Macbeth goes to therapy

6th December 1996 at 00:00
Charis English: Macbeth


Those who have previously equated the Association of Christian Teachers with attacks on Hallowe'en will not have their prejudices much modified by the choice of Macbeth as the subject of the first Charis English file.

This is a book which begins by stating that Christians believe "an unseen spirit world" is working "to damage and destroy the human race". Such a premise is at least theologically debatable. Nor does it do much for the view that Macbeth is a tragic hero destroyed by flaws in his character. But this resource is quite open about its specifically Christian reading of the text. The doctor's line about Lady Macbeth, "more needs she the divine than the physician" is picked out as "one of the most telling lines in the whole play". Macbeth, we are told, is longing for a blessing to be found in Jesus Christ.

The various exercises and worksheets are good on imagery and characterisation (even if there is a tendency to regard the characters as real people), but there are also bursts of naivety. Macbeth's crime is, after all, a little more than that of failing to love his neighbour.

The exercises are also variable. They range from completing colouring simple charts to working out how a priest could help Lady Macbeth in the confessional or how psychotherapy might lead Macbeth to confront his guilt. As the book says, teacher mediation is necessary: "You will need . . . your teacher to play the part of the psychiatrist."

A larger problem is that there is no immediate guidance or index that locates activities which may be used while working through the play. With even the second exercise requiring knowledge of Act 5, the file is somewhat unmanageable, even unusable, until at least a first reading of the play has been completed.

David Self

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