Abstract

Abstract:

Early in A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775) Johnson describes crossing the Hardmuir, the putative site of Macbeth's first meeting with the weird sisters. For Johnson, this is Macbeth not as a text to be read or a play to be seen but as an environment, rich in resonances, to be inhabited and travelled. The longer first part of this essay argues that Johnson's marking of this landscape as "classic ground" is freighted with particular cultural values and judgments. On the one hand, through Shakespeare Johnson tethers himself to the familiar–to culture and use-value–at the very moment he feels civilization suddenly to recede from view. Macbeth marks for Johnson a boundary that is at once topographical, historical, and political. On the other hand, Johnson's interest in Macbeth is soldered to his enduring fascination with the supernatural, and the play thereby facilitates his openness both to affective forms of engagement and to the idea of mystery; it fosters his willingness to accommodate the non-rational, to turn from the protocols of proof to those of belief. The second part of this essay then considers Boswell's descriptions of Johnson's encounter with the topography of Macbeth Journal of a Tour of the Hebrides (1785), which privilege acts of speaking rather than feeling or imagining, and in repeatedly drawing attention to Johnson's recitation of Shakespearean verse Boswell both transforms Johnson into a Shakespearean performer and presses Macbeth into service in order to monumentalize Johnson as an archetypal Englishman.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1935-0201
Print ISSN
0193-5380
Pages
pp. 65-83
Launched on MUSE
2018-03-23
Open Access
No
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