Coventry Patmore states that this essay 'was written by me when I was between fifteen and sixteen, and ... was published without a word of alteration, in the "Germ" -- a periodical issued by the 'Pre-Raphaelites' -- some years afterward." See Basil Champneys, Memoirs and Correspondence of Coventry Patmore, (London: George Bell & Sons, 1900): 2: 43. William Michael Rossetti contradicts this account, noting in The P.R.B. Journal that "[Thomas Woolner] says that Patmore has offered us for The Germ an Essay of his on Macbeth, written a short while ago" (January 13, 1850 entry). W. M. Rossetti states that the essay was originally slated to appear in issue 2 of the Germ until "Patmore, on looking over his article, found that a page or two was wanting, which he would not be able to supply without much trouble." (January 23, 1850 entry).

Patmore's essay follows the nineteenth century critical tradition of treating Shakespeare's characters as fully realized human beings with thoughts and motives. However, unlike most Shakespearean criticism of the period, Patmore privileges the overall moral perspective of Shakespeare as playwright over the individual moral perspectives represented by his characters. [For more information on nineteenth century critical treatments of Shakespeare, see Robert Langbaum, The Poetry of Experience (New York: Random, 1957): 160-82.] Other than Schlegel and Coleridge, whom Patmore mentions in his essay, other major Shakespeare critics roughly contemporary to Patmore include William Hazlitt, Charles Lamb, and Hermann Ulrici, whose Shakespeare's Dramatic Art (1846) strongly influenced the young Patmore. For a more general survey of Patmore's thoughts on Shakespeare, including a discussion of Macbeth see Patmore's article "Shakespere" in the November 1849 issue of North British Review, pp. 62-76.