Hecate: And thou shalt be King hereafter.

Macbeth: King?!

Hecate: Aye. And you, Banquo, you will not be King. Yet, you will be royal.

Banquo: Oh, oh, I’m going to be Queen!

I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again, June 1968

Macbeth has never been a favourite. Probably something to do with having studied it in Drama in Yr 7, Music in Yr 8 and then for SATs in Yr 9. Now that I’ve got some distance from all of that (it doesn’t quite feel like ten years since I last read it), I dislike it less. The ISIRTA version is my favourite though.

Now I know that without Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s actions there isn’t much of a play, but seriously, what good did they really think would come of murdering Duncan in his bed? Killing a King in battle is one thing, but while he sleeps? Really? Such a bright idea!

I’m still trying to decide if it makes for a better story than what actually happened to Macbeth. He was King of the Scots in the mid-11th Century, for about 17 years. He’d defeated King Duncan in battle, whose widow and sons then fled. Then, in 1054, Earl Siward of Northumbria – who may or may not have been related to both Duncan and his wife – launched an invasion in which lots of people died, including his own son. And in 1057, Macbeth made his last stand, being defeated by Duncan’s son Malcolm. Macbeth died the following April, and his stepson is crowned King. But, you know, life is tricky, and he met an untimely end, after which Malcolm becomes the Third Malcolm of Scotland and manages a long reign. Sadly none of the Three Weird Sisters stuff is recorded as having happened…

Anyway, Macbeth. In which a man is goaded into killing the King and it all ends messily. Supposedly it’s a tragedy, but I think they had it coming.


On this, the birth and death day of one of England’s greatest playwrights, I feel I should confess something.

I know various quotations from his plays (admittedly probably only the famous ones), but I’ve only actually read Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet.

I know, I know. I claim to be well-read, and yet the poems and plays of Shakespeare languish, gathering dust, on the shelf.

I’ve seen quite a few, though. When I was younger we went to Exeter’s Rougemont Gardens every year to see the Northcott Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park. Well, for a run of some years until they chose to do one my mother wasn’t so keen on. One of the Richards, if memory serves. And then we stopped going.

We were, in any case, more firmly attached to a tradition of Gilbert & Sullivan every summer. Until the musical group decided to branch out into other musicals. Then the choices started to go downhill…

But I digress. I’m not sure why I’ve not read much Shakespeare, except that I’ve never really been much a one for reading poetry or plays. Not that I dislike them, just that I prefer prose.

Possibly it’s something to do with preferring to listen to poetry and plays. Maybe my next reading-target should be to read all of the the plays. Actually, that’s quite a good idea. I can get them for free on my Kindle. Maybe if I’m being adventurous I can add in the poems…

Watch this space next Wednesday!

On a side note, apparently Shakespeare introduced my name to the English-speaking world in As You Like It. I’d reference that, but I came upon it some years ago and I have no idea where I found it.


St Andrew’s Day; or, The End of NaNoWriMo!

Happy St Andrew’s Day, all you Scots. (And all the others for whom St Andrew is the patron saint.)

I was considering using that fact that the NaNoWriMo administration is using a time-zone eight hours behind me (I think it’s East Pacific Time, but don’t quote me on that!) as an excuse to have an extra eight hours of writing time, but fortunately, that’s not needed!

Excuse me while I dance a tired jig of happiness that I hit the 50K barrier on my novel. I don’t now plan to look at it until after Christmas.

I admit, I failed with the blogging challenge. But I feel more encouraged about blogging, and finding new and different topics to blog about. So I shall endeavour to continue with greater frequency.

But now. To St Andrew.

Apparently, according to some sources, the celebration of him as a national saint in Scotland began during the eleventh century, during the reign of Malcolm III.

And, quite honestly, I find this bit of Scottish history more interesting. Because this Malcolm is the son of the Duncan murdered by Macbeth. Yup, him of Shakespeare’s play. And, OK, obviously Shakespeare used a bit of artistic licence in reworking the story into a drama, but it’s still all good fun. 

Also, Malcolm’s second wife, Margaret of Wessex (granddaughter of Edmund Ironside, King of England for not very long in 1016, son of Aethelraed the Unready) is Scotland’s only royal saint. So, actually, it strikes me as a little strange that Andrew, and not Margaret, is the Scottish patron saint. Mind you, England has several saints of her own who aren’t the patron saint.

Also, as an aside, today, 30th November 1016, is also the death-day of Edmund Ironside, approximately six weeks after his defeat by Knut the Great of Denmark at Assandun on the 18th October 1016, and their subsequent agreement to split England. Apparently Knut was really impressed by Edmund’s fighting abilities. The North went to Knut, and Wessex went to Edmund. After Edmund’s death, Knut became King of England. (Knut then married Edmund’s stepmother, Emma of Normandy, Queen of England.)

But there. The end of trying to kill myself through lack of sleep.

To all those NaNoWriMo-ers still going, Good luck! You’re nearly there!

To those who didn’t reach 50K words, Better luck next year. You did well, anyway.

RSC Richard II

I had two reasons for my trip to London. One I’ll talk about next week, because I don’t want to be too wedding-heavy this week.

So the other reason was sort-of theatre trip. I don’t know if you’ve discovered this, but some theatres have this frankly fantastic scheme whereby performances are filmed and screened live to selected cinemas. For a fraction of the price of a theatre-ticket. I’ve seen several plays this way: The Audience, with Helen Mirren; The Taming of the Shrew; and an all-male production of Twelfth Night with Stephen Fry.

And now I add to that list the RSC’s Richard II, starring David Tennant as the King. And his wig. A good wig, that.

Now, I may not have read many of Shakespeare’s plays, but I’ve seen my share over my few years on this earth. And apart from Macbeth, which was quite honestly studied into submission, I’ve enjoyed them all. There is one version of Macbeth I like. (Well, two, if you include that reference to it in the very first episode of Blackadder.)

While I was growing up, my dad introduced us to comedy programmes from the ’60s and ’70s. There’s one episode of I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again where they take on Shakespeare, and Macbeth. It’s my favourite version of the play. But they make the point that Shakespeare’s plays are full of jokes.

It’s only now that I’ve grown up that I hear and understand the jokes.

Basically, the most important thing to take from this is: If you get the chance to see this production of Richard II, seize it with both hands. I don’t think there’s anything I can say to praise it highly enough. It is brilliant. Go. See it.