Presentation is loading. Please wait.

Presentation is loading. Please wait.

Macbeth: No One Mourns the Wicked Feraco Search for Human Potential 30 October 2014.

Similar presentations


Presentation on theme: "Macbeth: No One Mourns the Wicked Feraco Search for Human Potential 30 October 2014."— Presentation transcript:

1 Macbeth: No One Mourns the Wicked Feraco Search for Human Potential 30 October 2014

2 Although it’s been made famous by them, there’s far more to Macbeth than the curses. Although it’s been made famous by them, there’s far more to Macbeth than the curses. The play is steeped in historical details, although those details were often perverted and skewed for a variety of reasons. The play is steeped in historical details, although those details were often perverted and skewed for a variety of reasons. Its language is recognizable to anyone who’s previously studied Shakespearean works, yet it clearly distinguishes itself from his other works in both tone and form. Its language is recognizable to anyone who’s previously studied Shakespearean works, yet it clearly distinguishes itself from his other works in both tone and form. Its characters follow archetypal patterns, then shatter them: there’s far more to the heroes and villains of this play than originally meets the eye. Its characters follow archetypal patterns, then shatter them: there’s far more to the heroes and villains of this play than originally meets the eye. Its themes resonate in similar fashion. Its themes resonate in similar fashion. This all makes for a play that’s very easily summarized yet very difficult to explain. This all makes for a play that’s very easily summarized yet very difficult to explain.

3 Macbeth belongs to that wonderful group of stories that, like Beowulf (whose lone copy caught fire before we had finished translating it) or The Aeneid (whose author, Virgil, was so dissatisfied with the final work that he pitched his manuscript into a fire himself), we’re lucky to still have around. Macbeth belongs to that wonderful group of stories that, like Beowulf (whose lone copy caught fire before we had finished translating it) or The Aeneid (whose author, Virgil, was so dissatisfied with the final work that he pitched his manuscript into a fire himself), we’re lucky to still have around. But unlike the others, it wasn’t fire- damaged (although, as you have seen, some of the Macbeth actors have been). But unlike the others, it wasn’t fire- damaged (although, as you have seen, some of the Macbeth actors have been). Instead, its preservation marks a stroke of luck – for this play, as well as many of Shakespeare’s other works, wasn’t really meant to be published. Instead, its preservation marks a stroke of luck – for this play, as well as many of Shakespeare’s other works, wasn’t really meant to be published.

4 Unlike you contemporary scholars, Elizabethans didn’t typically read plays as literature; in fact, plays weren’t considered particularly good reading material. Unlike you contemporary scholars, Elizabethans didn’t typically read plays as literature; in fact, plays weren’t considered particularly good reading material. Instead, scripts were written as quickly as possible – sometimes by multiple writers working in concert – and tossed aside once the original production run concluded. Instead, scripts were written as quickly as possible – sometimes by multiple writers working in concert – and tossed aside once the original production run concluded. There wasn’t a great deal of profit to be made by printing (a process that took much longer back them) more copies of the script than the actors needed in advance. There wasn’t a great deal of profit to be made by printing (a process that took much longer back them) more copies of the script than the actors needed in advance. Theatres occasionally provided audiences with quickly-written reproductions of the performance, but you can imagine the variations that would result over the course of the transcription! Theatres occasionally provided audiences with quickly-written reproductions of the performance, but you can imagine the variations that would result over the course of the transcription!

5 When Shakespeare’s plays were published, they appeared in a variety of forms. When Shakespeare’s plays were published, they appeared in a variety of forms. Fourteen of the plays we now credit to Shakespeare were printed in Quarto (17x21 cm) volumes, although not all of them had his name on them. Fourteen of the plays we now credit to Shakespeare were printed in Quarto (17x21 cm) volumes, although not all of them had his name on them. The ones that did were probably copies provided by the theater, while the ones that didn’t were probably “pirated” copies (yes, intellectual piracy existed back then) or actors’ copies that the players sold once the production had finished. The ones that did were probably copies provided by the theater, while the ones that didn’t were probably “pirated” copies (yes, intellectual piracy existed back then) or actors’ copies that the players sold once the production had finished.

6 While the number of plays Shakespeare wrote will probably always be the subject of debate, a rough estimate places his total output at thirty-six to thirty-eight plays. While the number of plays Shakespeare wrote will probably always be the subject of debate, a rough estimate places his total output at thirty-six to thirty-eight plays. We have John Heminge and Henry Condell to thank for preserving as much of Shakespeare’s legacy as possible. We have John Heminge and Henry Condell to thank for preserving as much of Shakespeare’s legacy as possible. Shakespeare passed away in Shakespeare passed away in Seven years later, Heminge and Condell compiled a collection of thirty-six Shakespeare plays – theoretically working from his original manuscripts – in a Folio edition. Seven years later, Heminge and Condell compiled a collection of thirty-six Shakespeare plays – theoretically working from his original manuscripts – in a Folio edition.

7 Unlike a Quarto, the Folio edition was 21x34cm, which looks much more similar to the books we read today (albeit a bit bigger – closer to a coffee- table book than anything else). Unlike a Quarto, the Folio edition was 21x34cm, which looks much more similar to the books we read today (albeit a bit bigger – closer to a coffee- table book than anything else). Sounds awesome, right? Sounds awesome, right? The only problem? The Folio volumes didn’t always match one another. The only problem? The Folio volumes didn’t always match one another. Some versions contained different stage directions; others contained different scene divisions. Some versions contained different stage directions; others contained different scene divisions. For that matter, your Folger edition contains a scene between the witches and Hecate that I can’t ever remember reading in high school, and (according to many critics) probably wasn’t even written by Shakespeare. For that matter, your Folger edition contains a scene between the witches and Hecate that I can’t ever remember reading in high school, and (according to many critics) probably wasn’t even written by Shakespeare.

8 In short, what you’re reading isn’t a precise copy of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. In short, what you’re reading isn’t a precise copy of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It’s been supplemented and altered by editorial guesswork, printing mishaps, and educated research. It’s been supplemented and altered by editorial guesswork, printing mishaps, and educated research. But we’re lucky to have what we have: Shakespeare’s original intent and thematic focus has remained consistent throughout the various editions of Macbeth, and even if it’s not the original work, you’re still holding a masterpiece in your hands. But we’re lucky to have what we have: Shakespeare’s original intent and thematic focus has remained consistent throughout the various editions of Macbeth, and even if it’s not the original work, you’re still holding a masterpiece in your hands.

9 Macbeth is often cited as a prime example of “tragedy” (the word’s in the title!), although it doesn’t always adhere to classic tragic structures. Macbeth is often cited as a prime example of “tragedy” (the word’s in the title!), although it doesn’t always adhere to classic tragic structures. Like all good tragedies, its central character is strong, compelling, and fatally flawed. Like all good tragedies, its central character is strong, compelling, and fatally flawed. The story revolves around serious topics “of a certain magnitude” (justice, choice, revenge, guilt), with countries at war and families exterminated. The story revolves around serious topics “of a certain magnitude” (justice, choice, revenge, guilt), with countries at war and families exterminated.

10 The action itself is complete, with a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end (although some interesting unfinished business pops up in the last sequence); unlike classical Greek tragedies, the action’s spread out over the course of many days. The action itself is complete, with a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end (although some interesting unfinished business pops up in the last sequence); unlike classical Greek tragedies, the action’s spread out over the course of many days. These events follow the “cause- and-effect” mechanism – in fact, it’s important to note that none of the action in Macbeth is random – and inspire many reactions: surprise, fear, revulsion, anger, even pity. These events follow the “cause- and-effect” mechanism – in fact, it’s important to note that none of the action in Macbeth is random – and inspire many reactions: surprise, fear, revulsion, anger, even pity.

11 That said, all of the events seemingly spiral from a single choice. That said, all of the events seemingly spiral from a single choice. The play clearly shows “what kind of things a man chooses or avoids” – both, in fact. The play clearly shows “what kind of things a man chooses or avoids” – both, in fact. The events can be complicated: fortunes are reversed, then re- reversed (versed?); plans are outlined, set in motion, and eventually complicated and unraveled. The events can be complicated: fortunes are reversed, then re- reversed (versed?); plans are outlined, set in motion, and eventually complicated and unraveled.

12 Characters make choices based on what they understand to be their motives, but they don’t always correctly identify those motives. Characters make choices based on what they understand to be their motives, but they don’t always correctly identify those motives. There are terrible moments of recognition and clarity in which the characters, like divers coming up for air, rise above the sound and fury filling their lives and see things for what they truly are. There are terrible moments of recognition and clarity in which the characters, like divers coming up for air, rise above the sound and fury filling their lives and see things for what they truly are.

13 As for the man at the center of it all, Macbeth makes for a most difficult study. As for the man at the center of it all, Macbeth makes for a most difficult study. We can see a clear difference between the man we meet at play’s outset and the man he ultimately becomes, but the reasons for that change are complicated. We can see a clear difference between the man we meet at play’s outset and the man he ultimately becomes, but the reasons for that change are complicated. It’s not accurate to say he’s wholly good at the beginning of the play, but it’s hard to justify an interpretation that paints him as wholly evil. It’s not accurate to say he’s wholly good at the beginning of the play, but it’s hard to justify an interpretation that paints him as wholly evil.

14 You’ve read Gladwell’s piece on the complicated nature of human “goodness,” particularly as it relates to our sensitivity to environmental and situational factors; as a character, Macbeth reads like the sum total of every point Gladwell raises, and his motivations consequently defy easy analysis. You’ve read Gladwell’s piece on the complicated nature of human “goodness,” particularly as it relates to our sensitivity to environmental and situational factors; as a character, Macbeth reads like the sum total of every point Gladwell raises, and his motivations consequently defy easy analysis. Similarly, we see in him the same relationship between suffering and desire that Hesse explored in Siddhartha. Similarly, we see in him the same relationship between suffering and desire that Hesse explored in Siddhartha. At the same time, Macbeth isn’t a simple rehashing of old SFHP ideas, nor are any of the other characters (with their own motives, flaws, and choices) At the same time, Macbeth isn’t a simple rehashing of old SFHP ideas, nor are any of the other characters (with their own motives, flaws, and choices) In fascinating, sometimes terrible ways, it – and they – represent something entirely new. In fascinating, sometimes terrible ways, it – and they – represent something entirely new.

15 I asked you two questions earlier today. I asked you two questions earlier today. First, I asked you whether it was better to trust others (believing in the basic goodness of your fellow man) or to remain distrustful. (“Skeptical” is perhaps a better word, but “distrust” pertains more readily to Macbeth.) First, I asked you whether it was better to trust others (believing in the basic goodness of your fellow man) or to remain distrustful. (“Skeptical” is perhaps a better word, but “distrust” pertains more readily to Macbeth.) Secondly, I asked you whether we should place limits on what we’re willing to do in order to preserve and protect what we cherish – a family system, a way of life, etc. Secondly, I asked you whether we should place limits on what we’re willing to do in order to preserve and protect what we cherish – a family system, a way of life, etc.

16 On the face of it, that second question seems to pertain more closely to In the Pale Moonlight than to Macbeth. On the face of it, that second question seems to pertain more closely to In the Pale Moonlight than to Macbeth. Ben Sisko doesn’t end up setting up Vreenak for assassination (a word Shakespeare invented for this play, believe it or not) to satisfy his personal ambitions, nor to attempt acting in accordance with prophecy or divine will. Ben Sisko doesn’t end up setting up Vreenak for assassination (a word Shakespeare invented for this play, believe it or not) to satisfy his personal ambitions, nor to attempt acting in accordance with prophecy or divine will. (At first blush, those seem to be perfectly acceptable explanations for what Macbeth does.) (At first blush, those seem to be perfectly acceptable explanations for what Macbeth does.) Sisko’s intentions are noble, and in your last Baseline, most of you indicated that intentions mattered a great deal. Sisko’s intentions are noble, and in your last Baseline, most of you indicated that intentions mattered a great deal.

17 So what if he handed massive quantities of the 24th-century equivalent of anthrax and mustard gas to some anonymous individual with bad intentions – one who remains outside the purview of the authorities Sisko answers to? So what if he handed massive quantities of the 24th-century equivalent of anthrax and mustard gas to some anonymous individual with bad intentions – one who remains outside the purview of the authorities Sisko answers to? Sisko’s acting in the service of the greater good; he’s thinking of other people (just not the people that person will probably kill or harm). Sisko’s acting in the service of the greater good; he’s thinking of other people (just not the people that person will probably kill or harm). And even Garak, who intentionally murders an innocent man – for this is a case of liars slaughtering those who would unmask them – gets let off the hook. And even Garak, who intentionally murders an innocent man – for this is a case of liars slaughtering those who would unmask them – gets let off the hook.

18 Because of them, the “good guys” will live to fight another day. Because of them, the “good guys” will live to fight another day. (One wonders what will be left of the Federation they’re defending; if you become what you despise in order to survive, can you really claim to have survived – to have won?) (One wonders what will be left of the Federation they’re defending; if you become what you despise in order to survive, can you really claim to have survived – to have won?) For now, we comfort ourselves with the simple conclusion: Sisko wins one for the good guys, sacrificing his conscience and values in order to keep some names off the future casualty reports. For now, we comfort ourselves with the simple conclusion: Sisko wins one for the good guys, sacrificing his conscience and values in order to keep some names off the future casualty reports.

19 Yes, Ben does terrible things, but we see those things as sacrifices – not villainy – because we can tell he’s not proud of what he’s done. Yes, Ben does terrible things, but we see those things as sacrifices – not villainy – because we can tell he’s not proud of what he’s done. He takes no personal pleasure in his success; he’s a good man who has good reasons to do what we watched him do. He takes no personal pleasure in his success; he’s a good man who has good reasons to do what we watched him do. (This, not coincidentally, is why so many student-written stories are terrible – rarely do the young authors give their characters legitimate, defensible, good reasons for doing bad things in them.) (This, not coincidentally, is why so many student-written stories are terrible – rarely do the young authors give their characters legitimate, defensible, good reasons for doing bad things in them.)

20 Now, what Macbeth aims to do – kill a king who trusts him, then take his place – seems far more vile because, even though far fewer people will die as a result of his actions, his intentions are so much worse than Sisko’s or Garak’s. Now, what Macbeth aims to do – kill a king who trusts him, then take his place – seems far more vile because, even though far fewer people will die as a result of his actions, his intentions are so much worse than Sisko’s or Garak’s. They’re selfish and self-serving. They’re selfish and self-serving. But if we stop to think about them, his intentions seem as confusing as they initially seemed simple. But if we stop to think about them, his intentions seem as confusing as they initially seemed simple. Why does he want to be king? Why does he want to be king? Because Macbeth does want to be king… Because Macbeth does want to be king… …Right? …Right?

21 Well, as it so happens… Well, as it so happens… For someone who wants to rule badly enough to kill his friend in the process, Macbeth seems to need a lot of convincing. For someone who wants to rule badly enough to kill his friend in the process, Macbeth seems to need a lot of convincing. He decides to abandon the “venture” three times before we even hit the midpoint of Act II! He decides to abandon the “venture” three times before we even hit the midpoint of Act II! That indecisiveness indicates a number of things, but we have to look pretty hard to figure out what it indicates. That indecisiveness indicates a number of things, but we have to look pretty hard to figure out what it indicates. In order to do so, readers need to be aware of several things. In order to do so, readers need to be aware of several things.

22 Firstly, as I mentioned before, Macbeth is based somewhat loosely on historical events. Firstly, as I mentioned before, Macbeth is based somewhat loosely on historical events. Macbeth really existed, albeit five centuries before Shakespeare’s play was finished. Macbeth really existed, albeit five centuries before Shakespeare’s play was finished. So did Lady Macbeth, his…memorable…wife; Duncan, his king; and Banquo, his closest friend. So did Lady Macbeth, his…memorable…wife; Duncan, his king; and Banquo, his closest friend. But everything’s mixed up from a historical standpoint. But everything’s mixed up from a historical standpoint.

23 In real life, Duncan was a deeply ineffective, almost tyrannical ruler; in the play, Duncan is (at first blush) the picture of kind, wise benevolence, the sort of figure only someone truly hateful could betray. In real life, Duncan was a deeply ineffective, almost tyrannical ruler; in the play, Duncan is (at first blush) the picture of kind, wise benevolence, the sort of figure only someone truly hateful could betray. In the play, Lady Macbeth dominates the early proceedings, seemingly controlling everything through a deadly combination of manipulative skill and force of will; in real life, Lady Macbeth played no such role, and her part in the play comes from a fusion of two other historical figures. In the play, Lady Macbeth dominates the early proceedings, seemingly controlling everything through a deadly combination of manipulative skill and force of will; in real life, Lady Macbeth played no such role, and her part in the play comes from a fusion of two other historical figures. And in real life, many men conspired to murder Duncan and seize the Scottish throne, including Banquo; Macbeth was merely the person they placed on the throne. And in real life, many men conspired to murder Duncan and seize the Scottish throne, including Banquo; Macbeth was merely the person they placed on the throne. Yet in the play, Banquo is virtuous, noble, and loyal to a fault. Yet in the play, Banquo is virtuous, noble, and loyal to a fault.

24 Why so many changes? Why so many changes? Why base a play on historical events if you refuse to play by their rules? Why base a play on historical events if you refuse to play by their rules? Consider the audience for Shakespeare’s play. Consider the audience for Shakespeare’s play. Macbeth is often called the “Scottish play.” Macbeth is often called the “Scottish play.” You may not have noticed, but Shakespeare isn’t Scottish. You may not have noticed, but Shakespeare isn’t Scottish. His new king, however, was. His new king, however, was.

25 King James VI of Scotland became the first Scottish king of England (James I) in 1603, and in order to please his new patron, Shakespeare tried writing a play that would directly appeal to him. King James VI of Scotland became the first Scottish king of England (James I) in 1603, and in order to please his new patron, Shakespeare tried writing a play that would directly appeal to him. This was more difficult than it sounds; James tended to fall asleep during plays, so Shakespeare had an uphill battle ahead of him. This was more difficult than it sounds; James tended to fall asleep during plays, so Shakespeare had an uphill battle ahead of him. By tying it to Scottish history – specifically, to one of the more compelling incidents in Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles, which Shakespeare borrowed heavily from – the playwright hoped to capture the new king’s interest. By tying it to Scottish history – specifically, to one of the more compelling incidents in Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles, which Shakespeare borrowed heavily from – the playwright hoped to capture the new king’s interest.

26 More importantly, however, James believed he was the direct descendent of one of the play’s major figures. More importantly, however, James believed he was the direct descendent of one of the play’s major figures. Specifically, he believed his line originated with…wait for it… Specifically, he believed his line originated with…wait for it… Banquo. Banquo. It wouldn’t do to give the king a performance that showed his ancestor in less than a positive light, even in the name of historical accuracy. It wouldn’t do to give the king a performance that showed his ancestor in less than a positive light, even in the name of historical accuracy.

27 So the roles are switched around: Duncan becomes the Good King of Scotland; Banquo becomes the Heroic Defender of Virtue, Resisting All Temptation; and the Macbeths become the villains, even though they’re far more complex than the simple term implies. So the roles are switched around: Duncan becomes the Good King of Scotland; Banquo becomes the Heroic Defender of Virtue, Resisting All Temptation; and the Macbeths become the villains, even though they’re far more complex than the simple term implies. (Shakespeare may have been counting on James’s inability to notice such subtleties…) (Shakespeare may have been counting on James’s inability to notice such subtleties…) And with that, we are ready to begin in earnest…so follow me down! And with that, we are ready to begin in earnest…so follow me down!


Download ppt "Macbeth: No One Mourns the Wicked Feraco Search for Human Potential 30 October 2014."

Similar presentations


Ads by Google