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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: April ::
Re: *Mac.* Discussions
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0318.  Wednesday, 19 April 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Don Foster <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Apr 1995 12:28:34 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0312  Re: *Mac.* Discussions
 
(2)     From:   Dom Saliani <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Apr 1995 15:42:46 -0700 (MST)
        Subj:   Macbeth problems
 
(3)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Apr 1995 22:55:06 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0312  Re: *Mac.* Discussions
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Foster <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Apr 1995 12:28:34 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0312  Re: *Mac.* Discussions
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0312  Re: *Mac.* Discussions
 
Scot Shepherd is certainly right that "Macbeth never faced Cawdor on the
battlefield in Fife. He fought Norway." But I disagree that "It's perfectly
clear if you start your quote at the beginning of the sentence." This is
something of an overstatement; otherwise, why is it that first-time readers of
the play almost always think that Macbeth has met Cawdor in single combat?
Consider the last part of the sentence in question (omitted in Scot's
quotation): Macbeth "confronted him" [i.e., Norway, not Cawdor], but he did so
"with self-comparisons, / Point against point, rebellious arm 'gainst arm...."
Norway, of course, is an invader, not a rebel. His arms aren't rebellious,
Cawdor's are; and soon, Macbeth's arms will be extended in rebellion as well.
The double but incomplete parallel construction invites auditors to ask, not
only "Who's who?" but "Whose rebellious arm"? The parallel phrasing and the
insistent imagery of mirrored "seeming" imply something like, "Point against
point, rebellious arm against [rebellious] arm," but of course Macbeth at this
point is not yet named as a rebel, either.
 
One of *Macbeth*'s many equivocations is its equivocal treatment of identity,
blurring "perfectly clear" assertions of difference among a world of bloody
men.  (Is Malcolm is "a weak, poor, innocent lamb" as he avers, or a far worse
king-to-be than Macbeth, like the Malcolm in Holinshed's *Chronicles*? Either
way, he's a supremely skillful liar.) The confusing report of Norway's duel
with Macbeth appears in a scene that begins with the question, "What bloody man
is that," and it's a good question, since the Scotsmen are a bloody lot. (Which
bloody man is that bloody man?).  We can't easily tell one bloody bloke from
another, nor even whether "bloody" means "violent" or "wounded."  The scene
ends with Duncan's remark, "No more that Thane of Cawdor shall deceive / Our
bosom interest" (i.e., No more THAT one; instead the NEXT Thane of Cawdor will
deceive his bosom interest).  Like two spent swimmers, like Macbeth and
Macdonwald, like Macbeth and Cawdor, Cawdor and Norway invite self-comparisons,
and Shakespeare's text invites them--with vague pronoun reference, incomplete
parallel construction, ambiguous syntax, and indeed with any device that
problematizes the assertion of stable and distinct identities.  The bottom line
is that there was an awful lot of killing out there on the field, and the guys
looked an awful lot alike.
 
Insofar as the ambiguities throughout *Mac* 1.2 are part of a pattern, the
confusion between Cawdor and Norway seems to support Scot Shepherd's
observation: "Better examples of bad editing than this will have to be found."
The lines are perfectly coherent, despite (indeed, *because* of) their
equivocating ambiguities. This is not to say that *Macbeth* wasn't cut and
revised after Simon Forman saw it in 1611, only that 1.2 shows no obvious signs
of revision.
 
Don Foster
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dom Saliani <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Apr 1995 15:42:46 -0700 (MST)
Subject:        Macbeth problems
 
Scott Shepherd writes that
 
>Macbeth never faced Cawdor on the battlefield in Fife
 
and quotes lines from 1,ii to support his contention. I totally agree. Macbeth
never faced Cawdor - Belona's bridegroom was on that battlefield and whether he
faced Cawdor or Norway is not the issue. The issue is: Who is Belona's
bridegroom?
 
I am struck by the ambiguity and the noticeable absence of direct references to
Macbeth in Ross's account which begins on line 49 and continues till line 64.
 
The reference to Belona's bridegroom is ambiguous and a number of critics
including Granville-Barker posits Macduff as the more likely candidate for this
title.
 
I tend to agree with this view for a number of reasons. Firstly, by building
Macduff up in this scene, a dramatic purpose is served - he is established
early as a worthy adversary for Macbeth.
 
I would hypothesize that in the *Ur-Macbeth* Macduff's victory and presence
would have been more pronounced. In the editing - major rewrite? - that
followed the three campaigns were condensed into one and Macduff's contribution
was clouded over for dramatic purposes of compression.
 
Eddie Duggan quotes JR as writing:
 
> It appears that there are several scenes written in the play
> specifically to compliment the king (healing scrofula ...
 
I read somewhere that the whole notion of he "King's Evil" was distasteful to
James and that he performed the ceremony grudgingly.  Including this detail in
the play would not serve as a compliment to him. However if the play were
written earlier, Elizabeth who approached this duty with glee would have been
pleased with this allusion.
 
The more I think about it the more I find it difficult to accept that James
would have been complimented by the presence of Banquo and Fleance in the play.
What prevents more people from seeing Banquo in an uncomplimentary light is the
romantic notion that has been placed in our heads that Shakespeare to curry
favour with James included an albeit fictional ancestor of James in the play.
If one looks at the play objectively, without this preconception, a different
conclusion can be arrived at about Banquo's so-called noble character.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Apr 1995 22:55:06 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0312  Re: *Mac.* Discussions
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0312  Re: *Mac.* Discussions
 
I'd like to suggest a modification to Scott Shepherd's excellent account.
Macduff may be "Bellona's bridegroom" since Macbeth seems to be fighting in the
western part of Scotland, and Ross comes "From Fife" in the east. And one might
expect the local thane to be leading the local troops; that's his job.
 
Scott is right that accepting this reading changes our perceptions of the first
part of the play. Duncan passes Macduff over in silence and rewards Macbeth
with the title Thane of Cawdor. So Macduff -- as of scene 2 -- has a reason to
resent Macbeth, and the antagonism between the two starts before the murder of
Duncan and Macduff's subsequent refusal to attend Macbeth's coronation.
 
Obviously that antagonism remains muted, and that it does so may not be the
result of improper or hasty revision.
 
Yours,  Bill Godshalk
 

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