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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: February ::
Macbeth Characters
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0216  Tuesday, 2 February 2005

From:           John Reed <
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Date:           Monday, 31 Jan 2005 21:27:57 -0800
Subject:        Re: Macbeth Characters

After not feeling well for a few days I notice my thread is doing much
better without me.  But I'm back now.

G. Horton wrote:

"I don't know whether you will be pleased or disappointed to hear that I
have read similar analyses before, and have seen small cast productions
that used exactly this functional doubling, including the satanic
pronunciation of the Act V character's name."

I'm not surprised someone else has had an idea, even if it is true,
particularly if I had the same or similar idea.  Exactly the same
pattern, all the way through?
Porter-Servant-Murderer-Attendant-Murderer-Seyton?  Wow.  They're on the
ball.  I might be interested in reading up on some of this on my own
time, if that were possible.

Then also I have the idea this play is mostly about repentance, or
rather a failure of repentance (ultimately), and during the course of
the events Macbeth is swinging, as it were, between repentant tendencies
and bloody tendencies.  When he killed Duncan he was bloody.  Regarding
Banquo he is tending the other way.  When he attacks Macduff's castle he
is bloody again, even more so than before (progression of evil).

B. Richman wrote:

"If John Reed is suggesting that the Porter and the Third Murderer are
one, I would encourage him to re-read the venerable Harold Goddard. The

Third Murderer is Macbeth himself."

M. Todd wrote:

"A quick reading of his essay lists the six reasons that the
identification with Macbeth seems inescapable.  Goddard makes a
compelling case.   He does not, however, insist that we see the literal
Macbeth join the [assassins] he has hired.  The effectiveness of the
association is profound."

Goddard.  I like his commentary; it's sensible, and he sometimes makes
reference to spirituality.  Here he is comparing dreams to drama, which
I like in particular.  I think he was on the right track
equating/comparing Macbeth with the Third Murderer.  It gives the play a
certain, what does the drama department call it, "concrete" image.  But
we have the same kind of concretion (what I call it) if Seyton is the
Third Murderer, only expressed more strongly.  And the rest of the
characters Seyton impersonates (or disquises himself as) taken together
take this concretion and make it animated.  Characterized.  Inescapable.
  I think it was Peter Hall (oh heck, it's upstairs) who justified his
using Hecate in the play (even though she is in the Folio) by saying it
gave a representation of anti-God within the play.  If that is true for
Hecate, it would be even more true for Seyton.  I like that diphthong
spelled out like that.  I understand Satan sometimes appeared in
Morality Plays (or their relatives) - as somebody just mentioned.  One
reference I saw seemed to indicate he appeared in a disguise in, I think
it was a play by Massinger, ca. 1620.

M. Baynham wrote:

"I remain convinced that the point of the otherwise overdone scene
between Macbeth and them is to show us how he deceives and corrupts them."

I agree with somebody again.  Macbeth is definitely corrupting them,
just as the witches and Lady Macbeth corrupted him.  The way I see it,
it is hard for Macbeth, because he knows the murderers see through his
explanations, and would rather not be convinced/corrupted.  But they go
through with it, under Seyton's supervision - who seems to be there in
order to make sure they do go through with it, and that Fleance escapes.
  Then afterwards they're really wracked, and one of them seems to
desire absolution from Macbeth, however none is forthcoming.  And the
other one is so mortified that he reminds me of, you know, that guy over
in the corner who wouldn't dare to raise his eyes to heaven so ashamed
of himself was he.  One of them repents, but the other one I wouldn't be
surprised ends up as one of the murderers in the attack on Macduff's castle.

R. Ross wrote:

"I agree with Matthew Baynham about the murderers. Macbeth has consigned
his soul to Hell by killing Duncan and the two guards; now he coerces
and lies to two desperate men to commit his murders, thus sending them
directly to Hell."

It could be, very like.  Yet some might say there is still the chance
they might repent, and avoid hell.  Over on another thread we were
discussing whether Saruman, in turning down Gandalf's salvific offer at
the end of the story, might have done something analogous to the sin
against the Holy Spirit.  And somebody brought out a quotation from the
Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1864:

"Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but
is guilty of an eternal sin." [Mk 3:29; cf. Mr 12:32; Lk 12:10] There
are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses
to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins
and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit.  Such hardness of heart
can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss."

I'm not sure the two murderers are inescapably condemned at this point.
  Some might say they should or at least could seize the chance to
repent.  Same could be said of Macbeth.  But eventually they are going
to run out of chances, and if they were to die "in their sins," then
they're sunk.

As to the Third Murderer, well...

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