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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: January ::
Re: Lady Macbeth's Murder
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0056  Wednesday, 10 January 2001

[1]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 9 Jan 2001 18:15:01 +0000
        Subj:   SHK 12.0047 Lady Macbeth's Murder

[2]     From:   L. Swilley <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 9 Jan 2001 13:36:18 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0047 Lady Macbeth's Murder

[3]     From:   Moira Russell <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 09 Jan 2001 19:10:09 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0047 Lady Macbeth's Murder

[4]     From:   Tom Dale Keever <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 9 Jan 2001 23:17:03 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0047 Lady Macbeth's Murder

[5]     From:   Michael Skovmand <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Jan 2001 10:34:39 +0100
        Subj:   Sv: SHK 12.0047 Lady Macbeth's Murder


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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Date:           Tuesday, 9 Jan 2001 18:15:01 +0000
Subject: Lady Macbeth's Murder
Comment:        SHK 12.0047 Lady Macbeth's Murder

With respect, I would have thought, not a shred of evidence to support
the idea of Macbeth as his wife's murderer.

Would even Macbeth have launched into his two most nihilistic speeches
in Act 5 just after her death is revealed if he had 'done the deed'? His
post-killing speeches elsewhere are instinct with intense excitement,
graphic imagery, and although the Act 5 speeches are memorable too, is
there not so significant a shift in tone after the anticipation of
battle speeches earlier in Act 5 that one is convinced that the death of
his wife has completely knocked the bottom out of his world?

What would be his motive for such an act anyway?

In the midst of battle preparations which by all accounts are
increasingly frenetic, would he have the opportunity, cool to do so? And
what about the women who are apparently devoted to llking after her day
and night?

No, sorry, I can't see it.

Stuart Manger

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           L. Swilley <
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Date:           Tuesday, 9 Jan 2001 13:36:18 -0600
Subject: 12.0047 Lady Macbeth's Murder
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0047 Lady Macbeth's Murder

Lady Macbeth may, indeed, be read to have been murdered - but not by
Macbeth.  He had no motive; further, if the crushing effect of his
knowledge of her death ("She should have died hereafter...") is to be
saved - the speech is his awakening to the enormity of his horrible
crimes - he should certainly not be read as having wanted such a thing.
Her death by suicide is much better than death by murder; in spite of
our inability to confirm that she "by self and violent hands took off
her life," I think we should accept that suicide as appropriate, since
both man and wife are now finally seen as responsible for their own
destruction.

L. Swilley

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Moira Russell <
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Date:           Tuesday, 09 Jan 2001 19:10:09 -0700
Subject: 12.0047 Lady Macbeth's Murder
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0047 Lady Macbeth's Murder

If you wish the state of your marital conversations to be healthy, you
might discuss something other than "Macbeth."  (Just kidding.)

Now that I think about it, the relationship between Macbeth and his Lady
doesn't seem one, emotionally at least, where he could kill her-he seems
the submissive partner from the start.  Perhaps he recoils in a fit of
rage at what his life has become and kills her, but is there support for
this in the text?  There also seems something powerfully "Greek" about
Lady Macbeth extinguishing herself-it almost seems no one else would be
powerful enough to do the job.  Less fancifully, her sleepwalking does
suggest a motivating guilt.

Moira Russell
Seattle, WA

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Dale Keever <
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Date:           Tuesday, 9 Jan 2001 23:17:03 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 12.0047 Lady Macbeth's Murder
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0047 Lady Macbeth's Murder

>Has anyone ever seen a production or read any criticism in which Lady
>Macbeth's death is not a suicide, but rather, Macbeth is implicated in
>her murder?
>
>My wife and I are having an ongoing discussion about this. The idea that
>Macbeth either murdered Lady Macbeth or had her murdered seems to me an
>entirely speculative and unsubstantiated one. I do grant, however, that
>the only reference we have to her death is Malcolm's characterization of
>her as a "fiend-like queen / Who (as 'tis thought) by self and violent
>hands, Took off her life" (5.9.35-36), and Malcolm was yet to arrive at
>Dunsinane at the time of her death and could not really know with any
>certainty the particulars of Lady Macbeth's death.
>
>Is there any basis for suspecting Macbeth of Lady Macbeth's murder? Any
>thoughts would be appreciated, both for my own contemplation and the
>healthy state of my marital conversations.
>
>Paul Swanson

Having played the King, I am at a loss to imagine how an actor could
engage in the conversation with Seyton:

MACBETH:                        Wherefore was that cry?

SEYTON: The Queen, my lord, is dead.

MACBETH:                                      She should have died
hereafter.
        There would have been a time for such a word.
        Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow . . .
                                                        (5.5.15-18)

and have the news of his wife's death launch him into one of
literature's most moving reflections on the ultimate pointlessness of
human life and ambition if he had himself engineered her murder.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Skovmand <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Jan 2001 10:34:39 +0100
Subject: 12.0047 Lady Macbeth's Murder
Comment:        Sv: SHK 12.0047 Lady Macbeth's Murder

The only  - minimal - piece of evidence suggesting Macbeth's possible
involvement in his wife's death seems to be the enigmatic line just
before the "Tomorrow and tomorrow..." soliloquy: "She should have died
hereafter" which *could* be given a fiendish spin:  "I was planning to
do her next anyway" - and which editors since Dr. Johnson have struggled
with - usually either interpreting the line as" she should have died at
a more peaceful time than this" - or, in a more metaphysical vein,
linking "hereafter" to Macbeth's "tomorrow and tomorrow" - the infinite
deferral of the present.

Michael Skovmand
U. of Aarhus
 

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