As we walked to Greenblatt’s lecture, he handed me four pages of printed notes he’d made for our
little conference. He had actually done homework for our meeting.
The pages included the following passages, introduced by the note:
“Three further, quick glimpses of how Shakespeare works the magic that gives the play its drive:
-- Act I, scene 4
DUNCAN (about the treasonous thane of Cawdor)
There’s no art
To find the mind’s construction in the face.
He was a gentelmean on whom I built
An absolute trust.
Stage direction: ENTER MACBETH
-- Act I, Scene 5 and the beginning of Scene 6
LADY MACBETH [about plans for the murder]:
Leave all the rest to me.
[They exit. Duncan enters and looks at the castle where he’s soon to die.]
DUNCAN: This castle hath a pleasant seat.
And perhaps my [i.e., Greenblatt’s] favorite moment:
Act 3, scene 3
BANQUO [Innocently walking through the forest]: It will be rain tonight.
MURDERER [attacking Banquo]: Let it come down!
And, as if Greenblatt hadn’t been generous enough, he’d also included pertinent quotations selected
from Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Nietzsche. Here they are in full:
“For when men are no longer obliged to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition, which passion is
so powerful in the hearts of men that it never leaves them, no matter to what height they rise.
The reason of this is that nature has created men so that they desire everything, but are unable
to attain it; desire being thus always greater than the faculty of acquiring, discontent with
what they have and dissatisfaction with themselves result from it. “ (Machiavelli, Discorsi)
There is no “greatest good…nor can a man live whose desires are at an end than he whose senses and imagination
are at a stand. Felicity is a continual progress of desire from one object to another; the attaining
of the former being still but the way to the latter. The cause whereof is that the object of man’s desire
is…to assure forever the way of his future desire.” (Hobbes, Leviathan)
“Desire magnifies that which one desires; it grows even by not being fulfilled – the greatest ideas
are those that have been created by the most violent and protracted desires. The more our desire
for a thing grows, the more value we ascribe to that thing: if ‘Moral values” have become the highest
values, this betrays the fact that the moral ideal has been the least fulfilled….Mankind has embraced,
with ever-increasing ardor, nothing but clouds: finally called its despair, its impotence ‘God.’
(Nietzsche, Will to Power)