What (I thought) I know about Macbeth, or, I am an idiot.

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.

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