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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: March ::
Re: Macbeth Witches
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0486  Thursday, 1 March 2001

[1]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 28 Feb 2001 22:25:57 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0472 Macbeth Witches

[2]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Thursday, 1 Mar 2001 13:23:25 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0472 Macbeth Witches


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 28 Feb 2001 22:25:57 -0500
Subject: 12.0472 Macbeth Witches
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0472 Macbeth Witches

The astonishing thing, to me, about I. iii, the witches' second scene,
is their plaintive powerlessness.

If you are a powerful and frightening entity, and you ask a fat
housewife for some of her chestnuts, she will politely give you as many
as you want.  That's not what happened to this witch. She was rudely
told to get lost.

Even with all three witches contributing, the offended witch still can't
sink the housewife's husband's ship. She can toss it around, with the
help of the other two, but it "cannot be lost." If you are powerful and
want revenge, you get your revenge.  You sink the ship.

When the three look into the future, they see Macbeth, they see Banquo's
line of kings, but nowhere do they mention seeing themselves or any of
their own kind.

This fits the true history. When Malcolm takes the throne from Macbeth,
he brings along an English bride, a princess who becomes Saint Margaret
of Scotland for her work in "cleansing" the Scottish church of its pagan
vestiges and unorthodox ritual.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Thursday, 1 Mar 2001 13:23:25 -0000
Subject: 12.0472 Macbeth Witches
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0472 Macbeth Witches

Andrew White asks

> Does anyone know a good analysis of the second witches scene in Macbeth,
> about the "sailor's wife" with "chestnuts in her lap" and her husband whom
> the First Witch says she will "drain ... dry as hay" and curse as "a man
>forbid"?

B. J. Sokol "_Macbeth_ and the Social History of Witchcraft" Shakespeare
Yearbook 6 (1996) pp. 245-274 observed that, according to Keith Thomas
and others, typical circumstances surrounding an accusation of
witchcraft are:

1) denial of a request for charity;

2) guilt of denier giving rise to projection of blame onto requester;

3) this happening in the context of changes in structures of mutual
obligation (esp. collectivism -> individualism).

Sokol points about that the witch in Macbeth 1.3.3-5 is called a witch
when denied chestnuts.

Gabriel Egan
 

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