David Bates of “Reading Everest” introduced himself and his blog to me this weekend, and I find his current post about Macbeth pretty cool.
Quoting Harold Bloom he refers to Macbeth as the killing machine – but then goes on to point out that Macbeth is only responsible for 3 deaths, and those offstage. Hamlet, meanwhile, Shakespeare’s most intelligent character and certainly the darling of Bloom’s work, is directly responsible for the deaths of Claudius, Polonius (even if he didn’t know it was Polonius, he still wanted him dead), and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He’s debatably got a hand in Ophelia’s insanity and eventual suicide. As David asks, what would he have done to Gertrude if the ghost hadn’t stepped in? (Actually he asks whether Hamlet would have done Gertrude in before Polonius, but I don’t think that was ever a possibility. After, though, when he’d gotten himself worked up….)
Macbeth *is* a killing machine. He’s introduced that way. Everybody loves the “unseamed him from knav to chaps” line, describing Macbeth’s prowess on the battlefield. I think that his physical size and power has a great deal to do with the point of the story. It’s not about who’s the biggest and strongest. Macbeth the monster is manipulated by his wife. She then goes down to her own internal demons, not to some assassin’s blade. Does Macbeth remain a killing machine at the end? Is Macduff fighting the same guy he would have in the opening scene? Or is the monster a broken shell of himself at the end?
UPDATE : Link to the original post, which I shamefully forgot when I originally posted this. My sincere apologies to David.