Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: May ::
Re: The Macbeths
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0378.  Thursday, 16 May 1996.

(1)     From:   Cornelius Novelli <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 14 May 1996 23:27:52 EST
        Subj:   RE: SHK 7.0374  Re: The Macbeths

(2)     From:   Chris Stroffolino <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 14 May 1996 20:24:53 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0374  Re: The Macbeths

(3)     From:   Margaret Brockland-Nease <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 15 May 96 12:54:00 EST
        Subj:   Macbeth and indifference

(4)     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 16 May 1996 08:21:50 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0374  Re: The Macbeths


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Cornelius Novelli <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 14 May 1996 23:27:52 EST
Subject: 7.0374  Re: The Macbeths
Comment:        RE: SHK 7.0374  Re: The Macbeths

I have missed, I think, most of the thread on the Macbeths.  But perhaps eight
or ten years ago I saw a wonderfully imaginative no-budget summer production of
MACBETH at Cornell that has some bearing on the "Tomorrow" speech.

At the words "The queen, my lord, is dead" servants were carrying in the body
of Lady Macbeth in and setting it downstage right.

Macbeth crossed and knelt by her side for most of the "Tomorrow" speech,
quietly saying it to her, and the actor's subtext was to comfort Lady Macbeth
at the loss of her life, i.e. life isn't worth anything anyway, no great loss,
you're not missing anything worth having.  It was a bit complex and terribly
moving -- Macbeth spoke with simple conviction, clearly believing that life was
worthless, and adducing that terrible fact as _consolation_ for someone he
loved, a truth that would somehow help her.

And then they took a further liberty:  Lady M sat up in his arms, the white
sheet over her dropping away, and she looked into his face and animatedly
reprised a few earlier lines from I-v, e.g. ". . . have transported me beyond
the present" and " . . . sovereign sway and masterdom."  It was a chilling
moment, and for a wild moment one thought that they'd somehow been given a
chance to make the right choice this time.  But it was just M's memory being
triggered -- devastatingly -- and Lady M slumped back leaving things infinitely
bleaker than they had been.

I don't know if other productions have done this business before or since, but
it certainly emphasized the closeness of the Macbeths -- perhaps the _loss_ of
their closeness puts it more accurately -- and the magnitude of their other
losses.  For me it opened up a lot more possibilities in the "Tomorrow" speech,
touching on pity and fear.

I do wish that I remembered the names of the actors and director, but it's
quite possible that someone reading this knows of the production.

                                    --Neil Novelli, Le Moyne College

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Stroffolino <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 14 May 1996 20:24:53 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 7.0374  Re: The Macbeths
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0374  Re: The Macbeths

I don't think it would be merely an appeal to a 20th Century sense of
"naturalistic psychology" to claim that Macbeth, the character, is presented as
more of a heartless monster than the other eponymous characters of what used to
be called "the big four" (though less of one than RICHARD III). That in this
tragedy (though, again, my speciality is not the tragedies as much--so I admit
my ignorance), Sh. was doing something different than in the others.

It is significant, I think that the play is not called The Macbeths and though
there is definitely some sorrow towards her death on his part, Macbeth's "there
would have been time" clearly shows his subordination of her death to his more
self-interested concerns. Should he be judged negatively for this? I would
argue yes (except in the moments when I realize I shouldn't judge characters at
all and am more interested in "language" and "structure" and pointing out
"feigning"). In the first place, Macbeth believes he leads a "charmed life"--is
protected by supernatural forces---thus I don't know if we can so easily
"excuse" (as Tunis Romain, FLorence Amit, and Ian McKellen has) his
indifference to his wife (if not THE HUMAN CONDITION---which, I will grant, he
is not indifferent to). I don't think that's the strongest argument I could
make, however A stronger argument seems to be to turn to the passage that Tunis
Romain pointed out. When Macbeth is speaking to the Doctor, and says "Cure her
of that", it's hard not to see him as saying "YOU cure her of that." Even the
formality with which he speaks of "your patient" (rather than "my wife" or even
"the queen" seems to suggest a certain coldness. I think there's at least more
than one indication that part of Lady Macbeth's madness is a RESULT of her
husband's growing estrang- ent from her (at least as much as her realization of
her guilt in her involvement in Duncan's murder)--and this is clearly intended
to isolate Macbeth (far more than Hamlet's similar indifference to Ophelia) as
"some brute natural force" which the function of classical tragedy was, as
Stephanie Hughes would say, is to "expaite." Macbeth's guilt becomes more and
more his own. The witches are no Iago, nor even a Goneril and Regan. And Duncan
is no Claudius. Chris Stroffolino

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Margaret Brockland-Nease <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 15 May 96 12:54:00 EST
Subject:        Macbeth and indifference

Dan Lowenstein writes, "It is striking that [Macbeth's] eloquence is general,
containing no references to his wife."  With apologies for not having looked
further into this, I suggest that Macbeth's "Out, out brief candle" is a
metaphorical reference to his wife.  I haven't yet looked for other connections
between light and the lady in the play, but like the light in the line prior to
the candle image, she is now a part of his "yesterdays."  Furthermore, it is
without her that Macbeth's tomorrows creep in their petty pace.  Just as his
tomorrows are now without her, so must his speech about tomorrow  be (almost)
without reference to her.  I wonder about the "word" Macbeth mentions at the
beginning of the passage:  "She should have died hereafter; There would have
been a time for such a word."  Could the word be "Queen," which Seyton uses in
"The Queen, my lord, is dead"?  Given a longer life with her and a chance to
expect her death, could Macbeth have overcome his grief enough to speak
directly of her?  Like Mr. Lowenstein, I see this as a passage expressing loss
rather than indifference, but I do not find the absence of her name or title
from most of it surprising.

Margaret Brockland-Nease
Department of Humanities
Brunswick College

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 16 May 1996 08:21:50 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 7.0374  Re: The Macbeths
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0374  Re: The Macbeths

Hamlet's response to Laertes' geste, the leap into Ophelia's grave to hold her
one final time, speaks to a defensive attitude towards the very charge made
here against Macbeth, that he showed no grief. After all, all Laertes did was
to show his own grief and threaten revenge on Hamlet for bringing about her
death, he said nothing of Hamlet's indifference, yet it is to this that Hamlet
responds in his list of dramatic shows of grief ("woot drink up eisel" etc.).
He is enraged at a charge that hasn't been made. Again it seems to me we hear
the author protesting a similar charge via the mouth of a protagonist. I am
reminded of Lord Byron whose response to the death of his mother was to put on
boxing gloves and have a bout with one of his buddies. He stopped for a moment
to look out the window as the funeral procession passed, then on with the
exercise. The truth of course for this most passionately romantic of all
humans/writers, was that he was so overcome with feeling that he had to fight
it. He was too close to the edge to allow himself to behave as his friends and
relatives would wish, to trundle along after the coffin and make some
appropriate little speech. What he did do was to wear black from that moment on
for the rest of his life. His sudden leap into stardom a few months later made
his black clothes fashionable, so much so that men ever since have worn the
same clothes he wore that summer on formal occasions, what we now call white
tie and tails.

Stephanie Hughes
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.