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English Literature   >   Shakespeare: Macbeth


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Shakespeare: Macbeth

In this course Professor Lisa Hopkins (Sheffield Hallam University) provides of overview of some of the recent scholarship on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, with a focus on six key themes. In the first lecture we think about the representation of time in Macbeth. After that, we think about the play’s topicality, i.e. its particular resonance for its original, early 17th-century audience, before turning in the third lecture to consider the presentation of fate and free will in the play. In the fourth lecture we explore the presentation of women in the play, particularly the character of Lady Macbeth and the witches, before turning in the fifth lecture to think about the presentation of sleep and dreams in the play, as well as about consciousness and reality. Finally, in the sixth lecture, we think the use of language and imagery in the play, including the kind of vocabulary used in the play, recurrent imagery, and the play’s insistence of being seen as a play.


In this lecture we think about the representation of time in Macbeth, focusing in particular on: (i) the very first words in the play, in which the witches discuss when they are going to meet again (“When shall we three meet again?, 1.1.1); (ii) the preponderance of future tense verbs in the play; (iii) Donald W. Foster’s article, Macbeth’s War on Time (1986), in particular the contrast between the character of Donalbain and the real, historical figure; (iv) Rhodri Lewis’ article, Polychronic Macbeth (2020), in particular the tension between ‘secular and historical’ time and ‘sacred and transcendent’ time; (v) Daniel Johnson’s article, ‘Shakespeare’s Phenomenology of Time in Macbeth, in particular the essential ‘doubleness’ of time in Macbeth; (vi) Sarah Lewis and Emma Whipday’s article, ‘Sounding Offstage Worlds: Experiencing Liminal Space and Time in Macbeth and Othello’, in particular the importance of offstage sounds structure the audience’s experience of theatrical time; (vii) the concepts of kairos (a particular moment in time) and telos (the end of time); (viii) the extent to which Macbeth (both the character and the play) subscribes to a particular understanding of time; and (ix) the extent to which time is ‘broken’ by Macbeth, and the extent to which it can be repaired or recovered when he has been killed.

Reading list:
– Donald W. Foster, ‘Macbeth’s War on Time’, English Literary Renaissance 16.2 (1986), pp. 319-42
– Rhodri Lewis, ‘Polychronic Macbeth’, Modern Philology 117.3 (2020), pp. 323-46
– Daniel Johnson, ‘Shakespeare’s Phenomenology of Time in Macbeth’, Shakespeare 17 (2021), pp. 379-99
– Sarah Lewis and Emma Whipday, ‘Sounding Offstage Worlds: Experiencing Liminal Space and Time in Macbeth and Othello’, Shakespeare 15 (2019), pp. 272-82

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Hopkins, L. (2022, October 10). Shakespeare: Macbeth - Time [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Hopkins, L. "Shakespeare: Macbeth – Time." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 10 Oct 2022,


Prof. Lisa Hopkins

Prof. Lisa Hopkins

Sheffield Hallam University