NONFICTION

Macbeth: A Dagger of the Mind

Scribner. (Shakespeare's Personalities). Apr. 2019. 176p. ISBN 9781501164255. $24; ebk. ISBN 9781501164279. LIT
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Bloom (Yale Univ.; The Anxiety of Influence; The Western Canon) has had a long and distinguished career as teacher and scholar. Nearing 88, he continues his prodigious publishing output with this fifth volume in his new series, "Shakespeare Personalities"; previous entries have dealt with William Shakespeare's Falstaff, Cleopatra, King Lear, and Iago. Although the titles suggest a focus on one character, these volumes amount to an annotated text of the play(s) in which the character appears. Throughout, Bloom offers a running commentary, ranging from a single sentence to over a page in length, including theatrical reminiscences, plot summary, paraphrase, historical background, personal reaction, and explication that spans from the insightful to the questionable, as when he says Lady Macbeth has poisoned (rather than drugged) the wine of Duncan's grooms, or glosses "roast your goose" as having sex with a prostitute (rather than "heat your smoothing iron"). Bloom offers no thesis and presents no extended argument about Macbeth, though through his reflections on various passages an idea of the characters emerges. He notes, for example, Macbeth's anticipating "feeling all actions before they are formulated."
VERDICT This book is like a curate's egg, with some good places. For larger collections and Shakespeare completists.

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