Main Text

pg vi pg viiPREFACE

This edition of Macbeth has taken over ten years to prepare, an inordinately long time, due to a variety of interruptions as well as to my own dilatoriness. It would have been longer still without the benefit of Kenneth Muir's Arden edition, originally published as far back as 1951, but finally revised with a new Introduction as recently as 1984; I am deeply indebted to Professor Muir, both for that volume, and for his kindness, encouragement, and friendship over many years. An editor's first debt is always to his predecessors; the essential reference work for Macbeth is the New Variorum of 1901, faithfully chronicling the variants of all scholarly predecessors from the beginning of the eighteenth to the end of the nineteenth centuries. My successors will hope for an extension through the very active scholarship of another, nearly exhausted, century, and they could be much helped by a similar digest of the numerous surviving prompt-books and editions derived from prompt-books. Drama is an ephemeral art-form, and the changes made in text and structure are constantly revealing of the theatrical potentialities of even so great a text as this: Macbeth belongs to the theatre, and I have learnt from far more productions than I can mention in the Introduction.

Fifty years ago Macbeth was put to sleep in my mind by the all-too-common unhappiness of studying it for School Certificate; it seemed as impossible to wake as the Sleeping Beauty, despite my profession. Twenty-five years later, Professor Wolfgang Clemen had the generous idea of using a grant from the Volkswagen Institute to invite 'younger Shakespearians' to Munich for a few weeks to visit his Department and its Shakespeare Library, and to be shown the City and its environs. In the celebrated church of St. John Nepomuk I experienced a conversion, not of a religious kind, but to a perception of baroque art. What was most strange was that it was Macbeth which came so powerfully into my mind: for better or for worse, my debt to that occasion will be obvious in this volume.

The general editor of this series, Professor Stanley Wells, has been consistently attentive, patient, and kind; his learning has saved me from many follies, and his generosity has allowed me to pg viiipersist in some minor misdemeanours. Correspondence with Dr Gary Taylor was most helpful with the idiosyncrasies of the original compositors, and Mrs Christine Buckley was helpful with editorial policy. More recently I have been particularly grateful to Frances Whistler of the Arts and Reference Division of the Oxford University Press for the warm support that transforms cliffs into bowling greens; and to Jane Robson whose copy-editing dotted my erratically Weïrd Sisters with remarkable care and consideration. Dr R. V. Holdsworth allowed me to see his unpublished work on Middleton's collaborations with Shakespeare, and he and his wife were lavish in hospitality while he conducted me through a host of notes for his study of Macbeth. The Music Adviser to this series, Dr F. W. Sternfeld, gave valuable advice on the original music for the play and put me in touch with Dr Christopher Field who proved a most lucid guide through the maze of misinformation which once surrounded the later music used in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The sources of illustrations are acknowledged below, but I must mention here the friendly and helpful letters of the great theatrical photographer, Angus McBean.

To all these, and to many others whose names appear in later pages, I have much reason to be grateful; and I must acknowledge too a further host of critics, historians, novelists, parodists, and friends whose ideas have long since become part of my own mind so that I cannot know from where or from whom they came. I can, however, recognize a very long-standing debt to my historian brother, Professor Christopher Brooke, who added to it by reading and commenting on parts of the Introduction as well as answering emergency calls for help. Still more personal is my debt to my wife, Julia Lacey Brooke, for her sympathy which shares in so much of my enthusiasm for poetry and theatre, and constantly turns horrid imaginings to present laughter.

nicholas brooke

Norwich, Thessaloniki, Harwood-in-Teesdale, and Spitalfields,

August 1989

logo-footer Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved.
Access is brought to you by Log out