Lay on, Macduff


 

By ANNE DONNELL

I was very interested in your column about local author Greghri Love’s book. I believe one of the darkest blots on our society is the problem of child abuse. However, what I’d like you to review us on (or acquaint us with) is the play Macbeth. Thank you.

-Shakespeare Fan

I bet they sell Shakespeare fans at Stratford on Avon when the sun’s blistering, and the tourists are wilting, as they could be here in Tennessee, a tourist magnet in all three Grand Divisions. (For the rest of you that would be East, Middle, and West Tennessee. And to our QP of T – Question Person of Today – no disrespect intended!) TWO THINGS BEFORE WE GET DOWN TO BUSINESS. FIRST: Local author, Charles Bradshaw, has published again. Post Your Peg High is a heartwarming memoir from this native of Mascot, Tennessee. The back cover tells us Bradshaw worked as an applied mathematician in rockets, space flight, and nuclear engineering at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Army Ballistic Missile Agency, and the Marshall Space Flight Center (NASA). He has been on the faculty at Tennessee Tech, Vanderbilt University, and Cumberland University. He wrote Rockets, Reactors, and Computers, published in 2007. Coming from what some would mistakenly call “humble” beginnings (Bradshaw’s respect for his early world certainly garners yours and mine), he’s led a fascinating and productive life, contributing mightily to our world in very big leagues. But, he’s also a family man and good neighbor, whose achievements reflect the American Dream in the best way. This new detail-filled book makes good, edifying reading. Watch the paper for information on how to buy a copy. 

You’ll like the cover, also; it features a painting by extremely talented local artist, Bradshaw’s brother-in-law, Dr. Bob Badger. Those sisters they married are a lovely pair, and that’s mentioned in Post Your Peg High! 

SECOND: ONLINE DEPARTMENT! “Proofreading Is A Dying Art” (Thanks, PW) These are headlines that slipped through somewhere. Read carefully or you’ll fall in the same pit as the proofreaders. • Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter • Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says • Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers •  Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over • Miners Refuse to Work after Death • Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant • War Dims Hope for Peace • If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile • Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures • Enfield (London) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide • Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges • Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery Charge • New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group • Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft • Kids Make Nutritious Snacks • Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half • Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors • Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead

OK, WE’LL TACKLE MACBETH. The real Macbeth reigned 1040-1057; Duncan I reigned 1034-1040 (assassinated). Duncan’s son Malcolm III took the throne after avenging his father’s death; Malcolm III died a natural death in 1093, weathering the southern troubles (the Norman conquest of 1066) just fine, it seems.

 The text of the play was composed by Shakespeare in 1606 and performed at the Globe Theatre. The date (if it’s accurate and there’s always some if with Shakespeare) puts this in the reign of King James I (James VI of Scotland), successor to Queen Elizabeth I. The prophesy of the three weird sisters, witches, heard at the beginning of the play as Macbeth and Banquo, generals of King Duncan of Scotland, return from a victorious campaign, announces that Macbeth will be king, but Banquo’s descendants will be kings. The latter seems forgotten as the rather short, except to high school students, and vivid play rolls (jolts) on its emotional, action-packed way. The prophesy about Banquo matters in the politics of King James’s court; he claims descent from Banquo. 

This prophesy fires up Macbeth’s ambition. Lady Macbeth is right in there with him.  When Duncan visits Macbeth’s castle the pair murder him. Duncan’s sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, flee. This begats the kingship of a guilt driven tyrant, a kingship ending in Macbeth’s destruction. Macbeth will, in the paranoia of those holding place perilously, spew murder in all directions, including Banquo, whose ghost haunts Macbeth, much, we assume, to the royal amusement of King James.

 Macduff, the Thane of Fife, has joined Duncan’s son Malcolm in resisting Macbeth, gathering an army in England. Macbeth orders the death of Lady Macduff and her children. Lady Macbeth, who seemed so meanly strong early in the play, loses her mind and dies. In the final battle Macduff kills Macbeth. Malcolm is king of Scotland. 

Blood, weather, prophesy, hallucinations, tyranny, cruelty, unchecked ambition – these are all woven into the rather bolting pace of the play. “First Witch: When shall we three meet again/ In thunder, lightning, or in rain? Second Witch: When the hurlyburly’s done,/ When the battle’s lost and won.” (Act 1: Scene 1, line 1)

While we’re quoting, here are a few famous ones from Macbeth:  • Nothing in his life/ Became him like the leaving it…• There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face: • Look like the innocent flower,/ But be the serpent under ‘t. • If it were done when ’tis done, then ‘twere well/ It were done quickly…• But screw your courage to the sticking-place, / And we’ll not fail •  Methought I heard a voice cry “Sleep no more!/ Macbeth does murder sleep,” the innocent sleep,/ Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care• To be thus is nothing;/ But to be safely thus. • Double, double toil and trouble;/ Fire burn and cauldron bubble. • By the prickling of my thumbs,/ Something wicked this way comes. • When our actions do not,/ Our fears do make us traitors. • Out, damned spot! out, I say! • Fie, my lord, fie!  A soldier, and afeard? • Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him? • All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. • I bear a charmed life. • Lay on, Macduff, / And damn’d be him that first cries, “Hold, enough!”