Tag Archives: William Shakespeare

My Love Affair with Shakespeare

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List of titles of works based on Shakespearean...

Recently, I started reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. In the section entitled “The Cemetery of Forgotten Books”, the narrator says:

“…few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a place in our memory to which, sooner or later – no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn and forget- we will return.”

 For me, two books are tied for this role. One is The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. The other is Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.

 I know that you will probably laugh at that. Romeo and Juliet is not my favorite play of Shakespeare’s. I don’t think that it is the love story to end all love stories. But it was the play that first made me realize what people could do with words.

 Unlike the chapter books we read in class, Shakespeare’s words rolled off the tongue. They danced while the chapter books tottered. And as Romeo fell in love with Juliet, I fell in love with the English language.

I’ve read *almost* all of Shakespeare’s plays and all of his sonnets. I own more than 3 different versions of his complete works plus individual copies of some of the plays. I even went to school dressed in a historically accurate Roman stoa in order to give a  book report on Julius Caesar.

In my experience, the two most some responses to Shakespeare are apathy or love. I think it’s clear which side I’m on.

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Lady Macbeth and Me

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Helen Baxendale as Lady Macbeth

I’m reading  Macbeth (again) and I find myself fascinated by the character of Lady Macbeth. What is it that drives her? On the surface you could say ambition, but that seems far too simplistic to me.

Browsing the Internet, she is described as “one of Shakespeare’s most famous and frightening female characters, “the most evil character in Macbeth,” and one who “suppresses her instincts toward compassion, motherhood, and fragility — associated with femininity — in favour of ambition, ruthlessness, and a lust for power.”

Now, I don’t want to go Freudian and psychoanalysis the intentions of a fictional character, but I think that her drive and ambition have an actual cause behind them. Put yourself in her shoes for a moment. Although she is often portrayed as being middle age, Lady Macbeth was more likely to have been in her late teens. As the daughter of a Scottish noble, she was a bargaining chip from day 1 of her existence. She was probably married off to Macbeth to assure an alliance for her family.

As we can tell from the play, she certainly was intelligent. In the time that she lived, though, women received little to no education. On a day to day basis, the most demanding activity was probably deciding what color tablecloth  to use. And yet, her position and that of her husband depended on a delicate game of politics.  She knew that had the wit and the brains to battle in the political arena. Because of her gender, though, she could not.

On a more personal level, you have to wonder what her marriage was like with Macbeth. Did they love each other? Was it a one -sided relationship? If so, for who? And there’s the whole “I have given suck and know How tender … ’tis to love the babe that milks me..” (Yeah, I know. That quote is followed by a statement about killing the infant if she had promised to. But that’s not what I’m getting at right now!) This statement implies that Lady Macbeth has, at one point, given birth to a child. However,  the Macbeth family is not portrayed as having any children (No, I don’t think she murdered her baby! Read the parenthesis above). Was there an early death of a child? How did that shape LM and her relationship with her husband?

Overall, I believe that Lady Macbeth was responsible for her own choices and actions.  However, I don’t think that she is the kind of character that you can take at face value. She has more depth to her than simply being a vixen, inducing Macbeth to murder, and then going mad. She was a person, not a archetype villain in some vaudeville production.

What do you think of Lady Macbeth?