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my opinion a more valid reading of the text than the discussion that assumes Macbeth is sterile because of the reference to a 'barren sceptre'

Well I'd hoped "Oooh arrr missus" might be a slight indication that I was being a little facetious, but possibly I was being too subtle...

 

;)

 

I think the idea that Lady Macbeth employs sexual wiles in her persuasion is reasonable enough, though is stressed very heavily in the Roman Polanski film - possibly rather more than is strictly speaking presented in the text.

 

Actually, the much stronger element in the text in terms of her manipulating Macbeth into the murder is denigrating his manhood. She pushes at this very heavily, suggesting it is a sore spot. For someone as accomplished as her at working people round to her will it is surely interesting that she chooses to suggest if he doesn't do this he is not a man. For a man who is the greatest soldier in Scotland this would be easily laughed off. For a man who is the greatest soldier in Scotland, yet oddly doesn't have an heir - something of primary importance in noble families and for the perception of manhood - this would dig more insidiously. A very likely reading, therefore, is that he feels sensitive about the fact he has been unable to produce any child, let alone the requisite son.

 

The fact that he chooses words in two successive lines that are linked to impotence - 'fruitless' and 'barren' - suggest at the very least that these are issues that are weighing on his mind. Yes, the prophecies themselves relate to the future, yet there is little question they apply to the present state as well. If he had children then this would surely be something he would consider in his analysis of the prophecies. Macduff also screams, "He has no children!" when he learns Macbeth killed his family.

 

You can also consider a psychoanalytical reading of the play (which Freud produced himself, in fact), where Macbeth's murder of Duncan, a father-figure, and of Macduff's children as well as his pursuit of Fleance all link to the deep-seated absence in the mind of the childless man.

 

I think it also needs to be said that if the Macbeths do indeed have no problem in the bedroom department then something's awry in the pipes somewhere. Impotence is not simply about Carry On innuendo - you can perform the deed but lack the seed, as it were...Matron.

 

I entirely agree with jfp, actually, that much of this probably stems from errors in the text. Macbeth is widely regarded as one of the most corrupted of Shakepeare's texts, considerably mangled in the process of bringing it to print from the various actors' copies etc. Sections are thought to have been lost and indeed different versions could have merged, prodcuing the inconsistency. Still, thank goodness the giving suck passage is still there because as jfp notes, it is indeed one of the most chilling images Shakespeare ever produced.

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Well, thank the lord that no one is an absolute expert on any of the texts or all these possible readings would draw to a close and the plays would die. Critics better than thee and me have debated these issue for years and will continue to do so. Isn't that the half the joy of Shakespeare's canon?

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Ps: I wonder if the Scottish law gave the possibility to a Lady Macbeth's son, born before she married Macbeth, to become king....I don't know that...hmmm...

 

It's funny that if you Google 'Lady Macbeth children' you get pages of sites discussing whether she had any or not, but if you google her real name (Gruoch) you get the facts. Macbeth was her second husband; she had a son, Lulach, by her first marriage; and when Macbeth died Lulach was made king! (It will have helped that Gruoch was the grandaughter of a previous king.) Lulach was a Weak King who was assassinated after 7 months, after which Duncan's son Malcolm took over. However, Lulach had a son and daughter, and the daughter is recorded as having a son.

 

An interesting point about Scottish law at that time was that the crown did not descend from father to son, but alternated between two branches of the same family. Macbeth, who was a cousin from the other branch, was Duncan's heir, not Malcolm. Malcolm, not Lulach, should probably have been Macbeth's heir, but Lulach may have been proclaimed as a gesture of support for Macbeth, who had been a successful and popular king for 17 years before he was killed. Malcolm ended this particular tradition; after him the crown descended from father to son. This did Scotland no favours, as time and again kings died when their sons were still children, leading to endless problems.

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Iif you google her real name (Gruoch) you get the facts. Macbeth was her second husband; she had a son, Lulach, by her first marriage; and when Macbeth died Lulach was made king! (It will have helped that Gruoch was the grandaughter of a previous king.) Lulach was a Weak King who was assassinated after 7 months, after which Duncan's son Malcolm took over. However, Lulach had a son and daughter, and the daughter is recorded as having a son.
Thanks for that Heather, that is really interesting.
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So much of the history of this period is lost in the mists of time which is, of course, why it lends itself so well to drama and historical fiction. Dorothy Dunnett in her historical saga, King Hereafter, gave an alternative, but extremely well researched, take on the Macbeth story which includes the information that Heather so helpfully provided. Dunnett suggests that Macbeth had strong family links to Orkney and to Norway and that he actually may have been Thorfinn, one of the sons of Earl Sigurd of Orkney, and might have taken the name Macbeth on becoming King of Scotland for political reasons. The basis of this belief was, apparently, that during her research the names of Thorfinn and Macbeth were inter-linked so frequently in primary sources that it was not an unreasonable assumption. Of course, no-one can know for certain and as Hazel says no-one is an absolute expert on any of these texts.

 

I would thoroughly recommend 'King Hereafter’ to anyone who is interested in the Macbeth story. I consider it to be the best of Dorothy Dunnett's novels but it is long with a very complex plot which reflects the equally complex political situation in Scotland and the rest of Britain as well as Scandinavia and the remainder of Europe during this period of history.

 

More information can be found at: http://www.dorothydunnett.co.uk/dunnettqa5.htm

 

P.S. I think Shakespeare's version makes for much better theatre though.

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Dunnett suggests that Macbeth had strong family links to Orkney and to Norway and that he actually may have been Thorfinn, one of the sons of Earl Sigurd of Orkney, and might have taken the name Macbeth on becoming King of Scotland for political reasons.

 

I had read of the Macbeth/Thorfinn connection some years ago and was intrigued that he was a capable and just (as 11th century kings go, anyway) ruler. By Shakespeare's time it would have been advantageous to portray regicide as a BIG no-no.

 

I would thoroughly recommend 'King Hereafter’ to anyone who is interested in the Macbeth story. I consider it to be the best of Dorothy Dunnett's novels but it is long with a very complex plot which reflects the equally complex political situation in Scotland and the rest of Britain as well as Scandinavia and the remainder of Europe during this period of history

 

Oh good, so it wasn't just me - I was feeling a bit thick! Very well-written, and I enjoyed the description of life and politics of the time, but had to give up when for the fourth or fifth time some earl or bishop with a similar Gaelic name beginning with "C" would pop back into the story, and I'd find myself thumbing back through the text saying, "now who was he again?" Will have to give it another go.

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By Shakespeare's time it would have been advantageous to portray regicide as a BIG no-no.

 

I think that this raises an interesting point in that when considering Shakespeare's tragedies we should take into account the extent to which the political, social, and moral/religious climate of the period in which they were written influenced the way in which he (or indeed any artists at any time) portrayed historical events. This seems to be particularly relevant to Macbeth where the discrepancy between the Shakespearean Macbeth and the historical Macbeth would appear to be considerable.

 

Obviously, though, other factors must also be taken into account such as the historical information available to him at the time and the extent to which he employed artistic licence (I think that we sometimes tend to forget that Shakespeare wrote primarily to entertain).

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He also wrote this one to impress James the first who had a very unhealthy interest in witchcraft and was said to be distantly related to Banquo.

As a jobbing writer at a time when Royal Patronage mattered Shakey knew which side his bread was buttered......

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For any of our Scottish members who are interested a production of 'the Scottish play' opens tonight at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh. The play is co-produced by the Royal Lyceum Theatre Company and the Nottingham Playhouse and will run until 11 October. It will then transfer to Nottingham where it will run from 22 October to 15 November.

 

It has been billed as "a no-nonsense production set in medieval Scotland with period costumes and bloody battle scenes"

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For any of our Scottish members who are interested a production of 'the Scottish play' opens tonight at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh. The play is co-produced by the Royal Lyceum Theatre Company and the Nottingham Playhouse and will run until 11 October.
Oooh, I will have to get tickets for that!

 

ETA - just booked 2 tickets for the 4 Oct matinee showing - hubby will be delighted! Not.

 

Thanks for that blithe_spirit!

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I'm going to see another production in a few weeks with pupils : the Mull Theatre. I will report back!

This is the blurb:

Backroom conniving, naked ambition, insider dealing, moral ambiguity, hypocrisy and corruption at the highest levels… a dynamic and inventive production with all the elements of thriller, adventure and the supernatural. This is a revival of the final ever show at Mull Little Theatre – an acclaimed, innovative and very accessible production which was loved by critics and audiences alike.

 

The entire action of the play happens in a world inhabited, manipulated and to some extent controlled by one rather extraordinary character, a “weird woman” - not a traditional witch with supernatural powers, indeed there is no dark magic here, only dark thoughts and suggestions. Our “witch” not only throws us a few tempting prophesies but observes all the action of the play, sometimes participates, disguises herself as other characters from time to time. She just throws open a series of doors to Macbeth and other characters and it's up to them to chose to go through those doors or not.

 

Plays come in and out of fashion, but Macbeth seems bang up to date, vibrant, powerful, exciting and full of mental, physical, psychological and emotional challenges. Each new day in rehearsal throws up a new set of issues, opportunities to explore yet another strand of the human condition. It’s amazing how much fun you can have doing a play about murder and political intrigue in the 11th century.”

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You'll have to let me know how it is.

I went to see the Royal Lyceum Theatre/Nottingham Playhouse production of Macbeth last night and came away with mixed feelings. The set was cleverly designed and the special effects were well done but I felt that something was lacking, certainly during the first half. The play has some wonderful soliloquies but I thought that the actors did not make as much of them as they might have done. It was only when they did the scene with Banquo’s ghost that the performance seemed to really start to come together and the second part was performed with more confidence.

 

I did think that casting Scottish actors in most of the parts added a nice touch.

 

It is, though, a brand new production and has only been running for one week so future performances may improve. I should like to hear your views on it, Hazel, when you see it in October.

 

I couldn’t help, though, thinking of BGO and permitting myself an inappropriate smile when I heard, “Out damned spot” and “barren sceptre”.

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