Monday, August 17, 2015

Macbeth (by William Shakespeare)

Yes, this was my first time reading Macbeth in its entirety. I know. I know.

This was an interesting experience, since it was a bunch of stuff I wasn't familiar with interpersed with stuff I know very well. Certain famous lines are of course familiar to me. I let students memorize the Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow speech for extra credit, and of course have it memorized myself.  I teach it, I know what it expresses, and yet I didn't know the couplet that precedes it at all. 

I also know "out, damned spot" and "by the pricking of my thumbs" and the other famous lines, but somehow completely missed Lady Macbeth's soliloquy. Which meant I got to experience it for the first time. Chills, goosebumps, the works. And I've been reading and re-reading and re-re-reading it. So awesome you guys! (And there's also that bit about pulling her nipple out of a baby's mouth and bashing its brains in. Way harsh, Tai.)

I also wasn't exactly familiar with the plot, so I found it almost amusing how quickly it gets murdery. Macbeth talks to the weird sisters for two minutes and then is like, well damn, better go on a murder spree starting right the hell now! Let's get a-murdering! Not exactly a slow build on the motive there, Shakespeare.

Trivia: I was waiting for "Lead on, Macduff!" the whole time, but it turns out it's "Lay on, Macduff."  Like "once more unto the breach," I guess it's commonly misquoted. I also enjoyed reading a bit about the play afterwards. The prophecy about Banquo's descendants on the throne comes across as a dangling plotline, but I learned that King James I, who was Shakespeare's patron at the time, was a descendant of the historical Banquo. This is why Banquo is portrayed as a hero, and possibly why there's a mirror included in the line of spirit kings -- so James could see his own face from his place in the audience.

So the Shakespeare plays I have read: Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Julius Caesar, Henry V, King Lear, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello, Twelfth Night, and now Macbeth. Plays I've seen performed but have not read: Love's Labour's Lost and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Plays I've seen the film version of but have not read: Much Ado About Nothing (both versions) and Taming of the Shrew, if 10 Things I Hate About You counts. Film version I own, and love: the musical Kenneth Branagh version of Love's Labour's Lost. Play I am familiar with insofar as it applies to Pale Fire, but have not read: Timon of Athens. Play I'd like to read next: probably Henry IV or The Winter's Tale, unless you have any better suggestions!

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