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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: April ::
Re: Problems in Macbeth
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0820  Wednesday, 30 April 2003

[1]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 29 Apr 2003 09:53:51 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0807 Re: Problems in Macbeth

[2]     From:   L. Swilley <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 29 Apr 2003 10:16:37 -0500
        Subj:   Interesting interpretation of Lady M.

[3]     From:   Steve Sohmer <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 29 Apr 2003 12:32:14 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0807 Re: Problems in Macbeth


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Tuesday, 29 Apr 2003 09:53:51 -0500
Subject: 14.0807 Re: Problems in Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0807 Re: Problems in Macbeth

  Matthew Baynham writes,

>I think the answer is too psychologically simple for us now; but
>probably Shakespeare uses the Witches as fairly routine agents of
>temptation.  Temptation is a recurrent thread in Macbeth: the Witches
>(and perhaps Lady Macbeth) tempt Macbeth; Macbeth (as I've been arguing
>in another thread) tempts the Murderers; and, in some strange way in
>4.3, Macbeth tempts Malcolm, too. Banquo's idea that 'The instruments of
>darkness' lead human beings astray in this way was (is) orthodox
>Christian doctrine; but it was (is) not thought to remove the human
>agent's moral responsibility for one's own actions.

Just so. Witches were (by definition) agents of the Devil, whose primary
occupation was tempting humans into mortal sin so that they could be
damned eternally. Macbeth must will his own damnation by freely acceding
to the temptation -- and he does.

His position is closely parallel to that of Claudius (in fact, *Macbeth*
is in many ways *Hamlet* inside out), so that Claudius's commentary on
his spiritual state in III, 3 could be applied to him as well.

Cheers,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           L. Swilley <
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Date:           Tuesday, 29 Apr 2003 10:16:37 -0500
Subject:        Interesting interpretation of Lady M.

James Doyle wrote,

>Reading the discussion about the murders, and murderers, in Macbeth,
>reminded me of one of the more powerful images I have seen in a
>production of the play.
>
>It was a UK TV production, in the 80s or early 90s, filmed with a mixed
>cast of professional actors and working class people from a council
>estate (in Birmingham?).  The setting was the estate itself, all tower
>blocks and terraced houses, with Duncan the leader of a gang of drug
>dealers, and Macbeth and Banquo as his enforcers.  Probably sounds
>unpromising so far, but bear with me.
>
>Early on we saw Lady Macbeth walking with Lady Macduff, the latter
>pushing a pram and the whole thing intimating they were close friends.
>Then Macbeth and Lady M discussed the witches' prophecies in a bedroom
>obviously decorated for a baby, but equally obviously, and painfully,
>not having been used.
>
>I can't quite remember how it was staged, but Lady M got wind of the
>planned killing of the Macduffs, runs through the estate to their house,
>and makes it in time only to hear the killings happening inside while
>she is crouched beneath the kitchen window.  The killings weren't shown
>at all, but the sounds, and the expression on Lady M's face, made it the
>most horrifying staging of the murders I've seen - let's be honest,
>there's been so much blood on the stage by that point the play is in
>danger of tipping over into comedy if it's not played right.  It also
>made the most convincing explanation of why Lady M slips into madness -
>losing her best friend, and what seemed to be her surrogate children,
>was more than she could bear.
>
>It was an uneven production, but for that moment, and for the three
>witches as three Jamaican ladies with the largest pan of stew I've ever
>seen, it has a place in my memory.

Fascinating.  But what did the production do with Lady M's lines: I, v,
44ff and I, vii, 54ff. ???  Were they deleted?

L. Swilley

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Sohmer <
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Date:           Tuesday, 29 Apr 2003 12:32:14 EDT
Subject: 14.0807 Re: Problems in Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0807 Re: Problems in Macbeth

Dear Friends,

Annalisa Castaldo has it almost right. The tension in "Macbeth" is
between free will and predestination (not as she has it, "fate"). There
are many subtle hints at this design in the play -- the moon setting at
midnight on the night of the murder, for example. As we would say, "The
planets lining up." The apotheosis moment is the parade of infants from
the future, which exactly anticipates the succession of the Scottish
throne. Macbeth can do nothing to prevent this happening.

An Elizabethan audience would perceive Macbeth as the unwitting agent of
God's providence -- His predestination -- which is determined to bring
James to the throne of Scotland (and England). The same dynamic is
covertly at work in "Twelfth Night" ... and very brazenly in "Hamlet."

Hope this helps.

Steve

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