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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: January ::
Re: Lady Macbeth
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 8.0107.  Thursday, 23 January 1997.

(1)     From:   Thomas Bishop <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 22 Jan 1997 12:11:01 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0104  Re: Lady Macbeth

(2)     From:   Scott Shepherd <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 22 Jan 1997 13:03:54 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0104  Re: Lady Macbeth


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Bishop <
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Date:           Wednesday, 22 Jan 1997 12:11:01 -0500
Subject: 8.0104  Re: Lady Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0104  Re: Lady Macbeth

As I recall Bradley's discussion, he too doubts that an actor could make it
entirely clear whether Lady Macbeth's was a feigned "real" faint or a feigned
"feigned" faint.  The problem might be compared with Edgar's action in the
opening of IV.vi of Lear: a man convincingly feigning the climbing of a hill
looks remarkably like a man convincingly feigning a man convincingly feigning
the climbing of a hill.  (Such issues are also very relevant to playing the
statue of Hermione.)

Whether Shakespeare understood himself to be raising such issues here in
Macbeth we have no way of knowing. Bradley's way of putting it tends to gloss
over such questions. But he is right to note that they are raised, and that
they often turn out to depend on what sort of consiousness we attribute to a
character on a stage. That we do attribute consciousness to characters in
stories is both part of common experience (it is one of our modes of both
experiencing and interpreting the story), and part of critical commentary on
plays stretching back at least to Aristotle, with his discussion of -ethos-.
It is not the only way to discuss character, and it has been the subject of
fierce attack in recent years.  Some of this attack seems to me to have missed
the point.  Whether Lady Macbeth "really" faints is a complex question, that
wont reduce itself easily either to a wide-eyed piece of naivety or to a joke
against that naivety.

Tom

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Shepherd <
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Date:           Wednesday, 22 Jan 1997 13:03:54 -0500
Subject: 8.0104  Re: Lady Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0104  Re: Lady Macbeth

Utterly without evidence I would claim that the question "Did Lady Macbeth
really faint" originates not with the venerable Mr Bradley but was asked by
even the earliest encounterers of the *Macbeth* text, and was in fact invented
by the author himself (intentional fallacy intended).  Critically irresponsible
or not, this sort of question, imagining real psychology behind the actions of
puppets, is fundamental to the successful operation of narratives on brains.
Great playwrights will be expected to know this and to use it to their
advantage.  In this example, the impact (or if you'll forgive the archaism,
meaning) of the faint is inseparable from our irresistible unresolvable doubt
as to its "authenticity."
 

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