Macbeth and the “Sandbank of Finitude”

Sometimes I make up an assignment because I really don’t understand something, and I want you to explain it to me.

This is that sort of assignment. I know Hegel’s theory of tragedy applies to Shakespeare, but I have some trouble fitting it all together. So I hand this one off to you. Start with the following quote from the great German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel:

“Viewed externally, Hamlet’s death may be seen to have been brought about accidentally …but in Hamlet’s soul, we understand that death has lurked from the beginning: the sandbank of finitude cannot suffice his sorrow and tenderness, such grief and nausea at all conditions of life…we feel he is a man whom inner disgust has almost consumed well before death comes upon him from outside.”

Apply Hegel’s quote to Macbeth.

Is he a hero, in any sense?

Answer in 3-4 paragraphs, 500 words. You might want to learn a little bit more about Hegel’s thinking before you begin. Here’s a fairly understandable handout on the topic.

Hegel on Tragedy

You have to do some real lifting on this assignment. Not something you can slap together an hour before it’s due if you want it to make any sense. Wrestle with the whole metaphor and idea of “sandbank of finitude.” What was he talking about? Why a sandbank, not a boulder or a mountain? Hmmm…

Due, typed, at the beginning of class on Wednesday, March 16.

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