed, bleed poor Country,
    Great Tyranny
    , lay not thy basis sure,
    For goodness dare not check thee:wear thou thy wrongs,
    The Title, is affeared. Fare thee well Lord,
    I would not be the Villain that thou think’st, For the whole Space that’s in the Tyrant’s Grasp,
    And the rich East to boot. (4.3.1850-6)

          Malcolm matches Macduff ’s absolutes with an absolute in return.

    Be not offended:
    I speak not as in absolute fear of you: (4.3.1857-8)

          Malcolm attempts to make it clear to Macduff that he is not concerned with what he can expect from ‘gracious England’. His issue is with the philosophic conditions that enable such acts of ‘tyranny’ to rise from seemingly ‘good men’ who believe in an absolute God.

                                  But for all this,
    When I shall tread upon the Tyrant’s head,
    Or wear it on my Sword; yet my poor Country
    Shall have more vices that it had before
    More suffer, and more sundry ways than ever,
    By him that shall succeed. (4.3.1864-9)

          Macduff is still unable to relate the condition of the ‘Country’ to a malaise that affects all individuals who have a personal faith in such a God. So again Malcolm addresses his own culpability, and again makes the logical connection to the ‘Lamb’ of God.

    Macduff. What should he be?
    Malcolm. It is myself I mean: in whom I know
    All the particulars of Vice so grafted,
    That when they shall be opened, black Macbeth
    Will seem as pure as Snow, and the poor State
    Esteem him as a Lamb, being compared
    With my confineless harms. (4.3.1870-6)

          Unlike Malcolm, who has been given a capacity for philosophic overview by Shakespeare, Macduff cannot see beyond his immediate self interest and the immediacy of the current tyranny. In order to awaken Macduff to the blindness of his external faultfinding, Malcolm takes upon himself the possibility of being more evil than Macbeth. And Shakespeare, to point to the human desire most denigrated by believers like Macduff, sweeps aside all forms of ‘sin’ to focus on the sin of ‘Lust’, the original sin characterised ironically by Malcolm in the language of those who make increase a ‘sin’.

    Macduff. Not in the Legions
    Of horrid Hell, can come a Devil more damn’d
    In evils, to top Macbeth
    Malcolm. I grant him Bloody,
    Luxurious, Avaricious, False, Deceitful,
    Sudden, Malicious, smacking of every sin
    That has a name
    . But there’s no bottom, none
    In my Voluptuousness:Your Wives, your Daughters,
    Your Matrons, and your Maids, could not fill up
    The Cistern of my Lust, and my Desire
    All continent Impediments would o’er-bear:
    That did oppose my will. Better Macbeth,
    Than such an one to reign. (4.3.1877-89)

          Macduff ’s response is classic bigotry. Because he hears Malcolm’s words but not his meaning, he villainises such ‘intemperance’ as a ‘Tyranny of Nature’. He blames sexual excess for the dethroning of many Kings, but goes on to assure Malcolm that when he succeeds Duncan as King ‘willing Dames’ will be laid on to satisfy his ‘inclinations’. Shakespeare has Macduff, in a representation of all that is wrong with the males in Macbeth and all that is illogical in a religion based on the priority of a male God, offer the evil to Malcolm which Malcolm abhors in principle. Macduff blames ‘Nature’ instead of God.

    Boundless intemperance
    In Nature is a Tyranny
    : It hath been
    The untimely emptying of the happy Throne,
    And fall of many Kings. But fear not yet
    To take upon you what is yours: you may
    Convey your pleasures in a spacious plenty,
    And yet seem cold. The time you may so hoodwink:
    We have willing Dames enough: there cannot be
    That Vulture in you, to devour so many
    As will to Greatness dedicate themselves,
    Finding it so inclined. (4.3.1890-900)

    But Shakespeare/Malcolm has not yet finished revealing the cupidity of the man who lacks the ‘natural touch’. Rather than challenge Macduff ’s own dishonesty over matters sexual, Malcolm ups the ante by making an issue of his own ‘avariciousness’. Macduff obliges by again offering to bend the rules of his man-God faith.

    Malcolm. With this, there grows
    In my most ill-composed Affection, such
    A staunchless Avarice, that were I King,
    I should cut off the Nobles for their Lands,
    Desire his Jewels, and this other’s House
    And my more-having, would be as a Sauce
    To make me hunger more, that I should forge
    Quarrels unjust
    against the Good and Loyal,
    Destroying them for wealth.
    Macduff. This Avarice
    Sticks deeper
    : grows with more pernicious root
    Than Summer-seeming Lust: and it hath bin
    The Sword of our slain Kings: yet do not fear,
    Scotland hath Foisons, to fill up your will
    Of your mere Own. All these are portable,
    With other Graces weighed. (4.3.1901-16)

          Malcolm takes his trial of Macduff ’s personal tyranny to its logical conclusion when he claims he has none of the ‘King-becoming Graces’. Worse, he would ‘pour the sweet Milk of Concord, into Hell’, to confound ‘all unity on earth’. Macduff, unable to offer a kickback to such a universal evil, ironically cries ‘O Scotland, Scotland’, the same Scotland he would trade away to satisfy the seeming evils of Malcolm.
          Malcolm claims he is ‘as I have spoken’, forcing Macduff to identify the reason behind Duncan’s inability to preempt the evil potential in Macbeth. The ‘Sainted-King’ and his Queen, who was more dead than alive in prayer, have given Malcolm his insight into human nature that Macduff, as revealed by his wife, completely lacks.

    Fit to govern? No not to live. O Nation miserable!
    With an untitled Tyrant, bloody Sceptred,
    When shalt thou see thy wholesome days again?
    Since that the truest Issue of thy Throne
    By his own Interdiction stands accused,
    And does blaspheme his breed? Thy Royal Father
    Was a most Sainted-King: the Queen that bore thee,
    Oftner upon her knees, than on her feet,
    Died every day she liv’d. Fare thee well,
    These Evils thou repeatest upon thy self,
    Hath banished me from Scotland. O my Breast,
    Thy hope ends here
    . (4.3.1930-41)

          Malcolm had earlier stated his belief that nothing he could say would alter Macduff ’s ingrained beliefs. Faced with such duplicitous blindness, a quality Macduff shares with Duncan and the other males beside the Porter, Malcolm is reduced to patronising him but in terms that clearly identify the childishness of self-deceit. Macduff refuses to be anything other than the adolescent Master Mistress of the Sonnets. Malcolm, aware of the psychological role of belief in God in the lives of immature people, suggests that ‘God above’ will have to help Macduff and himself to ‘deal’together. He reveals he deliberately used pretense about his ‘sins’ to test Macduff. But its all a bit too much for Macduff who must be one of Shakespeare’s more unfortunate duffers.

    Macduff, the Noble passion
    Child of integrity
    , hath from my soul
    Wiped the black Scruples, reconciled my thoughts
    To thy good Truth, and Honour. Devilish Macbeth,
    By many of those trains, hath sought to win me
    Into his power: and modest Wisdom plucks me
    From over-credulous haste: but God above
    Deal between thee and me
    ; For even now
    I put myself to thy Direction, and
    Unspeak my own detraction. Here abjure
    The taints, and blames I laid upon my self,
    For strangers to my Nature. I am yet
    Unknown to Woman, never was forsworn,
    Scarcely have coveted what was mine own.
    At no time broke my Faith, would not betray
    The Devil to his Fellow, and delight
    No less in truth than life
    . My first false speaking
    Was this upon my self. What I am truly
    Is thine, and my poor Country’s to command: (4.3.1942-60)

          After Malcolm reveals his motivation to Macduff, he mentions the plans he has made with the King of England to deal with Macbeth. He notices, though, that Macduff is reduced to ‘silence’. Macduff is still bewildered by intellectual runaround he has received from Malcolm.

    Such welcome, and unwelcome things at once
    ’Tis hard to reconcile. (4.3.1966-7)

          Immediately after Malcolm reveals the hypocrisy behind Macduff ’s characterisation of Macbeth as the worst of all possible devils, and so the hypocrisy behind the immature idealism of Christianity, Shakespeare has Malcolm comment of the ability of the English King to seem to heal miraculously.
          The insertion at this point in the scene of the brief exchange with the King’s doctor acknowledges that occasionally unbridled faith can have surprisingly beneficial effects. The illogicality behind biblical idealism exhibited by the males in Macbeth is easy to expose but can also justify terrible iniquities that arise in the idealist’s mind. Shakespeare, though, acknowledges that under the influence of a determined focus of the mind it is possible for rare individuals to incite in others a remission or cure of physical ailments. That the King or others attribute the special talent to the ‘sanctity of Heaven’ is an ‘Evil’ like the disease it cures, particularly when such cures frequently happen independent of such an agency.
          Malcolm’s role in distinguishing between the good and evil consequences of a belief in ‘God’ and ‘Christendom’, and his testing of Macduff, establishes a basis from which he can proceed to execute the plan to overthrow Macbeth using the various forces and devices at his command. (The first part of scene 3 is reminiscent of the American Constitution which prohibits any religion from being identified with the state, and which some think was influenced in part by the founding fathers’ reading of Shakespeare. See the Jefferson essay in Volume 4.)
          So when Ross enters, barely recognised by Malcolm, to report on the events in Scotland, he characterises Scotland as no longer our ‘Mother, but our Grave’. When Macduff asks after his wife and children, Ross at first cannot bring himself to say directly that they have been murdered. It falls to Ross, though, as if stimulated by the harsh words from Macduff ’s wife, to recognise that the flight of the men from Scotland has left the women to fend for themselves and exposed the children to the ‘Tyrant’s Power’.

    When I came hither to transport the Tidings
    Which I have heavily borne, there ran a Rumour
    Of many worthy Fellows, that were out,
    Which was to my belief witnessed the rather,
    For that I saw the Tyrant’s Power a-foot.
    Now is the time of help: your eye in Scotland
    Would create Soldiers, make our women fight,
    To doff their dire distress. (4.3.2021-8)

          Malcolm responds that ‘ten thousand men’ of ‘Christendom’were ready to fight. The resort to the power of the male is reinforced by Malcolm when he challenges Macduff to ‘dispute it like a man’ after Ross tells Macduff of the fate of his ‘Wife, and Babes’. Macduff assents but reveals that his faith in heaven is not as it was because it ‘looked on while his family died’. The irony that the King of England has the ability to cure isolated subjects but not save Macduff ’s family is not lost on Macduff. But Macduff, as Malcolm predicted, is incapable of drawing a logical conclusion. Instead, like so many blind believers, he blames himself for their deaths. Ironically, if they had been saved, he would have thanked God.

    I shall do so:
    But I must also feel it as a man;
    I cannot but remember such things were
    That were most precious to me: Did heaven look on,
    And would not take their part
    ? Sinful Macduff,
    They were all struck for thee: Naught that I am,
    Not for their own demerits, but for mine
    Fell slaughter on their souls
    :Heaven rest them now. (4.3.2070-7)

          Malcolm, having established the type of headstrong male he is dealing with, directs Macduff ’s anger toward the man responsible for his grief. Macduff demonstrates his remove from Shakespeare’s Sonnet logic when he boasts of his power over women and of the power of his tongue. Correctly, Macduff attributes such male pride to the ‘gentle Heavens’ and prepares to meet Macbeth on Heaven’s male-based terms.

    O I could play the woman with mine eyes,
    And Braggart with my tongue. But gentle Heavens,
    Cut short all intermission: Front to Front,
    Bring thou this fiend of Scotland, and my self
    Within my Sword’s length set him, if he scape
    Heaven forgive him too. (4.3.2080-5)

          Malcolm is fully aware of the male-based psychology under his control. He will use it judiciously in contrast to all the other males in Macbeth (other than the Porter). He summarises the logic of the situation in one brief line.

    This time goes manly: (4.3.2086)

          Most editors reveal their manly foolishness by emending ‘time’ to ‘tune’. The alteration destroys the precision of Shakespeare’s critique of male-based idealism when it is taken to excess. It is worth remembering that Shakespeare’s critique is leveled at the masculine excesses in the personae of men and women, in particular of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
          Act 5 begins with the return of Lady Macbeth, who is observed by a doctor. From the account of the gentlewoman who had previously seen Lady Macbeth sleep-walking, the doctor calls her ‘slumbry agitation’ a ‘great perturbation in Nature’. When he watches her attempt to clean the blood from her hands, he admits ‘the disease is beyond my practice’. He acknowledges that ‘unnatural deeds do breed unnatural troubles’ but does not have the insight, as did Malcolm, that the ‘troubles’ are caused by an excessive belief in God leading to devilish consequences.

    Foul whisperings are abroad: unnatural deeds
    Do breed unnatural troubles: infected minds
    To their deaf pillows will discharge their Secrets:
    More needs she the Divine, than the Physician:
    God, God forgive us all. Look after her,
    Remove her from the means of all annoyance,
    And still keep eyes upon her: So goodnight,
    My mind she has mated, and amazed my sight,
    I think, but dare not speak
    . (5.1.2163-71)

          The Doctor’s confusion about what he is observing is mirrored in his confusion about the logical relation of nature and the male God. Shakespeare injects into his language words such as ‘breed’ and ‘discharge’, and then has the Doctor use the sexual pun ‘mated’ and the imagery of the Sonnet philosophy to involuntarily state the cause of his inability to put into words what he has witnessed.
          The lords and soldiers who enter in scene 2 set the stage for the coming battle. Significantly they characterise most of the English soldiers as ‘unrough youths’ that even now protest their ‘first of Manhood’. The youths symbolise the mental level of the males, including the Doctor. Lennox concludes that they will ‘dew the Sovereign Flower, and drown the Weeds’.
          Malcolm has demonstrated an insight into human nature befitting the Sonnet Poet. Shakespeare characterises Malcolm as the ‘Sovereign Flower’ who benefits from the removal of ‘weeds’, as the Master Mistress’ recalcitrance is termed in sonnet 94. Malcolm has a philosophic astuteness beyond the other characters in Macbeth consistent with Shakespeare’s decision to give him command of the dialogue with Macduff in Act 4 and make the concluding speech of the play.
          With Malcolm’s logical relation to Nature the sovereign mistress established, Shakespeare’s attention turns to Macbeth who, as his Thanes desert him, is becoming isolated in his male domain, a victim of ‘Old Age’ without ‘Honour, Love, Obedience, Troops of Friends’. When Macbeth enquires after Lady Macbeth, Seyton points to the self-inflicted nature of her ailment. Macbeth unwittingly implicates things ‘written’, such as the Bible, in his list of symptoms. And the Doctor, with a slip of the tongue, correctly identifies the gender disorder that has driven the whole tragedy, by referring to Lady Macbeth as ‘himself ’.

    Macbeth. Can’st thou not Minister to a mind diseased,
    Pluck from the Memory
    a rooted Sorrow,
    Raze out the written troubles of the Brain,
    And with some sweet Oblivious Antidote
    Cleanse the stuffed bosom, of that perilous stuff
    Which weighs upon the heart?
    Doctor. Therein the Patient
    Must minister to himself
    . (5.3.2261-9)

          When Malcolm and his supporters re-enter, he commands the soldiers to cut branches to conceal their approach to Macbeth’s Castle. Then Macbeth, unconcerned because of the Witches’ favourable predictions, hears a ‘Cry of women from within’ and is told of Lady Macbeth’s death. Logically the cry comes from within himself. As his co-partner in feminine denial dies, her side in the diabolical male-based pact collapses.
          Macbeth’s famous speech then follows. Consistent with the intent of the play it summaries the anti-natural psychology of male-based thought. The death of the Queen, who was his mate but for his sake repudiated her female logic, removes Macbeth’s last possible connection with the female. Bereft of his logical connection to nature, Macbeth like Adam with Eve in Genesis is driven into the vacuum of the heaven/hell of the male God. Life, then, as it does now for such believers, has lost its natural meaning.

    She should have died hereafter;
    There would have been a time for such a word:
    To morrow, and to morrow, and to morrow,
    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
    Signifying nothing. (5.5.2338-49)

          Shakespeare, as in the Sonnets, has no illusions about the logical status of his craft. A life that does not acknowledge its natural logic of sexual relations and truth and beauty creates poetry without deeply realised content, and conversely, acting on the stage should not be mistaken for the life it comments on. Both the character of Macbeth and his play are nothing without the life that persists around them.
          Macbeth’s divorce from the natural processes of life has consequences for his ability to determine ‘Truth’. When told that Birnam Wood is on the move he curses the Witches for their ‘equivocation’. Yet right from the ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’ of the first scene, the Witches have respected the logic of language as capable of double meanings that only a mind in tune with natural logic can unravel. Unlike Malcolm who demonstrated his command of language when he bamboozled Macduff, Macbeth calls the messenger a ‘Liar and slave’ but then reveals his own confusion.

    If thou speak’st false,
    Upon the next Tree shall thou hang alive
    Till Famine cling thee: If thy speech be sooth,
    I care not if thou dost for me as much.
    I pull in Resolution, and begin
    To doubt th’Equivocation of the Fiend,
    That lies like truth
    . (5.5.2362-8)

          When Young Seyward enters, Macbeth slays him. Not only is the son of Seyward a young male full of idealistic fervor, to Macbeth’s delight he was born of a woman. The death is the final attempt by the male-driven Macbeth to deny his natural logic. When Macduff enters, motivated now by his ‘Wife’s and Children’s’ deaths, he calls Macbeth a ‘Hell-Hound’. His own status as one from ‘his Mother’s womb untimely ripped’ and as an enraged soldier of Christendom makes Macbeth curse his ‘tongue’ and again despair of the ‘Juggling Fiends’…double sense’. Ironically, Macbeth is killed by Macduff, neither of whom appreciate the logic of words.
          Macduff reenters with Macbeth’s head, a sign of the castration predicted four acts before. He hails Malcolm as King. Malcolm moves to restore calm and order by making appointments and calling all exiles home. And he reveals that Lady Macbeth took her own life.
          When Malcolm, Ross, and Seyward returned with the news of young Seyward’s death, Shakespeare ironically had Seyward commend his son as ‘God’s Soldier’. But rather than call on the Christian ‘God’, the function of God having been exhausted in the battle of the males, Malcolm returns to his statement of Act 4 scene 3 where ‘grace yet grace’ captured the natural relation between God and his logical opposite the ‘brightest star’ or Devil’.

    This, and what needful else
    That calls upon us, by the Grace of Grace,
    We will perform in measure, time, and place:
    So thanks to all at once, and to each one,
    Whom we invite, to see us Crowned at Scone. (5.6.2524-8)

          Shakespeare has groomed a young man wiser than all the rest. Duncan’s successor is a King who will act according to the logic of nature.

    The relation of Macbeth to the Sonnet template

    It is possible to read through, or act, Macbeth without experiencing any of the doubts raised in traditional commentaries about its length, its complete- ness or its authenticity. Because the commentators remain equivocal about the authenticity of the Folio text, claiming on one hand that it is deficient while also admitting its surprising coherence, the adequacy of the paradigm behind their methodology is brought into question.
          Missing from all the previous attempts to understand Macbeth has been an appreciation of the comprehensive philosophy Shakespeare articulates in his Sonnets. If Shakespeare wrote and organised the Sonnets to present the philosophy behind all the plays and poems, and the commentators are ignorant of the philosophy, then it is not surprising that they are confused about aspects of the play or about the intent behind the play as a whole.
          Worse, as not one of the traditional commentators has plumbed the philosophy of the Sonnets, and as the Sonnet philosophy radically critiques their predominately traditional Judeo/Christian world-view most bring to their interpretation of the play, their discomfort with the play can be attributed to the challenge it presents to their traditional prejudices. Their ambivalent criticism of the play, and their willingness to denigrate the editors and compositors of the Folio, distracts from their ignorance of the underlying philosophy. The Sonnet philosophy not only provides the basis for understanding Macbeth, it also reveals the inadequacy of the commentators world-view.
          Only when the Sonnet philosophy is applied as the sole basis for exegesis are the doubts and quibbles about the original resolved. More pertinently, those aspects of the play that traditional commentary has sought to denigrate (Coleridge hated the Porter’s scene, and others have passed off the Hecat scene as Middleton’s) are given their correct value and role within the play as expressions of the Sonnet philosophy. The significance of the Witches, the role of the ‘bloody males’ in the Captain’s speeches, the recurring imagery of the ‘Babes’, Malcolm’s demonstration of Macduff ’s hypocrisy, and Wife Macduff ’s criticism of her husband as a man who lacks the ‘natural touch’, all have a logical function when the play is viewed as an expression of the Sonnet philosophy.
          All of the elements of the Sonnet philosophy are apparent in Macbeth and the order in which they are introduced is consistent with the priorities of the Sonnet logic. Nature as thunder enters first, followed by the Mistress in the form of the ‘Witches’, followed by the ‘Bloody males’ who are immediately associated with the adolescent idealism of Christ’s ‘Golgotha’. The abrogation of increase by the Macbeths, which parodies the literalism of the erotic in traditional mythologies, is tied logically to the male-based pact for power between Macbeth and his wife. And the logic of increase is apparent in the Witches’ methods of prediction, as it is in the genealogical ambitions of Banquo.

    Nature Template <i>Sonnet</i> Numbers

    Nature template (Sonnet numbers)

    The forces of nature and the priority of the female over the male in nature correct the illogical relationships in adolescent male-based ‘Christendom’. The male-based idealism typical of Christendom is identified with the psychology of motivation behind an irrational desire for absolute power. Shakespeare’s critique of the hypocrisy of over-idealised beliefs is based on a consistent appreciation of the relation of truth and beauty out of natural logic. The Witches’ characterisation of truth as ‘fair and foul’, Banquo’s questioning of the Witches’ reality, and Malcolm’s demonstration of Macduff ’s hypocrisy, are all consistent with the logic of truth and beauty articulated in the Mistress sequence. The logic of truth and beauty from the Sonnets permeates the play to give Shakespeare’s language veracity unmatched in any other writing.
          The role of the ‘eyes’ in determining truth and beauty is appealed to frequently (1.2.69, 1.4.340-1, 1.5.419, 2.1.620-4, 2.2.713, 3.2.1188, 4.1.1541, 5.1.2169). At 3.2.1188 Shakespeare’s reference to both ‘eye’ and ‘tongue’ recalls the logical relation of beauty and truth in sonnet 17, which is based on the definitive relation of beauty and truth in sonnet 137 as ‘seeing’ and ‘saying’.
          Also significant is the fluency of the logical relationship between the characters in the play as not only credible persons in the world, but also as believable personae in the mind of Macbeth, and as dramatic personages on the stage. Shakespeare manages to combine the three potentialities seamlessly in Macbeth. His philosophy allows a consistent understanding of human beings in nature. His ideas are logically derived from nature and he recognises that the ideas are constitutionally theatric or non-biological. By combining all these possibilities, Shakespeare is able to correct the inconsistencies in traditional mythologies and give his play a consistent mythic expression based in natural logic.
          It is possible to feel some sympathy for Harold Bloom as he struggles in The Western Canon and The Invention of the Human to account for the obvious non-Christian dimension in Shakespeare’s works and particularly in Macbeth. As Bloom does not understand the Sonnet philosophy he has no way of appreciating that Macbeth is not a precursor of a modern nihilistic crisis or an expression of post-Christian anxiety. Because Bloom is unable to see the devastatingly logical critique Shakespeare applies to the old theologies, he presumes the idealistic certainties of Christianity are left untouched, even if forlornly isolated, by Macbeth’s dive into his resources of evil.
          From the vantage of the Sonnet logic, Shakespeare contextualises, within the givens guaranteed by nature and the sexual dynamic, the illogicalities of adolescent male-driven idealism of which Macbeth represents both the ‘noble’ and the malevolent dimensions. The nihilism or anxiety felt by Bloom, which makes him wonder about Shakespeare’s state of mind, is a consequence of his continued adherence to aspects of the illogical mythological expectations of the biblical paradigm. Hence his interest in the Gnostic reformulations of Christian orthodoxy.
          Once it is appreciated that the Sonnets were published in 1609 as the articulation of the comprehensive logic from which the plays were derived, then the elements in the plays that present Shakespeare’s world-view emerge to account for the equivocation evident in both the textual uncertainties and the contextual doubts experienced by the likes of Bloom. Bloom and all previous commentators have not appreciated that Shakespeare not only critiques the inconsistencies in the old mythologies, he also encompasses their inconsistencies with a completely reformulated mythic expression that is without contradiction.
          Bloom correctly notices that the characters in Shakespeare’s play have a self-consciousness of their own roles unheralded or unsurpassed by any other writer. While other writers have learnt to create characters of great psycho- logical insight, because Shakespeare is operating at such a distinct remove from them with a consistent mythic logic his characters have not only a psychological veracity but also a philosophic consistency unknown elsewhere. Their ability to reflect on their own roles is a consequence of Shakespeare’s appreciation of the logic of any mythic expression, articulated in the Sonnets, and hence his capacity to write at a mythic level without the disingenuousness of other writers, and particularly the writers who created the male-based biblical texts.

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    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005

    Introduction    Venus and Adonis    Rape of Lucrece    The Phoenix and the Turtle
        A Lover's Complaint    Love's Labour's Lost    Measure for Measure
    Macbeth    Twelfth Night    Henry VIII