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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: January ::
Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0004  Monday, 3 January 2000.

[1]     From:   Eric W Beato <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 29 Dec 1999 10:09:19 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 10.2300 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth

[2]     From:   Judith Matthews Craig <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 29 Dec 1999 16:52:53 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.2300 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth

[3]     From:   Judith Matthews Craig <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 29 Dec 1999 16:52:53 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.2300 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth

[4]     From:   John Ramsay <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Dec 1999 03:49:37 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.2300 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Eric W Beato <
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Date:           Wednesday, 29 Dec 1999 10:09:19 -0500
Subject: Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth
Comment:        SHK 10.2300 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth

Sean Lawrence writes that Macbeth "remains, in a sense, free, but his is
a freedom frozen into fate, a tragic parody of human choice." While this
is indeed a possibility that many would accept, I wonder what indeed is
meant by "freedom frozen into fate."  This suggests to me that Macbeth
is more victim than I can accept.  Say what you will about witches,
prophecies, his wife and his ambition, Macbeth knew what he did when he
slaughtered Duncan.  He chose to do what he knew was wrong-indicating he
was willing "to jump" the life to come.  The deterioration of his
manhood, his success, and his humanity results from the choice to accept
evil and commit murder.

I just cannot bring myself to allow him any excuses.

Best wishes for the New Year,
Rick Beato
Lisle (IL) Senior High School

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judith Matthews Craig <
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Date:           Wednesday, 29 Dec 1999 16:52:53 -0600
Subject: 10.2300 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.2300 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth

Sean Lawrence writes:

<Watching Macbeth kill Duncan is a sort of sin of
<omission.  If it wasn't
<a play, we might be charged under a good Samaritan law.

This comment on Macbeth seems to me to be ridiculous.  We ARE watching
an artificial play created by a fellow human being, not a scene
happening spontaneously on the street when virtuous action might make a
difference.  That we are somehow "complicit" in watching a play, godlike
overseers, with god-LIKE capabilities, does not make us GOD himself, nor
even endowed with anything like his knowledge or power.  Our
consciousness may in an Augustinian sense be similar, but we are not
gods and should not impose artificial and meaningless codes of ethics
like rushing into a play to save stage actors clearly representing
historical or fictional characters.

In Platonic and, I believe, Renaissance thought, there are levels of
reality that this kind of meaningless gibberish does not respect.

Judy Craig

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judith Matthews Craig <
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Date:           Wednesday, 29 Dec 1999 17:06:05 -0600
Subject: 10.2300 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.2300 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth

Sean Lawrence comments in another elaboration [of the thought that the
audience is somehow complicit in the action of a play] that I could not
address in a previous post:

<We conspire, by our magical prophecies or aesthetic
<expectations, to keep Macbeth from taking any other sort
<of action.  He
<remains, in a sense, free, but his is a freedom frozen into
<fate, a
<tragic parody of human choice.

We do not "conspire" to keep Macbeth from taking action.  He is not a
"parody" of human choice, but the example of a man who willfully CHOOSES
evil and infects himself and others thereby in a play written by a man
with a conscious purpose.   OUR expectations are not considered by
Shakespeare in writing the play-we are asked to see and reflect on
Macbeth's problems for ourselves-but we do not act like witches or gods
with magical prophecies or "aesthetic expectations" to interfere in
Shakespeare's play.  Our expectations of aesthetic pleasure may
change-be understood better and therefore diminished-but we cannot
change or write Shakespeare's play.  In fact, I think that the work of
criticism, in understanding what is going on in a play with the fruitful
exchange of ideas, actually DIMINISHES the impact of seeing and thinking
about a play, c.f. the tendency of modern critics to ignore the play
entirely for modern adaptations that do fulfill their expectations but
do not enhance our understanding about SHAKESPEARE's play.

Judy Craig

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Ramsay <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Dec 1999 03:49:37 -0500
Subject: 10.2300 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.2300 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth

>>Making a witch the third murderer
>>is a step in the process of making the evil in the play NOT the fault of
>>Macbeth himself.  I would never show the witches with any sort of power
>>whatever to force the prophecies into occurrence.  I feel the witches
>>are a SYMPTOM of the evil in the heart of Macbeth, never a CAUSE of it.

I'm not sure that casting a witch as 3rd Murderer does shift
responsibility from Macbeth.

He does question the prophesies immediately. Even decides to let chance
run its course - until his wife intervenes.

And in the end he once again doubts 'the fiend that lies like truth' and
must admit the witches 'keep the word of promise to our ear and break it
to our hope'.

He chose to believe them. His responsibility.

As such, I thought the Stratford Canada production had a valid reason
for using the witch as 3rd Murderer.

Incidentally the allocation of responsibility in 'Macbeth' is a good
classroom exercise when reviewing the play.

I used to ask my students to allocate responsibility on a percent basis.

e.g. Macbeth 50% Lady Macbeth 25% Witches 10% Other factors 15% = 100%

This made for interesting discussions as students defended their
judgements, and used their imagination in bringing in 'other factors'.

Duncan as a weak king naming his son, not an effective soldier at the
time, as heir to the throne was one of the more interesting 'other
factors' that tended to surface.

I also averaged each classes' decisions.

There were interesting variations from class to class, year to year.

John Ramsay
Welland Ontario
 

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