Witches and Jesuits : Shakespeare's Macbeth /
Garry Wills.
New York : New York Public Library ; New York ; Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1995.
ix, 223 p. : ill. ; 22 cm.
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New York : New York Public Library ; New York ; Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1995.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. 167-202) and indexes.
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Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1995-04:
Wills contends that Shakespeare opportunistically fashioned Macbeth in 1606 as a response to popular belief that diabolical machinations underlay the Gunpowder Plot of November 1605--that infamous attempt by papist terrorists to blow up King James I, his court, and Parliament. Shakespeareans have recognized threads of topical allusion to the Powder Treason in Macbeth, but Wills argues that the play contains an intricate tapestry of interwoven strands that pattern a gothic tale of witchcraft and Jesuitical perfidy. Wills's readings of scenes and characters--particularly his vision of a Faustian Macbeth who conspires with forces of darkness to become King Witch--will challenge readers whose interpretation of the play is fixed in notions of classical tragedy and may suggest alternative stagings to directors who have found the accursed "Scottish play" vexing. Wills, who won a 1993 Pulitzer for his Lincoln At Gettysburg, elegantly demonstrates skill as a social historian. He provides 35 pages of endnotes to document his scholarship, but Shakespeare scholars may caution Wills against accepting as authoritative problematic evidence related to matters of casting and staging. Nevertheless, this book delivers an engaging perspective and is worth the whistle. P. D. Nelsen; Marlboro College
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 1994-08-08:
Pulitzer Prize-winning Wills (Lincoln at Gettysburg) here turns his attention to a new interpretation of MacBeth. Originally performed in 1606, a year after the failed Gunpowder Plot to blow up the English monarchy and Parliament, the play was written, Wills argues, in the context of this event and in Shakespeare's belief that the Jesuits had backed the treason. Supportng his theory with careful research, Wills compares MacBeth with other ``gunpowder'' dramas and provides an informed analysis of the play's characters. Positing that the witches have been marginalized by modern directors in the play's second half, Wills claims that Shakespeare intended them to serve as a demonic presence throughout. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Appeared in Library Journal on 1994-09-01:
Wills (Certain Trumpets, LJ 5/1/94) tackles the problem of the often-perceived lopsidedness of Macbeth, in which an exciting, supernatural first half is followed by an anticlimactic, secular second half. He convincingly demonstrates that Macbeth falls into a category he calls Gunpowder plays, which allude to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and the issues it raised in the Jacobean mind, such as witchcraft and cosmic evil. By showing how pervasive this theme is in Macbeth, Wills recaptures the gripping tension that Shakespeare's audience must have felt when witnessing, for example, the scene involving Malcolm and Macduff in Act IV (which modern audiences often find tedious). Wills shows that the supernatural, diabolical element is as fully present in the second half of the play as in the first and that this can be conveyed on a modern stage. The result, he claims, will be a reintegrated Macbeth that no longer falls into two distinct halves. For comprehensive literature collections.-Bryan Aubrey, Fairfield, Ia.
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews, August 1994
Publishers Weekly, August 1994
Library Journal, September 1994
Booklist, October 1994
Choice, April 1995
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Trouble with Macbethp. 1
Gunpowderp. 11
Witchesp. 33
Male Witchp. 51
Lady Macbethp. 75
Jesuitsp. 91
Malcolmp. 107
Macbethp. 125
Conclusion: The Test of Performancep. 145
Date of the Playp. 151
Text of the Playp. 159
Key to Brief Citationsp. 165
Notesp. 167
Line Index to the Playp. 203
Index of Namesp. 207
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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