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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: January ::
Macbeth Characters
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0052  Tuesday, 11 January 2005

From:           John Reed <
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Date:           Monday, 10 Jan 2005 18:37:44 -0800
Subject:        Re: Macbeth Characters

I have read Shakespeare's Speech-Headings now, and I want to thank the
two of you who recommended it.  I especially liked the last essay, on
"What's the Bastard's Name?"  I think it is the only piece of commentary
I have wholeheartedly agreed with, and also really liked.

The references to Lady Capulet (as she is called in the Arden edition)
presented by Q2 Romeo and Juliet were especially interesting.  There
were a whole lot of them.   I notice she appears there in the Stage
Directions as Capulets Wife (with Speech Prefixes Old La. and Mo.), as
his Wife (with La.), as Mother (with La., Mo., M., La. (again), and
Wi.), as Lady of the House (with La., Mo., and M.), and his Wife (again,
with Wife).  So the situation is even more complicated than with Lady
Macbeth, because there are Speech Prefixes apparently referring to Lady
Capulet within certain scenes that are not merely variant abbreviations,
but abbreviations of different words.  I have a hard time believing all
this is an accident or mere carelessness.  It would be carelessness if
the author were writing now and doing so in conformity with modern
norms, perhaps.  It must mean something.  It almost looks like he is
giving directions to the actors on how to play the part in the scene,
especially since in one scene the Speech Prefix changes, and then
changes back.

So, regarding character identification, homologizing Lady Macbeth's
speeches by resolving the abbreviations looks like it was an easy one.
Homologizing Lady Capulet's speeches looks harder, because she has
different designations in the Stage Directions in different scenes.  But
somebody figured it out.  Yet there doesn't seem to be a clear cut
method of doing it.  And so I'm still wondering about these apparently
minor characters in Macbeth: the servants and the murderers.  I'm
thinking that there might be some homologous characters in there that
haven't yet been recognized, because they are harder to identify than
Lady Capulet, and, well, the effect of the inertia of all these
centuries and by the modern norm of using a single Speech Prefix for a
given character all the way through.  We look at the distinct Speech
Prefixes (they're sort of distinct, anyway) and go directly, or with
perhaps a certain unease, to the door of character distinction.

As an aside, before I render my attempt at homology, in the New
Cambridge Shakespeare Macbeth, edited by A.R. Braunmuller, there is the
note that historically Lady Macbeth had a real name, which was "Gruoch."
  I wonder if that is a title, like Sauron (=Enemy).  That is one ugly
name for a fiend-like queen.  I also wonder if it is Scottish Gaelic,
and related to Irish Gaelic "Gruagach", which apparently signifies a
"hairy Otherworld figure, whose name may contain a double-entendre."

All right, here is my claim: Porter (of 2.3) equals one of the
attendants mentioned in the Stage Direction for 3.1, equals Servant (of
3.1) equals Servant (of 3.2).  I guess that is no big deal.  But there
is more.  He also equals 3 (Third Murderer)(of 3.3), equals one of the
attendants in the Stage Direction for 3.4, equals one of the Murderers
in 4.2.  It doesn't say how many of them there are, only that there is
more than one.  I think there are three, a, b, and c.  Porter is equal
to b, the one who says, "He's a traitor."  He also equals Seyton of Act
5.  So one might say he's a pretty important character.  I wish I had a
good set of reasons I could present logically and academically; it's
just a vision.  I think he is in league with the witches, perhaps
outranking them, and, along with Hecate, forms another presence of evil
(or at least anti-God) in the play.  He doesn't seem to do very much,
perhaps because the plan of the witches works: he doesn't need to make
any alterations, he's just there to make sure the plan works, and
especially there are no untoward repentances.

I also think one of the murderers of Banquo is one of the murderers in
the attack on Macduff's castle: the one who doesn't repent of the first
murder.

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