Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 375. Monday, 21 June 1993.
From: William Godshalk <
Date: Friday, 18 Jun 1993 22:00:53 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 4.0371 Re: Duncan (con't)
Comment: Re: SHK 4.0371 Re: Duncan (con't)
Michael Long's THE UNNATURAL SCENE, as Steve Urkowitz says, is worthy reading -
for many reasons, including Long's comments on MACBETH. Howsomever, my own dark
vision sees it differently these days. Duncan is probably just as self serving
as everyone else in Shakespeare's imagined Scotland. After Banquo and Macbeth
win the war for him, does he appoint either of them as the next king? No way.
He appoints his do-nothing son - who is perhaps just as bad as he later
presents himself in the play. Do you believe that he's merely testing Macduff?
Many of my students - cynical worldlings - believe that he's giving an accurate
presentation of his character. Can you prove otherwise?
Banquo is a time server - as his final soliloquy indicates. Macduff leaves
his family to the tender mercies of the evil king he has distrusted from the
beginning. Macduff's castle, by the way, is on the coast of Fife - a ruin that
you can see today. Why couldn't he bring his family along with him to England?
(If you tell me that I'm mixing history and literature, I'll cheer. I relish
the distinction. New Historicists and Cultural Materialists must remain
silent.) In any case, Macduff is not Mr. Nice Guy. I used to think that he was,
but Shakespeare gives him a chance to explain why he left his children and wife
behind - and Macduff says - nothing.
No, no, Scotland is a chthonic world - no Apollonian breezes blowing through
this bleak waste land. If anything, England's King Edward serves as a
contrast to the Scottish kings.
As to ambiguity, who is Bellona's bridegroom? A good case can be made for
Macduff, though the editors usually assure us that it's Macbeth. I'd expect the
Thane of Fife to be fighting the battle in Fife. If he isn't, what is Macduff
doing during the battle? Oh, dear! Could he be fighting with the rebels? Am I
asking questions that should not be asked? If Macbeth hadn't bumped off Duncan,
would Macduff have done the job for him? (Or was it REALLY Lady's dad?)
But thought's the slave of life, and life time's fool, and time that takes
survey of all other world must have a stop.
Yours, Bill Godshalk