Macbeth: 'The frame of Things Disjoint' or Deconstruction Enacted

Essay by aishamalik12 March 2004

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Trying to define 'deconstruction' is rather like being asked to weigh air -it is, to say the least.a nebulous concept to grasp. However, considering deconstruction in relation to Macbeth may give the theory some substance and may help to open up angles on the play that would not otherwise be considered.

The words 'fair is foul and foul is fair' (1.1.10) shake our whole universe of meaning. If either can signify the other, where do we look to for stability, or is there no such thing as stability in the world of Macbeth? A world where everything is clearly and correctly labelled is a safe and comforting place. A world where labels can be erased is threatening to contemplate. The crisis at the heart of Macbeth is in some ways a perfect expression of what some 2Oth century theorists call 'deconstruction'. It is important, though, to keep in mind that when considering the play in this light, we are imposing a modern day notion on the play, which it was not written to fit.

Many times in this play, binary oppositions are invoked only to be subverted -the foul/fair pairing in the first brief scene alerts us to this and the witches themselves are not easily labelled since they 'look not like the 'inhabitants o'th' earth' And yet are on't' (1.3.339-341). Macbeth and Lady Macbeth embody subversions of the expected gender attributes -Macbeth is 'too full o'th'milk of human kindness' (1.5.16) whereas Lady Macbeth wishes to be 'unsexed' and offers her 'milk for gall'(1.5.47). However, deconstruction is not concerned with mere reversals of order, but with a sense of undesirability once an accepted order has been shaken. It denies the ultimate polarization of meaning of binary oppositions such as foul/fair good/bad,. man/woman and suggests that meanings not so...