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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: October ::
Re: Macbeth / Children
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1082.  Tuesday, 28 October 1997.

[1]     From:   Steve Sohmer <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Oct 1997 10:04:20 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1072  Qs: Macbeth / Children

[2]     From:   Billy Houck <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Oct 1997 10:33:12 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1077  Re: Macbeth / Children

[3]     From:   Ronald Moyer <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Oct 1997 09:44:25 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1072  Q: Macbeth / Children

[4]     From:   Skip Nicholson <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Oct 1997 17:28:33 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1077  Re: Macbeth / Children


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Sohmer <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Oct 1997 10:04:20 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.1072  Qs: Macbeth / Children
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1072  Qs: Macbeth / Children

Dear Friends,

Macbeth, a former friend once told me, is Shakespeare's play about the
difficulty of founding an hereditary monarchy. Stuart Manger rightly
detects the play's curiosity about the place (and function) of boys in
this scheme.  It has become a scholarly commonplace to note that James
VI of Scotland (James I of England after 3/1603) was descended from
Banquo, and that Shakespeare sanitizes the historical (murderous) Banquo
for the purpose. It's also thought Lady M's claim "I have given suck" is
immaterial (cf. "How many children had Lady Macbeth?" etc.). However,
Macbeth as "tanaise" may have had a legitimate claim to succeed Duncan,
and one of Lady M's children was in fact called (briefly) to the
Scottish throne. James could trace his claim to the title of Scotland
through the female line back to Duncan, and to the throne of England via
the female line to Malcolm, who married Margaret, the granddaughter of
King Edmund II of England, thereby uniting the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon
crowns. Considering the basis of James' claim to the throne of England
in 1603, any descent of title along the female line could hardly be
dismissed as irrelevant. Three of Malcolm's sons by Margaret held the
Scottish throne: Edgar (1097-1107), Alexander I (1107-24), and David I
(1124-5). These boys were the legitimate heirs to the throne of England,
too, which had been usurped by William the Conqueror in 1066. William
was aware of this, and arranged the marriage Malcolm's daughter,
Matilda, to his son Henry I of England.

Malcolm may have also played a decisive role in the Norman conquest.
It's thought he intrigued with Tostig and Harald Haardrade and abetted
their campaign against King Harold, who had succeeded to the English
throne (1/1066) on the death of Edward the Confessor. King Harold
whipped and killed Tostig and Harald H at Stamford Bridge ca. 25
September 1066 while Malcolm sat discreetly on the sidelines in
Scotland. Harold's weary and diminished forces lost a narrow defeat to
William at Hastings three weeks later. In a way, Malcolm was the
Benedict Arnold of Anglo-Saxon England. I expect English schoolboys knew
some of this.

Not incidentally, it was Malcolm's wife, *not* his mother who "Oft'ner
upon her knees than on her feet, Died every day she liv'd." Margaret
became Saint Margaret of Scotland. No minor saint, she was named Patron
Saint of Scotland after Shakespeare's time. But the papal inquiry into
her life and miracles occurred before 1250. Her body (and Malcolm's)
were conspicuously removed to Spain during the Reformation, and her head
went to the Jesuits at Douai. (Her son David also made sainthood.) So
when Macduff chides Malcolm about his saintly "mother" there's another
game afoot. Generally, the received wisdom about "Macbeth" needs to be
received with skepticism.

Hope this is useful.

Steve Sohmer

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Billy Houck <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Oct 1997 10:33:12 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.1077  Re: Macbeth / Children
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1077  Re: Macbeth / Children

If your primary source of visions of butchery is from the Polanski film,
it must be remembered that his pregnant wife had been butchered by
Charles Manson about a year earlier. His pain is evident in every frame
of that film.

Billy Houck
Arroyo Grande High School

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ronald Moyer <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Oct 1997 09:44:25 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 8.1072  Q: Macbeth / Children
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1072  Q: Macbeth / Children

Mr. Manger,

Heirless Macbeth makes war on children, on heirs, and is tortured by his
"fruitlesse Crowne," "barren Scepter," and "vnlineall Hand."

Perhaps explicable by Eliz. pronunciation and/or the vagaries of Eliz.
spelling (or, more wonderfully, an anachronistic "Freudian slip" by
author or typesetter on behalf of character), but I've always enjoyed
the F1 reading of Macb.'s response to the Witches' prophecies: "If good?
why do I yeeld to that suggestion,/Whose horrid Image doth vnfixe my
Heire" (TLS245-6).

Best,
Ron Moyer

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Skip Nicholson <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Oct 1997 17:28:33 -0800
Subject: 8.1077  Re: Macbeth / Children
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1077  Re: Macbeth / Children

As Abigail Quart points out, "This play does seem to be all about heirs,
inheritance, no one to carry on." That's true of all the tragedies,
isn't it? Part of what makes them tragic to us (and, as she points out,
maybe even more so to an Elizabethan audience) is the snuffing out of
the entire line. Caesar (or Brutus, if you prefer), Othello and Macbeth
are childless. Hamlet, Juliet and Romeo are only children. Lear's
daughters all die. So the personal or political tragedy is always the
tragedy of the end of a family as well.

Skip Nicholson
 

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