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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: December ::
Macbeth Characters
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.2130  Monday, 20 December 2004

From:           John Reed <
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Date:           Thursday, 16 Dec 2004 20:08:59 -0800
Subject:        Re: Macbeth Characters

First, I appreciate the recommended references: so much Shakespeare, so
little time.

Kathy Dent wrote:

"These are dangerous assumptions, but perhaps most dangerous is the
assumption that speech prefixes were or should have been standardised in
Renaissance play books."

Sure enough, they are, but perhaps I wasn't making the assumption you
note as most dangerous (and which I agree as being dangerous, if not
false); I was trying to make those other assumptions to hold down the
number of variables, and to focus attention on the dangerous assumption
you highlight.  I counted 56 Speech Prefixes in F, and the Arden edition
I have has 40, that I count.  Two are plurals (All and Lords), so we can
set those aside; that seems to give 38 characters?  Seems, Madam?  I
wonder if the number on the original stage was 37, or 39, or even 36.
Modern scripts seem to adopt the practice of using a Speech Prefix as a
unique identifier, sort of a social security number for a character.

I'm looking at a script of Star Wars (of course all them are pretty much
the same on this score), and it reads, on p. 1, "An explosion rocks the
ship as two robots, ARTOO DETOO (R2-D2) and SEE THREEPIO (C-3PO)
struggle to make their way through the shaking bouncing passageway."
Then when C-3PO has dialogue, the Speech Prefix is THREEPIO - every
time, from beginning to end.  Then on p. 2 we have "The tremendous heat
of two huge twin suns settles on a lone figure, LUKE STARKILLER, a farm
boy with heroic aspirations who looks much younger than his twenty
years."  Every time Luke says something, it is noted with the prefix
LUKE.  This is modern convention, as everyone knows.  Macbeth F doesn't
look like this.  I notice the same variations for Lady Macbeth as you:
Lady, La, and Lad.  According to modern convention this variation might
be considered anomalous; at any rate the Arden edition has reduced the
number of spellings to one, and overall it appears variant spellings
have been eliminated (all except one, where the Porter is Porter once
and Port. all the rest of the time), style is homogenized, and
ambiguities resolved...or some resolved, anyway.  This practice might be
in accord with the ideal of technique standardization which is
associated with modern technological society.

But I am still wondering whether we have even identified all the
anomalies, let alone resolved them.  Equating Lady, La, and Lad with
Lady Macbeth might be an easy one.  I notice in Act 5 there is a scene
with Maca, Macb, and Macd.  What happened to Macc?  I also notice the
word standardised itself hasn't been completely standardized.

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