"Bloody Business". Crime, Violence and Wrongdoing in Macbeth

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


It has often been observed that crime and wrongdoing are central issues in Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre and that the audiences were often fascinated with spectacles of graphic violence and attracted to the most bloodthirsty characters in the plays. The most sensational successes of the time were determined by criminal heroes/villains such as Marlowe's Tamburlaine, Kyd's Hieronimo or Shakespeare's Macbeth. The latter is commonly considered one of the most violent and pitiless Shakespeare characters and his commitment to crime is effectively captured by this famous line: «I am in blood/Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more,/Returning were as tedious as go o'er». At the same time, though, this line may sound as a partial justification of his conduct, picturing him as a forced wrongdoer who is not master of his own will. After all, many extenuations may be pleaded for Macbeth such as supernatural intervention or the instigation of a wicked wife. Moreover, Macbeth, out of the battlefield, does not kill anyone with his own hands unlike characters usually considered more positive such as Hamlet and Romeo. My paper, therefore, aims at reflecting upon Macbeth's conduct throughout the play with particular focus on the causes and the effects of his wrongdoing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWrongdoing
EditorsElizabeth Durot-Boucé
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Macbeth, Violence, Crime, Wrongdoing


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