I wonder if Shakespeare would survive a critique group today. Finding an agent? Unlikely. Self-published? Almost definitely.
MyAPers (Advanced Placement class which recently had an assignment requiring them to find PEE [point/evidence/explanation] in their writing) are reading Macbeth. I want to fill a bathtub with Shakespeare’s words and simply soak until his language saturates me. Reading his plays, I often feel historically dumb. But the intellectual void in my British, Scottish and everything foreign chronicles, forces me to research. The discoveries are often amazing, like reading one 17th century woman’s plea to mothers that they consider nursing their own babies.
This morning, we were introduced to Lady Macbeth. Obviously, Shakespeare did not get the memo about not creating totally unsympathetic characters. She is the epitome of manipulative, emasculating and reprehensible greed. Of course, there’s a price she pays for that.
I love that Shakespeare demands our full attention, yet I fear his becoming too transparent. If more people understood him, his plays would probably be censored in schools along with Of Mice and Men. For those who don’t have the time, here’s:
The 32-second Macbeth
Actors 1, 2, 3 Fair is foul and foul is fair
Actor 4 What bloody man is that?
Actor 2 A drum, a drum! Macbeth doth come
Macbeth So foul and fair a day I have not seen
Actor 3 All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!
Macbeth If chance will have me king, then chance will crown me
Actor 5 Unsex me here
Macbeth If it were done when ‘tis done
Actor 5 Screw your courage to the sticking place
Macbeth Is this a dagger that I see before me? (Actor 4 dies)
Actor 5 A little water clears us of this deed.
Actor 6 Fly, good Fleance, fly! (dies)
Macbeth Blood will have blood
Actors 1, 2, 3 Double, double, toil and trouble
Actor 7 He has kill’d me, mother! (dies)
Actor 8 Bleed, bleed, poor country!
Actor 5 Out damn’d spot! (dies)
Macbeth Out, out, brief candle!
Actor 8 Turn, hell-hound, turn!
Macbeth Lay on Macduff! (dies)
Actor 8 Hail, king of Scotland!
© 2001 Folger Shakespeare Library