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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: January ::
Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0056  Tuesday, 11 January 2000.

[1]     From:   Judith Matthews Craig <
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        Date:   Monday, 10 Jan 2000 21:31:37 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0043 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth

[2]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Tue, 11 Jan 2000 00:11:22 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0036 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth

[3]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Jan 2000 06:07:29 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 11.0043 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judith Matthews Craig <
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Date:           Monday, 10 Jan 2000 21:31:37 -0600
Subject: 11.0043 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0043 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth

Ed Pixley writes:

<This is why I've always been fascinated by the notion that the play
<actually takes place in hell, as the Porter seems to perceive in his
<drunken state, and that Macbeth is doomed to keep repeating the entire
<process of his earthly crime and punishment throughout eternity.

I might have a simple-minded approach here, but I like Ed Pixley's
comment.  Macbeth is doomed as in hell to repeat the same actions and
the ethical point seems to me to be that we should avoid crime like
his-ambition, persuasion by an inferior (Lady Macbeth) to an action he
really detests-and remain free.

I can never understand modern views like Sean's that ethics are easily
dismissed to that we can "rethink" them in new ways or attend to
inferior TV shows seriously and somehow not feel too bad about wasting
our time when living one's life ethically demands incredible energy and
thought (in my experience anyway).  I  like Posthumus' address to the
"Gods" in Cymbeline 5.1.12-15:

    You snatch some hence for little faults; that's love,
    To have them fall no more:  you some permit
    To second ills with ills, each elder worse,
    And make them dread it, to the doers' thrift.
                                (5.1.12-15)

Some people are "snatched" or taken into death for little faults, which
Posthumus calls "love" of the Gods; others are permitted to do great
ill, the older sins worse than the latter ones, so that the doer comes
to dread doing evil.   Paradoxically, this lax "permit" of the "Gods" is
not love but a kind of punishment from which he cannot escape.   The
idea behind the passage, of course, is that laxity on the part of the
"Gods" is punishment and love is discipline (a very Biblical idea). The
conclusion that thrift of sin is a preferable state of being than great
sin is implicit, however, behind both notions of God's "love" and his
permissiveness.

I would conclude that Shakespeare finds that the "doers' thrift" (line
15) rather than their continued enjoyment of sin is a condition of both
little and big sinners.  Why then, do it?  His plays seem to me to point
always to excruciatingly rigorous application of ethics in both the
poetic language as well as the action onstage.

Judy Craig

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Tue, 11 Jan 2000 00:11:22 -0500
Subject: 11.0036 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0036 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth

I believe the problem that Sean raises was consciously incorporated into
the religious element of classical tragedy.  The ancients were obsessed
with the paradox of free will opposed to fate.  Not only does this
paradox make up the matter of many of their tragedies, but it becomes
palpable when the actions on the stage appear as immovable as fate,
despite the free will of the audience. The question is not whether we
have the power to stop the murder, and so by not doing so, are the third
murderer, but whether we have less power to do so than Macbeth (or his
henchmen) who like Oedipus is fated to commit the murder (the sisters
play the role of Oedipus' Pythia).

I'm reminded of gruesome descriptions I've read about murders committed
under the influence of PCP in which the killer claims to have felt as
though he were watching the event from a long way off or in a dream.  Is
such a killer culpable?

And yet, I question the assumption that any culture has ever existed
without some form of drama. The only differences I'm aware of have to do
with the degree of religious significance attached to the performance.
I cannot imagine children who do not play make believe.  All human
beings, being social and devoid of controlling instincts, must construct
roles for themselves through which to interact with their cultures.  All
children therefore go through a period of learning to put on and take
off roles from the adult world.  Perhaps this universally human tendency
accounts for the ubiquitousness of dramatic representation and its
religious connotations in ancient cultures?

Why is the oath on Hamlet's sword not binding on the actor who plays
Horatio? Or is it? Is the Passion Play really a device to instill in us
the guilt of the crucifixion.  These are interesting questions.  As to
whether, given recidivistic regicides, we should renounce the genre of
tragedy, I think it's a little hasty.  Despite the flaws in his
methodology, there is a great deal to be said for Aristotle's
understanding of tragedy as cathartic.  If there is any truth in Freud's
model of dreams, the drama can be seen as performing the same palliative
function for the collective consciousness.  The urge for regicide is so
strong in us still, that, unless we can bloody our hands in the audience
of the Scottish play, we may go after that old tenured lit professor.

Clifford Stetner

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Tuesday, 11 Jan 2000 06:07:29 -0500
Subject: Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth
Comment:        SHK 11.0043 Re: 3rd Murderer in Macbeth

The Mousetrap doesn't seem to have quite the ethical focus that Hamlet
(and Sean Lawrence) want. It's clear from the start that the Player King
is seriously ill and unlikely to survive for much longer. The projected
poisoning is thus virtually redundant. It's hardly a situation on which
one can comfortably strop cosy feelings of guilt.

T. Hawkes
 

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