Picture of students using computers in the library

Returning from the World of the Scottish Play

May 17, 2014

On April 26th I experienced the deep wonders of a world not entirely of my own, in ways that poured everything that was in my heart --into the air-- moment to moment… and it was magnificent, it was magical, it was wondrous... it was the closing night of Beaufort Shakespeare Rep’s Inaugural Production of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”.

Lady M and M 

SantiDr C and Erin

(Pictured: Macbeth played by Santiago Sosa, Artistic Director of Shakespeare Rep Dr. Debra Charlton, and Lady Macbeth played by myself -Erin Dailey!)

--and so the show concluded…or did it?  Because still in the alleyways, in the dark corners, in the secret gardens of my mind-- lurks this place we created, a place elusive to time, a place grounded in its own reality, a place with real people, real emotions, real action, and real unfolding consequences… a real story. A story-- and so often this term has a trickiness, sometimes “She’s telling a story” implies it is not real, yet thrive and writhe in the truths that this story was indeed real.

The story of the play “Macbeth” was a culmination of historical accounts Shakespeare gathered-- true lives that lived in 1300s Scotland-- true events within our world over 900 years ago. The play was written with intense purpose and drive by Shakespeare, and while he did fictionalize to different extents the historical accounts he utilized, the events did actually occur by people during the time-- and even arguably still do, not to mention the intensely reflective nature the play offers of beliefs of the 1300s, 1600s, and on. Perhaps most significantly the play offers a visceral painting of the human condition and how it has remained consistent throughout time.

Early this semester I wrote a blog on Shakespeare’s personal life, that blog greatly reveals Will’s beautiful writing and his eternalized name. It also provides fascinating insight into the chunk of time within that life of his which sits the history of the creation of “Macbeth”. Looking at Shakespeare’s personal history and own life up close, and then having such opportunity to discover that same time era from different angles- paints an incredible picture: a picture that connects stories and unfolds a greater account of a world not entirely of our own.

In the year of 1603 Queen Elizabeth I of England died leaving no children to succeed. Later that year James VI, King of Scotland (the nearest surviving relative to Queen Elizabeth I of England), succeeded to the throne of Great Britain and Ireland (England). As famously recorded a few years later in 1606 King of England: James VI (married to Anne of Denmark), received a visit from his brother in law, King of Denmark: Christian IV. It is believed that this event instigated Shakespeare’s writing of “Macbeth”-- that is in honor of the occasion as a gift and provision of an activity to the King of England and his special occasion with the King of Denmark. Essentially a "bonding activity".

The reason these events are concluded as true is largely due to the Scottish history of the play (a singular theme in the Folio- Shakespeare's collection of works) clearly done in honor of King James Scottish origins. Other evidence that reflects the honorary purpose of the play are captured in other themes such as that of witchcraft. James (whose generationally passed down name you may also recognize from The King James Bible) was both a theologian and philosopher. James VI considered himself an expert on witchcraft: publishing a book entitled Demonology in 1597 (which advocated severe measures and analyses against witches), leading the conduction of investigations and trials against witches himself, and dealing with his own “witch tormentors”. The wonderful part about Shakespeare’s mission to create this play was the King’s interests were easily provided by Scottish history and consequently easily incorporated into the play. In Shakespeare’s source “The Chronicles of Holinshed” witches proved to be a large part of a story of an early Scottish king. Shakespeare ingeniously played off the King James VI personality, interests, and beliefs, and combined it with history to create his story. To King James VI, Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” served as both a platform to critique the reflection and accuracy of the "stage witches" (the witch character Shakespeare wrote), and so too as a platform to share his “wealth of knowledge” (which was said to be the nature of King James VI –that is his having a very high opinion of himself and not being afraid to “pompously” express it).

Shakespeare went on in his masterpiece of a tragedy to incorporate other elements that would delight the King. Shakespeare carefully crafted the historical account of the murder of a Scottish king by those within the very same kingdom and royal family (a rumored event that occurred to King James VI's own father’s kingship). Yet Shakespeare is said to have made subtle yet distinct enough differences in the plot and characters of “Macbeth” so as not to create too abrasively or distastefully a resemblance of these sensitive events in King James VI's life.

As aforementioned Shakespeare goes on to take other liberties in his recreation of the story, one liberty being giving ownership of some of events to certain people in the historical accounts (using the same names within history) which they had not actually done or participated in within —and this incorporating, subtly switching, and or layering of different parts of the Scottish History helped Shakespeare to highlight different highly esteemed beliefs and ideas of King James VI. Some of these beliefs included that of “a one true God-ordained royal leader”, a reflection of “the greatness” of the King James lineage and  “the valiant and impeccable leadership” of that lineage. Another hefty idea included the reflection that the world would always be restored to its good and correct order and those who tampered with such a thing would meet a most terrible demise. Some of the story points of “Macbeth” are thematic through many of Shakespeare’s plays: including that idea of the restoration of order, elements of time and nature, and components of the “human condition”.

Shakespeare was not only a master at creating beautiful works of timeless art but a master at pleasing Kings and Queens, not to mention, marketing his company extremely well. It is a skill that even today can go easily unrecognized and untapped. Yet Shakespeare continue to market himself well and continues to live on in our world and imaginations. He has truly given us a gift, a gift waiting to be unraveled, explored, discovered, deeply appreciated... it helps to redefine our ideas, approaches, decisions, imaginations, hopes, dreams, and lives…

I take delight in wondering if the world we created lives on in its own realm and look forward to rediscovering it and other worlds and our world-- that Shakespeare has captured in his works over 400 years ago.

References:

Asimov, I. (2003). 29 The Tragedy of MACBETH. Asimov's guide to Shakespeare: a guide to understanding and enjoying the works of Shakespeare (pp. 149-203). New York N.Y.: Gramercy Books.

Shakespeare, W., & Evans, G. B. (1997). The Riverside Shakespeare (2nd ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

 

Yours Truly: Your Grateful “Lady M by Moonlight” Sand Shark,

                                                                                              Erin Dailey