Calderwood, James L. Macbeth and Tragic Action.
Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 1986.

Thesis: Calderwood is interested in big theories. In this relatively short book (171 pages) he presents three:
(1) Macbeth is indebted to Hamlet for its "modes and structures of presentation, . . . because they are almost systematically opposed, so that Macbeth emerges as a kind of 'counter-Hamlet'" (ix).
(2) Shakespeare "foregrounds action" in Macbeth to such an extent that it becomes "an object of representation," so that "the play may be said to be a tragedy about the nature of tragedy" (ix).
(3) The play demonstrates that violence erodes "the borders between civilized society and savage nature, order and disorder, and even good and evil" (x).

Evaluation: To read Calderwood you have to have quite a lot of patience. He plays with an idea like a cat plays with a mouse, pouncing and toying until the mouse (and the idea and the reader) are exhausted. For instance, in a couple of pages in which he makes the point that Macbeth is "a killer, a battlefield survivor who takes definition from the deaths of others" (79), Calderwood alludes to the thought of Heraclitus, René Girard, Elias Canetti, and Otto Rank.

Bottom Line: Brief but wordy.