Between Florence and Glamis: on Macbeth’s Machiavellian phase
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The influence of Machiavelli on Early Modern British drama is quite obvious. The character named after him haunts the stage in different forms. Despite the official ban enacted by ecclesiastical and secular authorities and the attacks of the moralist and intellectual of the time, his precepts were extremely popular. Shakespeare represented him in his plays. Richard III, Henry IV and Claudius show many traits related to Machiavellism. Macbeth is also influenced by the Florentine political theorist. However, the role of the Machiavellian imagination in the play does not extend to the entire action of the play. The Machiavellian phase of Macbeth’s life seems to be an exploration of the epistemological claims of that theory that exhausts its potentialities and uncovers its limits. Macbeth renounces Machiavellism after he fails to kill Fleance. Along with Machiavelli’s percepts, the hero villain discards his wife who no longer plays any significant role in his plans. He leaves her burdened with more than her own guilt to continue on his path of destructive search for the ultimate power of knowing and controlling the future. This article seeks to analyze the Machiavellian phase of Macbeth’s life and discover the reasons why he renounces Machiavellianism. It argues that Machiavelli’s theory fails to rationalize the world of Macbeth/Macbeth to provide the hero-villain with a reliable framework of knowledge and action.