I have several areas I want to address regarding Macbeth, so I’m going to do a series of shorter posts instead of one giant post wall. They will go up over the next week or so as I have them ready. The play has just given me so much to think about. The comedies are easy to take at face value; the tragedies evoke so many questions. The motivations, the characters of the principals, the relationship of the plays to the times. I really was an idiot to think I knew anything about this play; there is more depth and complexity to it than I ever imagined. Isn’t that fantastic?
First off, this. That list is kind of embarrassing now, but I am leaving it up. As I said, a lot of that comes from come from some mid-century YA literature I read as a teenager. I think it’s interesting that authors writing for teens in the US in the 1950s felt that they could make allusions to Shakespeare (albeit mangled by a father trying to be funny) and expect their audience to get them. I, coming along a few decades later certainly did not. I was aware that they were Shakespearean, but nothing more. This play is peppered with phrases I have heard all my life; I just did not know their origins. One of my favorite references comes from Betty Smiths’s 1943 novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The mother in the book reads a page of Shakespeare to her children every night, though neither she nor the children really understand it. One day, when one of the children is taunted by a neighbor child, she lets loose with “You don’t know what you’re saying. You’re jus’ full of soun’ ‘n furry siggaflying nothing.” I am afraid I may have sniggered inappropriately when I got to that part of the play.
References to the three witches and their spellmaking, and to Lady Macbeth’s “damned spot” are, likewise, everywhere. I am glad to have finally seen them in their proper context. As for the rest, I plead ignorance, an ignorance that has now been, happily, remedied.
ETA I am not writing “MacBeth” in my tags. WordPress keeps correcting it to that. I know it’s Macbeth.