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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

MACBETH AND THE GOTHIC

TIMELINE

The Gothic: accepted as beginning in 1764 with Walpoles The castle of Otranto. Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in or around 1606.

What did he think he was writing?

JACOBEAN TRAGEDY
A new form of tragedy was emerging on the London stage,. Features owe much to the Roman philosopher and playwright: Seneca.

The features are clearly seen in Macbeth and other Shakespeare plays of this period, especially Hamlet.

JACOBEAN TRAGEDY: FEATURES.


Revenge Extreme bloodthirstiness resulting in multiple deaths in the closing scenes A sense of decadence to be found in Italy and France (Catholic countries) The supernatural Five Episodes or Acts Sententiae (pithy, wise sayings) Violence and horror (on-stage) Magic, supernatural & death as topics, elements Major characters with a single obsessive motive

HOW EASILY CAN THIS BE SEEN IN MACBETH

Witches, Banquos ghost, Lady Macbeth as a driven character, the settings, Good (Duncan, Malcolm) vs Evil

We need to identify the defining characteristics of revenge tragedy before considering the influence on the Gothic.

1606-1764
Civil War The commonwealth closes all theatres and other places of entertainment Restoration. Charles II reopens all theatres and other places of entertainment. Comedy and bawdy frolic thrives in the new regime. The French Revolution approaches and Romanticism waits in the wings

THE GOTHIC
Shares a fixation with the supernatural and plots involving revenge. Setting is usually bleak and removed from civilised society often the setting reflect Northern Europe. Again, the Southern (Catholic countries) are disparaged. Horror Human Decay

NEW TO GOTHIC TRAGEDY:


Women as powerful and unwomanly Setting is specifically nocturnal Supernatural includes witchcraft and use of magic numbers such as 3 or 7.

WHY GOTHIC?
Goths: barbarian tribes from Germany who defeated Rome. Strong sense of monarchy Perceived as cruel and unforgiving Worshipped pagan Gods of antiquity (Witches reflect this) Gothic Architecture: soaring cathedrals spring up in 12C over Northern Europe Architecture is uplifting to the spirit and at odds with the Southern archetypes.

GOTHIC IN SOCIETY
James I writes about witches and Macbeth salutes his new king. Later, as science develops, society finds the need to explore a new world. Frankenstein a modern Prometheus is an example of this. The novels explore the horror and supernatural as imagined in this new world Dracula. Women are increasingly portrayed as having fearsome sexuality which can be a tool for cruelty and savagery.

SO, DID SHAKESPEARE INVENT GOTHIC?


He did not even invent Macbeth! Sources are mainly from Medieval writers such as Holinshead (1529-80) or Scottish Historians (link to archaic Gothic?) Not only the plot but much of the supernatural comes from these sources: witches and their prophesies, the unnatural events following Duncans death, the unnatural events of the ending BUT Banquos ghost and the banquet is an invention Lady Macbeth seems to prefigure the feminine Gothic

BANQUO

A necessary foil to Macbeth, yet not untainted by his credulity and eagerness to converse with the witches His appearance at the banquet is a new idea and one that becomes a stock-in-trade of Gothic horror through to the films of the 20th Century. He says nothing the effect relies on the imagination of directors MacKellen/Dench Jason Connery from 1990s - big on horror Nicole Williamson

THE FEMALE GOTHIC


Coined in 1976 by ELLEN MOERS a coded expression of womens fears of entrapment within the domestic and within the female body, most terrifyingly experienced in childbirth Lucy Westenra (Dracula) wears a long white shroud resembling both a wedding dress and an angel's gown and carries a child upon whom she has been preying. She attempts to seduce her fianc into joining her; and he "under a spell" almost does so. In losing her soul Lucy has become a travesty of wife, mother and Angel, endangering any respectable man falling within her sphere of influence; the archetypal establishment view of the New Woman. This seems close to LM who unsexes (1.5) herself to drive Macnbeth on to his task. Women lose all that is traditionally seen as female usually by males and in patriarchal societies and become demons in disguise.

WITCHES
A nod of respect to James I who had just published Daemonologie a study of witchcraft and evil. Topical content due to number of witch trials at the time Weird sisters are strange incarnations travel on air yet seem corporeal and do not appear to the good Lennox in 4.1 Interpolated scenes weaken Shakespeares vision

INTERPOLATION
The whole Hecate scene is likely to be an interpolation Songs are from Middletons play the Witches c1610. The Hecate passages seem to introduce the songs rather than serve any dramatic purpose. The use of Hecate, with a tangible Classical heritage, spoils the uncertainty around the witches Northern European mythology requires Norns, not classical gods and goddesses witches should be seen in this light.

LITB3 Not a study of Macbeth with comments about blood and witches A study of Gothic and a consideration of its roots whether in Macbeth or earlier literature Good Luck