Leithart, Peter. “If It Were Done When ‘Tis Done: Macbeth.” In Brightest Heaven of Invention: A Christian Guide to Six Shakespeare Plays. Moscow, ID: Canon, 1996.
Leithart’s analysis is illuminating and enhanced my enjoyment of the play. Here’s an example:
Whether or not Macbeth will act on his ambition depends on his answer to the question, What does it mean to be a man? Two answers to this question are presented by the play, and Macbeth is forced to choose between them. When Lady Macbeth urges him to kill Duncan, he protests, ‘I dare do all that may become a man; who dares do more is none’ (1.7.46-47). On this view, one cannot be a man without placing limitations on desires and actions. Whoever tries to do more than ‘becomes a man’ becomes less than a man. Lady Macbeth, by contrast, operates on the view that you are not a man unless you act on every single desire. She asks her hesitating husband, ‘wouldst thou have that / Which thou esteem’st the ornament of life, / And live a coward in thine own esteem, / Letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would’ (1.7.41-44), and adds, ‘When you durst do it, then you were a man’ (1.7.49). Any effort to control desire, to deny and suppress evil, or to place any limits whatever on action—all these for Lady Macbeth amount to nothing but cowardice.
. . . . . . . . .
His assault on the order of the world turns him into a beast. Having tried to lift himself above his place, he ends up falling into an abyss (see Ezekiel 28:1-10). As a consequence of his ambition to be more than human, he becomes less than human (see Daniel 4:1-37). By the end of the play, Macbeth is being seen, and even sees himself, as a subhuman creature: a baited bear, a hell-hound, a devil. He has dared do more than becomes a man, and at the last he is none. [162-63]
The one drawback is that the book is without footnotes or endnotes. Are all these observations simply Leithart’s or is he drawing on other sources?