John Henry Fuseli, Lady Macbeth Seizing the Daggers, exhibited 1812

From the Tate Collection:

The picture is based on a scene from Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Act II scene 2) and represents the moment immediately after Macbeth has murdered Duncan, King of Scotland, who was a guest at his castle. Macbeth staggers forward, staring in horror, and still grasping the bloody daggers with which he has committed the deed. He tells his wife, ‘I am afraid to think what I have done; Look on’t again I dare not.’ It is at this point in the play that Lady Macbeth seizes control. ‘Infirm of purpose!’ she responds to her husband, ‘Give me the daggers.’

The picture is probably a sketch for an intended larger work. The figures are wraith-like and executed with tremendous freedom. Fuseli once wrote that ‘All minute detail tends to destroy terrour [sic]’, and his intention was to work on the viewer’s psyche, rather than to create an accurate representation. He painted several other scenes from Macbeth, including the three witches from Act I, and Lady Macbeth sleepwalking from the opening scene of the final act. He was particularly drawn to the cruel and erotic elements in Shakespeare’s work and was inspired by several other plays, including HamletKing Lear and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

 

Posted on June 26 2012, with 407 Notes

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