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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: April ::
Re: *Mac.* Discussions
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0312.  Tuesday, 18 April 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Scott Shepherd <
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        Date:   Monday, 17 Apr 1995 10:34:30 -0400
        Subj:   Re: *Mac*: bad editing
 
(2)     From:   Scott Shepherd <
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        Date:   Monday, 17 Apr 1995 13:32:54 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0306  Re: *Mac*: Prophecy
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Shepherd <
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Date:           Monday, 17 Apr 1995 10:34:30 -0400
Subject:        Re: *Mac*: bad editing
 
Macbeth never faced Cawdor on the battlefield in Fife. He fought Norway. It's
perfectly clear if you start your quote at the beginning of the sentence:
 
> Norway himself with terrible numbers,
> Assisted by that most disloyal traitor
> The thane of Cawdor, began a dismal conflict
> Till that Bellona's bridegroom lapp'd in proof
> Confronted him...
 
Cawdor probably wasn't even at that battle. What kind of assistance did he
give? We never find out. Later it's explicitly ambiguous:
 
>    Whether he was combin'd
> With those of Norway or did line the rebel
> With hidden help and vantage, or that with both
> He labor'd in his country's wrack, I know not,
> But treasons capital, confess'd and prov'd,
> Have overthrown him.
 
But "hidden help and vantage" is enough to explain Macbeth's knowing nothing
about it. It's significant that the treasons have to be "confess'd and prov'd."
 
As for Macbeth getting from one battle to the next in the same day, Shakespeare
plays that kind of geography trick all the time. See *Othello* for plenty of
impossibly fast sea travel.
 
Better examples of bad editing than this will have to be found.
 
Besides, if you make Macduff Bellona's bridegroom and give him the Cawdor
thaneship, out the window goes almost all of act 1, which depends on 1)
Macbeth's unusual military success, 2) Duncan's bestowing advancement on him,
and 3) ubiquitous iterations of the Glamis-Cawdor-king formula. Dom Saliani is
talking about a major rewrite, not cuts and revisions. The blunders of a bad
editor (or censor) can't account for that.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Shepherd <
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Date:           Monday, 17 Apr 1995 13:32:54 -0400
Subject: 6.0306  Re: *Mac*: Prophecy
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0306  Re: *Mac*: Prophecy
 
I said "Scottish history" when I meant the legends English theatergoers of the
early 17th century knew as Scottish history. Oops.
 
But to the purpose: Eddie Duggan says Malcolm MUST be the son of Banquo. He
comes to that by a little logical equation. But the foundations of his
syllogism,
 
1) All the prophecies are fulfilled in an unexpected way
2) All the prophecies are fulfilled within the time span of the play
 
are only assertions of his. (1) is manifestly wrong. The Cawdor thing comes
true straightforwardly enough: one man gets fired, somebody else gets his job.
This is straightforward too: kill the king, take the throne.
 
(By "straightforward" I mean there's no "fiend that lies like truth" involved.
Of course Macbeth doesn't _expect_ to become Cawdor, but that's not the kind of
"unexpected" we get with Birnham Wood and of-woman-born, where the predictions
are themselves deceitful.)
 
"Beware Macduff" fulfills exactly as one would expect it to.
 
The only trick prophecies are the ones designed to give Macbeth a false
assurance. That's not what the Banquo prophecy is.
 
(2), a kind of Aristotelian unity insistence, is harder to dismiss because it's
usually true. But the Banquo prophecy is (sort of) an exception.
 
The witches predict something that _can't_ happen during the play because it's
scheduled for several decades in the future. Conventional wisdom says
Shakespeare got away with that because his audience "knew" the prediction came
true in "history".
 
For example, a contemporary play with a prophecy of Kennedy's assassination or
Hitler's rise to power wouldn't need to contain those events in its action.
 
But even without extratextual knowledge it's obvious (and repeatedly expressed
by Macbeth) what Fleance represents. What can Eddie Duggan say about Fleance?
Why make such a point of him and his escape from the ambush? Why include him in
the story at all?
 
But here's my real answer to the problem, let's see if it flies:
 
There _is_ fulfillment within the action of the play.
 
Shakespeare, also more or less a believer in (2), wasn't content to leave the
"line of kings" unshown. So he showed them. The procession of Banquo's progeny
in 4.1 is a fulfillment of the prediction in 1.3. That's how Macbeth takes it:
"Now I see 'tis true" he says, and gives up on doing anything about it.
 

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