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Macbeth. Third lecture. Banquo’s dreams. II.1: Banquo wants to sleep, but is afraid to dream. Why? Stage image: he hands over his sword – and dagger? He has dreamt of the “weird sisters.” Does he want to? Acceptance or rejection of a “dream.”

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macbeth

Macbeth

Third lecture

banquo s dreams
Banquo’s dreams
  • II.1: Banquo wants to sleep, but is afraid to dream. Why?
  • Stage image: he hands over his sword – and dagger?
  • He has dreamt of the “weird sisters.”
  • Does he want to?
  • Acceptance or rejection of a “dream.”
  • What’s acceptable and unacceptable to “dream of”?
  • And his response to Macbeth’s invitation to talk over “that business.”
  • And by contrast Macbeth’s “dream”: “Is this a dagger I see before me?”
  • “a dagger of the mind”: with a double meaning?
  • And then the dream-state dagger becomes covered with blood.
  • What does one do with a nightmare or a vision of horror?
thinking brainsickly
Thinking brainsickly
  • Lady M accuses Macbeth of unbending his noble strength “to think so brainsickly of things” (II.2.48-49).
  • His anxiety over not being able to pronounce “Amen” to the guards’ “God bless us.”
  • “Consider it not so deeply.”
  • But why couldn’t he respond?
  • And because he imagines that in killing a sleeping man, he has killed sleep.
  • “Innocent sleep”! And six wonderful metaphors for sleep.
  • Sleep equals helplessness, innocence?
  • And he imagines his hands “will rather/ The multitudinous seas incarnadine/ Making the green one red” instead of washing off the blood?
  • While she insists, “A little water clears us of the deed.”
  • The vast gulf between them?
changing places
Changing places
  • By Act V, Macbeth and Lady M appear to have changed places in regard to their imaginative apprehension.
  • V.1 (sleepwalking scene): The murder of sleep now affects Lady M.
  • She brainsickly imagines blood.
  • “Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him.”
  • “What, will these hands ne’er be clean?”
  • “All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”
  • The doc’s diagnosis: “infected minds.”
  • And Macbeth (V.3): “I have almost forgot the taste of fears.”
  • He has “supped full with horrors.”
  • Lady M, his “dearest chuck,” is dead (V.5)? Oh well . . .
  • “She should have died hereafter:/ There would have been a time for such a word.”
  • And his sense of life in the lines following.
  • Life is nothing but a dumb actor, “a poor player/ That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/ And then is heard no more.”
  • Theater itself is emptied out – life and theater become mutually insignificant.
banquo s ghost
Banquo’s ghost
  • The scene of Macbeth’s feast is at the very center of the play: III.4.
  • All the verbal images of food and of nature in the play concentrated in the visual image of the feast: stage direction.
  • Lady M’s welcome – and the stage direction.
  • “Feeding” vs. feasting: the sauce to meat . . .
  • Macbeth’s toast: “Good digestion wait on appetite,/ And health on both.”
  • When does the ghost enter?
  • Macbeth’s “conjuration”?
  • He tries the toast again (l. 89-90).
  • But again “conjures” the ghost.
  • The excuse is that Macbeth is brainsick.
  • And his sickness destroys the feast.
  • As the sickness will destroy the kingdom
macbeth s castle
Macbeth’s castle
  • At I.6 Duncan’s “construction” of the castle’s nature: the air.
  • Banquo’s noting of the “temple-haunting martlet”: “no jutty, frieze,/ Buttress, nor coign of vantage, but this bird/ Hath made his pendent beg and procreant cradle.”
  • An image of a sort of paradisal nature . . .
  • . . . turning to “knock, knock, knock” in the porter’s comic turn.
  • He’s playing the “porter of hell gate.”
  • Which had been an actual role in the biblical mystery plays.
  • Porter pretends to be a character that Shakespeare had seen in the Coventry Corpus Christi play, the devil who is guarding the gate of hell when Christ comes to deliver the souls of the just.
  • Coventry play is lost, but we know of the role from a reference in an early 16th century play.
  • The role had been comic, just as the porter is comic.
  • And what does the play-acting make of Macbeth’s castle?
macbeth and herod
Macbeth and Herod
  • One of the most powerful scenes in the biblical plays had been the killing of the innocent children by Herod.
  • Herod orders the killing of all babies in Bethlehem.
  • His soldiers carry this out in a particularly gruesome scene in the biblical play. Lots of stage blood.
  • This scene evoked in the scene of killing the son of Lady Macduff and Lady Macduff herself.
  • Macbeth thereby becomes Herod, the most potent image of evil kingship in Sh’s world.
  • Which is contrasted, in the scene in the English court, to the saintly kingship of Edward the Confessor.
sickness and kingship
Sickness and kingship
  • At the end of the play (V.3), the disease of Lady Macbeth’s mind reflects the disease of Scotland.
  • Macbeth orders the doctor to cure her of the “thick-coming fancies/ That keep her from rest.”
  • “Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased?”
  • “Therein the patient/ Must minister to himself.”
  • Macbeth: “If thou couldst, doctor, cast/ The water of my land, find her disease . . .”
  • But meanwhile “Seyton” is helping Macbeth put his armor on.
  • The word, spoken, seems indistinguishable from “Satan.”
  • Who has, through the witches, tricked Macbeth with the two equivocal prophecies?
  • The coalescence of the evil accomplished by Macbeth with kingship has diseased, sickened the entire kingdom.
  • Only a purgative, can cure the kingdom.
  • Which must be accomplished by Macbeth’s expulsion.
enter macduff with macbeth s head
“Enter Macduff with Macbeth’s head”
  • Why this ending?
  • We’ve already seen Macbeth slain – and understand the fulfillment of the two prophecies.
  • It certainly produces a striking stage image.
  • But beheading was the punishment for treason – for nobility.
  • The striking off of Macbeth’s head means he was a traitor – as well as a usurper.
  • The beheading of the traitor/usurper appears to accomplish the purging that Macbeth had asked the doctor for.
  • To us, beheading may look barbaric, evil in itself.
  • But could it signal the severing of the seat of the evil we see created in the play, the mind/brain/face, from the instruments of that evil, the hands and bodily sinews?
  • Is it somehow “necessary” for the purging of the evil the play has shown created?
  • I have to admit that it has always seemed oddly satisfying in productions of the play I’ve seen.