Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Macbeth: Or, Don't Talk to Strangers?

The Lemming started this post, intending to do a nice little micro-review about Shakespeare's Macbeth, the text of which is on the MIT website (among other places). Perhaps what happened is partly the result of having a rather bad cold for the last couple weeks: and the scrambled sleeping habits that went with it.
"The Tragedy of Macbeth "
William Shakespeare, MIT

Here's how the play starts:


SCENE I. A desert place.

Thunder and lightning. Enter three Witches
First Witch
When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
Second Witch
When the hurlyburly's done,
When the battle's lost and won.
Third Witch
That will be ere the set of sun.
First Witch
Where the place?
Second Witch
Upon the heath.
Third Witch
There to meet with Macbeth.
First Witch
I come, Graymalkin!
Second Witch
Paddock calls.
Third Witch
Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air.

I suppose it's politically incorrect to say this, but I don't think those three people are particularly safe to be around. And, considering what happened to Macbeth after he used them as political consultants, I think I've got reason for saying this.

Offhand, I think Macbeth would have been better off if he'd thought about the implications of Banquo's observations:

"How far is't call'd to Forres? What are these
So wither'd and so wild in their attire,
That look not like the inhabitants o' the earth,
And yet are on't? Live you? or are you aught
That man may question? You seem to understand me,
By each at once her chappy finger laying
Upon her skinny lips: you should be women,
And yet your beards forbid me to interpret
That you are so.

Then, there's that whole strategy conference in Act IV, Scene I. I'll grant that Macbeth showed some good sense in going over the weird sisters' heads, and getting advice directly from their masters. Even so, you'd think he'd have noticed how vague they'd been - and downright evasive when it came to some questions. (Act I, Scene III, Act IV, Scene I)

I mean to say: asking "shall Banquo's issue ever | Reign in this kingdom?" was a perfectly reasonable question. Their unison answer might have tipped him off that they weren't telling him everything: "Seek to know no more."

I suppose a person could re-write Macbeth as one of those Public Service Announcements about the perils of talking to strangers. Or analyze it as a veiled commentary on the position of women and the arts in Elizabethan England.

Remember Lady Macbeth's habit of fingerpainting on the walls with other people's blood? There's your frustrated artist!

While we're at it, why don't we revive the 'Bacon wrote Shakespeare' thing, except say that Queen Elizabeth wrote Shakespeare?

Oh, man! The Lemming has got to start getting more sleep!

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