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  • Macbeth and James VI
    Started by Bart on Sep 9, 2014
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    In preparation for an upcoming production of Macbeth, in a fairly intimate space, I’ve been delving into some questions I would like some help with:

    1. I have fortunately never had to see a production where Scots accents were forced on a non-Scottish cast, but I have always wondered what theories are about as to why there doesn’t seem to be a rendered dialect in the text? Shylock, after all, is rhythmically unique in Merchant? Is it a question of royal propaganda/fealty?

    2. Middleton (or Jonson) are believed to be behind the Sisters and Hecate. And many are adamant that these charters were very late additions. If so, how late? And did they replace other material? As the play is now, it is the shortest in the cannon. Would that be down to the short attention span of the new king? Could the work have originally been intended as a masque?

    I am pretty aware of James’s issues with witches and witchcraft, but I would love any insights available.


    Descending / Ascending

    RE: by Cass Morris on September 11, 2014

    Hi, Bart! I’m not fully sure about the accents, but I do know that when Shakespeare wants there to be one, he certainly has no qualms about writing it in. (See Caius and Evans in Merry Wives for great examples there). It may be as much a class thing as anything else — Welsh prince Owen Glendower is written without an accent, while the lower-ranked Fluellen and Hugh Evans get their accents explicitly written.

    The Witches were probably written to captivate James from the get-go — he took the throne in 1603, and this was probably written late 1605 or sometime in 1606, based on some other references within the text. The Hecate sections in particular are what likely came from another hand, probably Middleton’s. 3.5 and the Hecate portions of 4.1 bear striking resemblances to Middleton’s 1615 play The Witch (and the songs called for in those scenes have the same titles as songs in The Witch) — so that’s a likely point for when those scenes may have gotten added in. Gary Taylor’s introduction to the play in his Complete Middleton goes into a lot of detail about what may have been cut either at that time or sometime else before the Folio printing, and what else may’ve been added or re-arranged to suit changing tastes — check that out somewhere if you can.

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