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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: August ::
Re: Lady Macbeth's Speech -- Content
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0627.  Saturday, 19 August 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Aug 1995 14:07:04 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0624 Qs: Lady Macbeth's Speech
 
(2)     From:   Roger D. Gross <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Aug 1995 16:54:19 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Content/Macbeth
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Aug 1995 14:07:04 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 6.0624 Qs: Lady Macbeth's Speech
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0624 Qs: Lady Macbeth's Speech
 
Mike Field:
 
Why can't "content" mean both?
 
Cheers,
Sean.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger D. Gross <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Aug 1995 16:54:19 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:        Content/Macbeth
 
Michael Field asks about "content" in Lady M's act 3 speech.
 
The evidence is very clear on this one.  Shakespeare never uses the word
"content" to mean "that which is contained".  "Content" always refers to some
version of the psychological state of contentedness or acquiescence.  It is one
of Shakespeare's favorite words and he uses it as a noun, a verb, and an
adjective.  It is always pronounced "cuhn-TENT".
 
When he wants to talk about that which is contained, he uses the word
"contents" which he always pronounces "cuhn-TENTS", causing a lot of actors to
make rhythm errors. The scansion evidence for this is extremely strong.
 
Look carefully at the context of that Lady M. line.  I think it clearly means
something like "joy."  The next lines, which use the word "joy" are a sort of
paraphrase of the line you inquire about.  Her point is that when we take a
risk or great expense, we do it in anticipation of some joy which will follow.
So it was with her involvement in the murder ("It'll be big fun to be queen.").
 But it has been hell, not heaven, ever since the murder.  She's saying that it
is painful that, when you realize joy won't follow, you can't get your money
(or peace) back.
 
NOTE:  My friends, I introduced the verse issue several months ago.  I was
delighted with the response it got (on and off list).  I got many questions and
a couple of challenges. I promised to give more.  Then I more or less fell off
the planet and have only recently returned. (That's what it feels like each
year when the Mount Sequoyah New Play Retreat, which I direct, begins its
work.)
 
I'm back in gear now and will soon provide two things:  an answer to the
challenge, "how does anyone really know what Shakespeare's verse system was?"
and the list of Most Often Mispronounced Names.
 
Thanks for your patience.
 
Roger Gross
Univ. of Arkansas
 

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