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How could this quote by Erasmus - "He who allows oppression shares the crime" -relate...

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brandih | eNotes Employee

Posted June 7, 2013 at 8:16 PM via web

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How could this quote by Erasmus - "He who allows oppression shares the crime" -relate to the play Macbeth


 

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 8, 2013 at 3:23 PM (Answer #1)

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Desiderius Erasmus, Erasmus of Rotterdam, was born in the fifteenth century and believed in man's freedom of choice, despite Martin Luther's claims that fate is predetermined. Erasmus and Luther had a mutual respect for each other, despite their differing opinions and each recognized the contribution of the other.

The quote "He who allows oppression shares the crime" is prevalent in terms of our modern forms of justice and the world's attempts to apologize for atrocities of the past - the Holocaust  and many war crimes' tribunals being the most obvious examples.

There has been debate about whether Macbeth was responsible, in Shakespeare's Macbeth, for the death and destruction he rendered or whether he was at the mercy of a higher source - in this case, the supernatural. Obviously Lady Macbeth, his "dearest partner of greatness" (I.v.10) is instrumental in his downfall as she suggests that he is "so much more the man" (I.vii.51) on considering furthering his own gains.

It is clear to Lady Macbeth that Macbeth can be manipulated; calling his manhood to account would obviously spur a respected military man, honored by his king into action. The witches recognize the evil within Macbeth as "something wicked this way comes" (IV.i.45)  and, whilst they revel in encouraging his delusional interpretations, all the while creating an environment where "fair is foul and foul is fair," they purely feed his "vaulting ambition."(I.vii.27)

Lady Macbeth, on the other hand, takes an active part in Macbeth's undoing. Having persuaded him to actually kill Duncan, even though he almost persuaded himself against it in deciding to "proceed no further in this business"(I.vii.31), she tells him "a little water clears us of this deed"(II.ii.66) When he , in his confusion, brings the daggers used to kill Duncan, it is Lady Macbeth who returns them. When Macbeth is haunted by Banquo, it is Lady Macbeth who calms his visitors and makes acceptable excuses for him. So too then, she shares in his crimes as her guilt gets the better of her.

Macbeth becomes increasingly brazen and Lady Macbeth increasingly withdrawn. Macbeth is eager to show her what he can "achieve" and prefers her to be "innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck, till thou applaud the deed" (III.ii.45) so eager is he to please her. She does however begin to realize that he "lack(s) the season of all natures"  (III.iv.141).

Ultimately, she will pay the price for Macbeth's evil deeds and wishes only to take his hand and "to bed, to bed, to bed."(V.i.66) Unfortunately, her attempts to wash away her guilt culminate in her utter descent into madness and "more needs she the divine than the physician."(72)

By allowing Macbeth to continue on his destructive path, Lady Macbeth is as guilty as he is and her life and Macbeth's are nothing more than "a tale, told by an idiot, signifying nothing."(V.v.26)   

 

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