Prompted by two novels about what happened after Macbeth
When I was at school, I studied Shakespeare. I well remember the fun of Midsummer Night’s Dream, the romance of Romeo and Juliet and the drama of Macbeth. One standout memory, however, would have to be the prophecies of the three witches from Macbeth. Who could forget the iconic lines:
“Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble” ?
Here I am, two generations later, reintroduced to those three evil, almost supernatural, characters with their capacity to so accurately prophesise future events.
My memories were rekindled reading Tania Roxborogh’s Banquo’s Son and its sequel Bloodlines. These are the first two books of a trilogy, set in 11th Century Scotland after Macbeth had killed the king and was then eventually killed himself. The stories are ably researched and beautifully written. In both, the evil witches materialise as fascinating and ghoulish characters who make oblique prophecies, which both guide and confuse the seeker.
I eagerly await the publication of the third in the trilogy: Birthright (due in April 2013). In the meantime, I have been pondering what it was in a story about the royal lineage of Scotland, 10 centuries ago, that has held me so enthralled.
(image used with author's permission)
My ponderings take me beyond the story and its setting and I delve into the question of why I choose to read? The themes of these books, like most enduring literature are universal and timeless. They are the themes of “humanness”.
The general themes of both of these books can be summarised as:
- personal gratification versus universal good
- personal passions and interests versus societal expectations
- personal sacrifice and integrity versus revenge and betrayal
- obligation and responsibility versus free choice
- family and social obligations
- the eternal search for love and acceptance versus rejection
- ambition and empowerment versus disempowerment
- physical world versus the metaphysical world
- good versus evil
Maybe you recognise one or more of these themes from your own recent reading?
I am reminded of times in my life when I have been confronted by similar conflicts and choices. Maybe that is why I found these two books so captivating. Although I was reading, ostensibly, about the struggles and conflicts confronting Fleance (son of Banquo), I was also reading about myself. Set in a different time and place, his struggles and dilemmas were no different to those that have confronted me in varying degrees throughout my life. That is why I am so captivated by these stories. I can relate to the” humanness” of the characters.
So why do I read? Maybe I read to understand myself and my human foibles.
Much more interesting than self help books!
And I can’t wait for the sequel.