The Aesthetic Response: The Reader in Macbeth

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April 15, 2021

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By Ali Salami

This article seeks to explore the different strategies the Bard uses in order to evoke sympathy in the reader for Macbeth who is so persistent in the path of evil. What strategy does Shakespeare use in order to provoke such a deep emotional response from his readers? By using paradoxes in the play, the Bard creates a world of illusion, fear and wild imagination. The paradoxical world in Macbeth startles us into marvel and fear, challenges our commonly held opinions, and reshapes our thought in the process (Platt 8). As the text involves the reader in the formation of illusion and the simultaneous formation of the means whereby the illusion is punctured, “reading reflects the process by which we gain experience. Once the reader is entangled, his own preconceptions are continually overtaken so that the text becomes his present while his own ideas fade into the past. As soon as it happens, he is open to the immediate experience of the text” (Iser, The Implied Reader 290). Mesmerised by Macbeth’s powerful imagination and poetic language, the reader engages in a dialogical interaction with the play and eventually  finds light in the murky world of the text. Regardless of Macbeth’s diabolical world, the reader ventures into it, shares it with him and ultimately wakes up from its dizzying stupor. In reading Macbeth, the reader leaves behind the familiar world of his experience in order to participate in the adventure the text offers him. The edifying effect of the tragedy in the end is the reward the reader reaps after eventually waking up from the nightmarish dream of the text.

Keywords: Wolfgang Iser, reader, Macbeth, Shakespeare, evil, paradox

The Aesthetic Response: The Reader in Macbeth

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