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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: June ::
Re: Duncan
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 397.  Saturday, 26 June 1993.
 
From:           Joan Hartwig <
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Date:           Friday, 25 Jun 93 23:15:02 EDT
Subject:        Re: Duncan
 
In Holinshed, Duncan (or Duff) is a weak king.  Are we confusing source with
play?  One of the exciting aspects of Shakespeare's playwrighting is his
handling of sources.  In Holinshed, Banquo HELPS Macbeth murder Duncan.  We
can see that Shakespeare decided not to use this "fact" for a reason (whether
it be to please James, who reportedly was a descendant of Banquo's, or because
Shakespeare had other dramaturgically plausible reasons).  On the latter
subject, if Shakespeare is crafting a play according to the accepted structural
procedures of analogical positioning, why not read Malcolm's exaggerated
reiteration of Macbeth's hideous offenses as a parody meant to bring the
audience to its senses--after being inside a character with whom it sympathizes
--to a clearer view of what it means to do what Macbeth has done.  We don't
sympathize with Malcolm because Shakespeare doesn't want us to.  Yet Malcolm
serves his purpose in the DRAMATIC scheme because he helps us to see that
Macbeth IS a "butcher."  Note that the Malcolm scene follows immediately upon
the butchering of Macduff's wife and children, which WE see but which neither
Malcolm nor Macduff knows about.  It might be worth re-reading Holinshed's
account of the Malcolm/Macduff scene to see exactly how closely Shakespeare
follows the chronicler's account, and, more to the point, what details he
varies.  Is it necessary to ignore Shakespeare's meticulous crafting of scenic
sequence in order to psychoanalyze (according to very current nineteenth-
century theory) every motion a fictional character from pre-seventeenth-
century makes?  Even when that fictional character is based upon "historical"
reportage?
 
P.S. To Bill Godshalk:  you do know that Juniper berries destroy the nerve ends
whereas distillations from whole grains are not known to affect the same areas.
 
Respectfully suggested,
 
Joan Hartwig
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