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Shakespeare’s Binding Language$
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John Kerrigan

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198757580

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198757580.001.0001

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Knots, Charms, Riddles

Knots, Charms, Riddles

Macbeth and All’s Well That Ends Well

(p.313) 12 Knots, Charms, Riddles
Shakespeare’s Binding Language

John Kerrigan

Oxford University Press

Shakespeare is typically interested in the sorts of binding language—oaths, vows, promises, and the like—that impose obligations on the self. In Macbeth, he dramatizes the bonds imposed on others by spells and charms, and the riddling, equivocal nature of utterances associated with witchcraft. This chapter takes as seriously the interface between Macbeth and Middleton’s tragicomedy The Witch (both dealing in knots, sworn bonds, and magic) as it does the tragedy’s often-noted links with the Gunpowder Plot. It also looks at how features of Macbeth, including conspiracy, swearing, equivocation, prophecy, illness, and healing, recur in All’s Well That Ends Well. These two Shakespeare plays turn out to be closer in matter, manner, and probably date than has traditionally been realized.

Keywords:   Shakespeare, Middleton, magic, knots, riddles, witches, equivocation, Gunpowder Plot, illness, healing

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