chapter  27
4 Pages

Levels of Response and the Width of Appeal

There still remains the most interesting of the cases in which apparent agreement disguises real differences, that in which a work occasions valuable responses of the same kind at a number of different levels. Macbeth is as good an example as any. Its very wide popularity is due to the fact that crude responses to its situations integrate with one another, not so well as more refined responses, but still in something of the same fashion. At one end of the scale it is a highly successful, easily apprehended, two-colour melodrama, at the other a peculiarly enigmatic and subtle tragedy, and in between there are various stages which give fairly satisfactory results. Thus people of very different capacities for discrimination and with their attitudes developed in very different degrees can join in admiring it. This possibility of being enjoyed at many levels1 is a recognized characteristic of Elizabethan drama. The Pilgrim’s Progress, Robinson Crusoe, Gullivers Travels, the Ballads, are other instances. The differences between such things and, for example, the work of Donne, Milton, Blake,2 Landor, Stendhal, Henry James, Baudelaire... raise some o f the most interesting [212] of critical problems.