Macbeth: an Embellished History! Part 1


If someone were to ask you if you knew the story of Macbeth, you might think someone was insulting your intelligence, but the real story has been obscured by the riveting rendition by the Bard. Historically Macbeth’s wife actually had a reasonable claim to the throne as her grandfather had been King. Her grandfather, King Kenneth III, was killed by King Duncan’s grandfather in battle, and the Moray’s {Macbeth’s family line} had an inveterate rivalry with the Scottish Kings. Historically, King Duncan was not killed during an overnight sojourn with Macbeth but at the Battle of Pitgaveny. Shakespeare may have borrowed the idea of a lavish banquet coupled with an impending act of treachery from a legend regarding a golden apple and the Scottish King Kenneth II. It goes something like this: a highborn woman’s son had been sentenced to death by the King; and because her son had justly deserved this punishment, the King didn’t suspect she would seek retaliation on him. But this was a malicious and vindictive woman who had in fact helped her son commit the murder which he was being sentenced for; moreover, the King didn’t suspect any retribution on the mother’s part was because the crime was actually committed against this woman’s own father. After the King carries out this sentence on her son, she then invites this King to visit her own dwelling for an extremely lavish banquet [perhaps flattering him for his Virtuous Justice]. Knowing the King’s taste for magnificence, after the end of this great feast, she leads him to an adjoining room glazed in copper, with flowers, marvelous imported furniture, rich tapestries interwoven with gold, and also a majestic bronze statue of the very King himself holding a glimmering gem-laden golden apple. They stood in front of the statue admiring all of its intricate detail until she told him that the golden apple was a gift for him. She walks away at this point pretending to admire a tapestry in the corner; and he, brimming with joy and gloating over his lavish gift, takes the glimmering apple into his hand…and BOOM! It sets off a hidden contraption she had built into the statue, imparting multiple lethal wounds all over his body. Her retribution for her son is satisfied. Shakespeare chooses to make the Macbeths’ motive for murder ambition rather than revenge, yet by incorporating the device of offering hospitality as an accomplice to one’s odious intentions, he emphasizes the theme of deception, a recurring theme in the tragedies. After Macbeth’s death in 1057, it was actually his wife’s son Lulach {his stepson} that inherited the crown, but because he was ambushed shortly thereafter by Malcolm, who was then coronated and reigned for over thirty years, Shakespeare chose to excise that detail. Although Shakespeare paints Macbeth’s reign as brief and full of strife, his time as King was primarily stable, and the lengthy seventeen year reign he enjoyed should not be abridged out of his life’s story. Reserved for Kings held in high regard, he was buried in the anointed ground of Iona.

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Hamlet is a Complex Character; jeeze looeeze

When you peel the layers of Hamlet’s character, you find flashes of genius intertwined with indifference, madness, and ruinous rashness. His advice to the players is dead on. The moment where he confides in his close friend Horatio, give me that man that is not passions slave and I will wear him in my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of hearts, as I do thee gives us wonderful insight into the virtues of friendship and temperance. He sheds light on the fact that we as humans are led by our passions which very oft lead us down dangerous paths. Hamlet asserts, there’s a divinity that shapes our ends; rough-hew them how we will. So God guides our destiny, with us having an equal share of power, and we mortals oft act carelessly with monumental decisions. This carelessness we [often unconsciously] perform can often make us feel powerless and indifferent to our existence. Hamlet feels crippled by the lack of influence he feels that he has on his very life. He loses all his mirth and refers to Denmark as a prison; as loathing wherewith we abide, yet being too complacent to change. Such a soul is Hamlet. He simply refuses to leave. When he escapes execution on his way to England, he chooses to come back to his prison. His mind is infatuated with revenge; revenge for his father’s tragic death. He is in love with the idea of killing King Claudius, but not actually doing it. He makes an excuse even when having the perfect opportunity; Claudius on his knees praying. Hamlet was not resolute. Hamlet promises to the Ghost, “thy commandment all alone shall live within the book and volume of my brain unmix’d with baser matter,” yet this conflicts with his very own paradigm,conscience doth make cowards of us all.”

Hamlet can’t prove to anyone that Claudius killed his father, yet Hamlet still vexes the King’s conscience to such a fever-pitch that the King feels like he has no choice but to kill Hamlet off himself. But, even when he gets back from being held captive at sea, he still delays. It’s not till Hamlet realizes that he’s going to die from the poisoned foil, and that it’s now or never, that he then does what we thought he could never do; act. Hamlet’s madness was fueled by nervous energy incited as a result of being privy to the truth of his father’s murder. He couldn’t act normal knowing what he knew. It weighed on his mind to the point of paralyzation. He often over thought or didn’t think at all but rarely a happy medium.

Banquo

The modern philosopher, Robert Greene cautions to, “be wary of friends, they will betray you more quickly, for they are easier aroused to envy…you have more to fear from friends than from enemies.” Banquo is envious of Macbeth and wants his fair share of the Witches’ prophecy. After Macbeth is crown’d, Banquo says, “Thou hast it now, King, Cawdor, Glamis, all, as the Weird Women promised; and, I fear, thou play’dst most foully for’t; yet it was said, It should not stand in thy posterity; but that myself should be the root and father of many kings…may they not be my oracles as well, and set me up in hope?” Banquo shows concern over Macbeth’s ethics in attaining the crown, yet his focus shifts to himself; he becomes more concerned whether Macbeth’s coronation will encourage the fulfillment of his own desires, such as his posterity becoming regal merchandise. Banquo takes no action to expose Macbeth and thinks in terms of future gain for his heirs. It isn’t surprising that Banquo is happy that the prophecy has taken shape, for it favors his gain. He stays silent as he fears altering the fate of the part of the Witches’ prophecy concerning him.

Banquo puts too much trust in Macbeth. His lack of concern over his own safety considering Macbeth murder’d the virtuous Duncan seems slightly credulous, and he leaves his trust in the regicidal Macbeth. Robert Greene writes to, “never put too much trust in friends…” Banquo putting any level of trust in Macbeth proves a monumental blunder as Macbeth becomes envious of Banquo being set up in hope, and begins to feel fearfully suspicious of Banquo’s motives. Every king wishes for a son to succeed their throne after they reign; Macbeth can’t stand the thought of sacrificing the “vessel of his peace” to make “the seeds of Banquo Kings.” This illustrates how one foul crime leads to another. “Blood will have blood.” Because Macbeth murder’d the King foully and has no hope of lineal succession, he feels proclivitous to prevent others from enjoying what he never will. Banquo seems to ignore obvious inferences in the Witches’ prophecy; e.g. if his issue become King, and yet he never does, shouldn’t that tell him to be vigilant of anyone who might want to cut him off. Who else than Banquo, who, other than Lady Macbeth, is exclusively privy to Macbeth’s own regal ambitions. Banquo puts too much trust into this fleeting despot King of Scotland and fails to use the Witches’ insight. If he would have distanced himself from Macbeth, maybe the fates would have been more kind. This misplaced trust Banquo bestows on Macbeth and the overconfidence [or pride] he has in himself procures his demise.

Character Analysis! Proteus from “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”

In the Two Gentlemen of Verona, Proteus proves true to his namesake. Mythologically he is the god of changeability, being likened to water which can easily change its shape. Initially Proteus is smitten with Julia, then, after visiting Milan, he becomes infatuated with Silvia, which makes me wonder whether if he were to travel more during his time abroad, would he forget about her too? Proteus seems confused and doesn’t understand why his strong feelings for Julia have changed so much so fast. He reasons: one nail by strength drives out another so the remembrance of my former love is by a newer object quite forgotten. Proteus’ grasp on the complexities of love appears painfully primitive, yet corresponds with his youthful  naiveté & immaturity. When he says that eating love, inhabits in the finest wits of all, I can’t help but think of the obvious vulgarity that could be interpreted. Proteus is exploring not only love but sexuality as well. The latter takes a firm dominance in the priorities of youth. If I was going to explain to Proteus why his feelings for Julia have faded into a shade of lack-lustre hueI might tell him something along the lines of…when you’re in different places, there’s one obvious thing that’s difficult to perform; need I say more, yet Sonnet no.116 teaches us to stay the course, Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom. In other words, true love is not Protean in nature. We witness Proteus’ inconstancy to Julia and to his best friend, Valentine; exposing the plot of his friend running away with Silvia and tells this to her strict and disciplinary father. According to Proteus, winning Silvia outweighs losing Valentine; romantic love at the expense of friendship is a sacrifice he is willing to make. This tells us a lot about Proteus’ character & maturity; Aiming at Silvia as a sweeter friend. Quid pro quo, this for that. What Proteus finally realizes is that the disloyalty he showed {to both his best friend and Julia back home} was an unattractive quality which would repel any desirable mate. Also, to assume that, when showing interest in someone, that person will without fail return those same sentiments back, seems to me to suggest either extreme credulity or superfluous vanity. Silvia’s disgust at his incessant and uninvited pursuit of her, incites him to threaten to woo her like a soldier. Thankfully Valentine steps forward and prevents this from happening, but nonetheless the sophomoric solutions to Proteus’ seemingly never-ending obstacles he creates for himself throughout this crazy adventure leaves me feeling confident that Proteus has much to learn: about the world; about himself.

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Socrates, Mark Antony and Brutus 

444 “I shall prove indeed that I am not a clever speaker in any way at all–unless, indeed, by a clever speaker they mean a man who speaks the truth.”–Socrates

Mark Antony: “I am no orator…I only speak right on. I tell you that which you yourselves do know.” [truth]

Every man has his own truth. As intellectual beings that is the paradoxical nature of the meaning of truth. Reason, as a rule, is the fundamental path on how we attain our truth. But every man has a different perception of the world. How do we attain the Truth as opposed to a truth allied to a man’s partialities? Perception is where truth meets roadblocks, and the only way to avoid those roadblocks are to look at things without bias. Well that, for many reasons isn’t possible, yet if we aim to not differentiate between things we are merely shrouded in ignorance. So it has to be that we must look at things from every perspective and cross-reference our observations; it seems a more reasonable route to obtaining what we are looking for; yet our inherently fallible nature prevents us from seeing Truth absolute. That’s why there’s no such thing as error, only lessons in humanity:

there’s a divinity that shapes our ends; rough-hew them how we will.

Foremost we must learn to forgive ourselves.

to err is human. forgive; Divine.


 

Another Mistake of Macbeth’s

In Macbeth one of the recurring themes is the relationship between what is perceived and what is real. Macbeth is duped into believing he can get away with murder. Macbeth doesn’t kill the King over any animosity towards him, but rather because of mounting pressure heaped on him by his wife, Lady Macbeth. She relentlessly goads her husband to act, chastising his manhood. Macbeth can’t handle having his manhood called into question by the woman who shares his bed. Consequently this pride of his vexes him much. He’s in limbo; either backing out [impugning his valor] or having his conscience tormented into a state of fear and paranoia. Shakespeare penned the maxim, “conscience does make cowards of us all.” Although Hamlet was written four years prior, Macbeth got that memo a day late and a dollar short. Remembering back to when Macbeth ponders, “if chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me without my stir,” here he actually makes a very intuitive revelation that could of saved him; but not long after this, he writes home with regal aspirations without realizing that such a promise was made to someone whose modus operandi dangerously lingers, “to catch the nearest way.” Lady Macbeth is an ultimate distorter of reality to Macbeth. She corrupts everything that is noble in him. She is unlike her husband who “would’st thou holily.” She makes Macbeth perceive that killing the meek and virtuous King Duncan is a good idea. Shakespeare was teaching the lesson that even if you are able to carry out the perfect crime, you cannot preserve a perfect conscience after the act. Macbeth laments how his mind has become “full of scorpions” and Lady Macbeth ends up abandoning her husband in suicide. Macbeth’s kingship was at no point secure, and the weird sisters had even indicated that after Macbeth’s reign no issue of his would ever rule Scotland; a point that Macbeth should have certainly considered much more thoroughly beforehand. Macbeth realizes too late indeed that, “to be thus is nothing,” and he became both: thus [King] and then nothing.

Wisdom from the Fool

“I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are. They’ll have me whipped for speaking true, thou’lt have me whipped for lying, and sometimes I am whipped for holding my peace.” The fool shows the idea here that with some people we just can’t win. Saying the truth, they consider it not our place to speak. Lying, we’re a lowlife, and saying nothing we’re somehow a co-conspirator just as guilty as the culprits. That’s why before making a decision to argue, we can ask ourselves if this person is going to make us wrong no matter what. When settling disputes, we can put pride and blame aside and work towards an actual solution. The fool notices how people have an insatiable desire to always be right; however being right doesn’t really prove beneficial, unless it leads to reconciliation. The rub of all this is that when someone actually is in theright, they tend to flout this with an egotistical scorn engendering hate and resentment. This in turn sabatoges any chance of moving forward heating animosity and spite which can only be relieved with humility, understanding, forgiveness & love.

Macbeth’s Mistake

“We have scorched the snake, not killed it: she’ll close, and be herself; whilst our poor malice remains in danger of her former tooth.”

These words uttered by Macbeth intimate that although King Duncan is “in his grave” his adversary has not been blotted out but reinvigorated by being slashed yet not terminated. Remember both Duncan’s sons remained alive and neither Macbeth nor Lady Macbeth ever considered to dispose of them with the King. In Robert Greene’s book concerning the Laws of Power he advises to, “crush your enemy totally.” He elaborates that, “a viper crushed beneath your foot but left alive, will rear up and bite you with a double dose of venom. An enemy that is left around is like a half-dead viper that you nurse back to health. Time makes the venom grow stronger.” Time is one of the chief things that disquiet Macbeth’s mind. He confesses, “Time, thou anticipat’st my dread exploits.” If time would stop, Macbeth could be King perpetual and the scorpions in his mind exchanged for a “vessel of…peace.” He even plays with this idea when he posits, “better be with the dead, whom we to gain our peace, have sent to peace, than on the torture of the mind to lie in restless ecstasy.” But Macbeth can no more stop time than he could dissuade Lady Macbeth from her relentlessly evil persuasions and compromising all that Macbeth stood for; the bloodshed consequently continued until, unfortunately  for Macbeth, Malcolm and his loyal subjects breed the coalescence of King Duncan’s spirit, and as Shakespeare teaches us, “in the spirit of men there is no blood.”

Bassanio’s Insight

222 “So may the outward shows be least themselves, the world is still deceived with ornament.”

Says Bassanio—Don’t judge a book by its cover. Don’t assume one is brave just because they wear upon their chin, “The beards of Hercules and frowning Mars.” Portia’s father designed the test of the three caskets to prove a point: sometimes what is prized—silver and gold, prove dangerous commodities to possess. Whereas lead, although less valuable, can carry hidden value (lead caskets preserve well) and are more secure in the realm of eternal riches. To draw a corollary, what can’t be filched so easily by others should be valued dearer; such as health, friends, love & peace of mind. Money is a secondary necessity; despite its obvious importance, too much emphasis is put on it in society; not to mention it oftentimes just masks the debased quality of the thing it mingles upon.

Helena; She Gives All For Love! All’s Well That Ends Well

“Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie, which we ascribe to heaven.”

Helena is going to pursue the Count Bertram, although, it will be anything but easy. Helena cures the King and asks to be granted one request; the count’s hand in marriage. She accomplishes the King’s restoration from remedies left by her father. She was fortunate to know her father’s cures, but that alone does not win her cause. After hazarding her own life against the success of her father’s medicines, she exemplifies a great example of persistance and courage, pursuing her heart’s desire even after being harshly scolded by the count for her simple backround.  She is a hero that inspires us to attain the impossible. Helena jumps through hoops in order to fulfill Bertram’s two impracticle requests; {getting} a child by him (after he had foregone all association with her) and procuring off his very finger the treasured and invaluable family ring that he promises to never part withal, yet All’s Well That Ends Well in this story of intrepidity. Bertam affirms the hint of an engagement and promises to love her dearly, ever ever dearly. In spite of our reservation’s about him, Bertram does stay true to himself. Yet after agreeing to marriage and appeasing the King, he skips town altogether becoming a soldier and tarnishing our view of the constancy of his character, yet ultimately he redeems himself and shows he was simply presaging a motif from The Tempest; Prospero’s philosophy of…

this swift business I must uneasy make, lest too light winning make the prize light.

Was Bertram perfect, no; he said some very unkind things at the King and Helena’s attendance, yet Helena fancied him and that’s all that matters. Shakespeare sheds light on the notion that when you love someone, you don’t love them because they’re perfect, but rather because that’s what your heart feels. To borrow from Midsummer, “Things base and vile, holding no quantity, love can transpose to form and dignity. ” Yes, Bertram verbally agrees to marry Helena and then books it out of town, planning to never reunite, yet putting our judgmental hat aside we can look at his character from a sympathetic perspective. He is pressured by the King to marry Helena with yes being the only acceptable answer. According to the King, she is young, wise, [and] fair, but these words spoken are from the King just cured of being gravely ill. The King is here at least partially biased. Bertram doesn’t like the idea of someone choosing for him; we may be reminded of Portia [Merchant] who laments, “O me, the word choose! I may neither choose who I would, nor refuse who I dislike.” Maybe he is accustomed to some idiosyncrasies of Helena’s which he just can’t stand. In any case, Bertram has no say; the King puts him in a position where if he absolutely rejected her, he would lose all the honor he enjoys as a count. Bertram’s having none of that and consequentially gives Helena a seemingly impossible task. The fact that Helena endures what she does; following him through dangerous war zones and using the bed-trick in order to have his child, clearly shows there’s more to her love than meets the eye. She obviously loves some things about him that no one would understand unless they were her. The fact that he is good-looking [his arched brows…his curls…his sweet favour] isn’t enough to justify her undying zeal to win his love. Perhaps Bertram’s lesson to Helena was akin to Portia’s father’s counsel: who chooseth me must give and hazard all (s)he hath. After the vicissitudes of her journey, we can say with confidence that Helena satisfied this.