Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Departmental Honors

Department

English

First Advisor

Phebe Jensen

Abstract

Of all Shakespeare's tragedies, Macbeth is by far the most supernaturally charged. The play opens with three witches who give Macbeth and Banquo a prediction that lays out the plot of the rest of the play. Macbeth sees a phantom dagger, hears voices, and is haunted by the ghost of his murdered comrade. The vast amount of supernatural events comes as no surprise considering that Shakespeare almost certainly wrote the play as a tribute to King James I, the British monarch whose belief in the power of witchcraft ran so deep that he led several witchhunts throughout Britain, in addition to writing Daemonologie, a text that argued for the reality of witches and the study of witchcraft's place in legitimate theological studies at the time. Led by King James, England treated supernatural phenomenon as a very real presence in the world at the time Shakespeare wrote Macbeth. While witches are perhaps the most ostentatious and the primary focus of King James's attention, they were by no means the only form the supernatural was said to take. Ghosts, visions and dreams, postmortem bleeding corpses, possession of devils, each had a place in Jacobean culture.

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