…pardon me, I do not mean to read…–JULIUS CAESAR, III ii

And pardon me while I get more specific than is ever necessary.

I offer two solid reasons to witness and not to read Shakespeare. Which is to say, obviously read Shakespeare, but not silently, and if possible not alone. Three measly lines from two consecutive scenes in Macbeth.

1) It’s not the most important moment in the play by any means, but the Doctor and the Gentlewoman in Macbeth, V i, have this exchange while they witness the sleepwalking Lady M doing her thing and nattering on about dead women and manual hygiene:

          DR: Go to, go to, you have known what you should not.

          GW: She has spoke what she should not, I am sure of that. Heaven knows what she hath known.

I’ve seen and done this scene repeatedly. And there are options about the basic meaning of it the script doesn’t really help with – no stage directions here, and most of the scene is in prose, so even the rhythmic clues are more up in the air. (You could argue that the Doctor’s line is in verse, but you could also argue it ain’t.)

So, options. You’ve got:

          DR: [to the sleepwalking Lady M, whom he knows can’t hear him but has just maybe revealed herself as at least accessory to murder] Go to, go to, you have known what you should not.

          GW: She has spoke what she should not, I am sure of that. Heaven knows what she hath known.

That choice is difficult even to paraphrase in brief – hitting the verbs seems to do all the work – and is therefore the one I like most. But you’ve also got:

          DR: [to the Gentlewoman, who has just heard Lady M maybe reveal herself as at least accessory to murder] Go to, go to, you have known what you should not.

          GW: She has spoke what she should not, I am sure of that. Heaven knows what she hath known. [I.e., “Don’t blame me for hearing it; plus if anyone here has known what she should not…”]

OR, maybe:

          DR: [to himself, having heard Lady M maybe reveal herself as at least accessory to murder] Go to, go to, you have known what you should not.

          GW: She has spoke what she should not, I am sure of that. Heaven knows what she hath known. [I.e., “Don’t beat yourself up, fellow non-royal. These people are clearly a mess.”]

I’m sure there are others, but I imagine they fall under these three umbrellas.

Buried in all this is how much I love the juxtaposition of the plain-spoken Gentlewoman and the Doctor, who starts out trying to sound impressive in jargony prose (“In this slumbery agitation, besides her walking and other actual performances, what, at any time, have you heard her say?”) but eventually is beaten by horror into verse that’s clear, terrified, and caring:

          More needs she the divine than the physician.

          God, God forgive us all! Look after her;

          Remove from her the means of all annoyance,

          And still keep eyes upon her. So, good night:

          My mind she has mated, and amazed my sight.

          I think, but dare not speak.

A thoughtful dynamic for two characters we’ve never seen before and who frankly we don’t need but would miss if they were gone. But back to the topic at hand.

 

2) This one is a tad more famous, relatively. In the scene before the sleepwalking, Macduff (IV iii) is told (400-year-od spoiler) that Macbeth has killed the entire Macduff household. Among his responses is the great line, “He has no children.”

The hell does that mean? “He”? “He” Malcolm, who just told Macduff to chill, and obviously couldn’t say such a thing if he had children? “He” Macbeth, who couldn’t imagine murdering children if he had any of his own? “He” Macbeth again, who (even though Macduff wouldn’t really linger too long on thoughts of such an act) prevents proper and equal revenge by not having any family for Macduff himself to kill? “He” Macduff himself, who suddenly has to try on the giant robes of widowerhood and hears in his head how pitying people will be describing him now? All of those? Some? One?

No help from the script at all, Silent Reader. An actor will pick one; a Reader Aloud can toy with options. All of them can work. But there’s work to be done.

Man, I love this stuff.

One thought on “…pardon me, I do not mean to read…–JULIUS CAESAR, III ii

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s