I’m a nervous wreck during exams. I can't deal with anything but snack-books by day, but that hellish period gives me insomnia and I wake up, stare at the ceiling, and fail to see the point in anything short of Shakespeare or maybe suicide.
That’s how I found myself reading a girly porn book with a half naked couple on the cover called “Private Arrangements” and Macbeth practically at the same time. They both having letters and all. Let's compare, broken down by themes:Guilt and redemption
There actually is something to compare between those two worthy opus: they are driven by bad deeds committed by their main characters in order to climb steps in the social ladder. Macbeth kills his king. Regicide is a manyfold crime, and a lot more interesting that simply going ahead and killing your average person: Macbeth would have been charged with murder, high treason, perjure, etc. Regicide destroys the established order. It's a bit like stabbing the constitution. It's a very cool murder.
The romance girl tricks her would be husband into thinking that his previous engagement had been broken. It's a betrayal of a personal order, but here too she's perfectly aware of the deed. Perhaps she's not threatening society, but she is in fact threatening the foundations of Marriage, with an M... and there's nothing that a romance novel cares about like a Marriage.
There's no misunderstanding that exonerate everyone involved. In a romance novel, it’s very meaningful, but Shakespeare himself has some plots that would be considerably simpler if everyone would sit down and talk it out.
While Macbeth doesn’t find redemption, quarter-naked girl only barely has to say sorry: thus the focus in chick lit is put on second chances, not on angsty feelings like remorse. Macbeth doesn’t get a second chance: he’s trapped in escalating evil.
"I am in blood
Stepp'd in so far that,
should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er."
Arguably, none is more or less true to life than the other, but that’s certainly why one is a tragedy and the other a romance.The liar and his time
Quarter-naked girl was psychologically credibly made for fooling people her whole life, while Macbeth says he would have enjoyed, and I see no reason not to believe him, “The things that should go along with old age, like honor, love, obedience, and loyal friends”, and eventually settled down in non murdering habits, if society hadn’t had the bad taste of refusing to forgive him. It goes to great lengths not to forgive him. It turns itself into a wood. That's harsh.
“Instead, I have passionate but quietly whispered curses, people who honor me with their words but not in their hearts, and lingering life, which my heart would gladly end, though I can’t bring myself to do it.”
Macbeth is not much of a liar, after all... he would have bluffed his way out of the ghost's episode. Then again, ghosts do seem to be very impressive in Shakespeare.
Nobody seems to resent quarter-naked girl for a generally scandalous life and the weird habit of saying exactly what she thinks, which is not Macbeth-like at all, and is the basis for this theory: I think that the author is chinese (that’s not the theory, that’s true) and must have thought the west appallingly direct, and therefore has created characters who seem to lack the ability of the white lie and polite understatement. As a result she leads an exemplary life despite being a very selfish human being. It's exactly what we get away with in the west.
The moral that can be extracted from this is: humor the liars, they’ll get bored and start saying the truth ‘cause you don’t have to think as much. Seriously though. Society in a romance novel is rarely threatening, but in this one, it's particularly non judgmental.Love and ambition
Ambition and love move both plots. To argue that love plays no part in Macbeth’s murder would be, sayeth I, to underestimate Lady Macbeth. She mocks him, she invokes masculinity, but we get no feeling of stung vanity; he overcomes his qualms through her. Their relationship is a very strong support for the action. That is a sort of redeeming factor for poor evil Macbeth and his disregarded “milk of human kindness”. Who’s the worst? Macbeth or his lady? in any case they’re both better when taken together. Macbeth gets his best, more “not-the-evil-guy” lines when she kicks the bucket.
She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Quarter-naked girl really really wants to be a duchess, and with that in mind, tricking this guy is a prudent move. Paradoxically, her ambition is also a redeeming factor: she offered him her hand in all honesty and was repeatedly rejected. She never tried to hide that she had strived all her life to get close to a title. By forging that letter, she’s not really betraying him. She has never given him a reason to trust her; her methods were always openly less than pure. She played by another set of rules; she's from a class that doesn't value honour.Men’s men
They do go on about masculinity in Macbeth. He doesn’t want to kill his king? Not a man! The murderers refuse to kill Banquo? No men either! His son dies in combat? He died a man’s death!
Who or what is a man? Macduff, that’s who. He is the only main character whose testosterone is beyond all question. Plus, he is not born of a woman, which is as bad a pun as the one in LOTR and also leads to some evil-people slaughter.
Macduff on being a man:
Let’s look for some desolate shade and there
Cry our hearts out.
Let us rather
Stop the mortal sword quickly, and, like good men,
Climb over our down-fallen country.”
Revenge it like a man.
I shall do so;
Only I must also feel it as a man.”
O, I could cry like a woman with my eyes,
And brag with my tongue! But, gentle heavens,
Cut short all pauses in the action. Bring this fiend of Scotland
And myself face to face;
Put him within my sword's length; if he escapes,
Heaven might forgive him too!
This tune goes manly. “
The fact that he abandons his wife and children with clearly too little protection does not change the fact that he’s a man, he’s the man. I’m confused on the definition of man. I get the “put him within my sword’s length” manliness (niark) but i have trouble in the distinction between “cry like a woman” and “feel like a man”.
By opposition, quarter-naked guy’s manliness is clearly defined by his sword’s length (god am I not subtle), and his capacity of earning money by incoherently speaking of thermodynamics. I liked that bit, but my engineer of a sister refuses to abide my appreciation.The Fool
I want to express my love for The Fool as a character. I loved him in King Lear, i love him in Cabin in the Woods, i love him in real life, and i love him in the slightly unintelligent new fiancé of quarter-naked-girl. I love all his various incarnations: the dumb but kind, the crazy but who-gets-it, the snarky-with a good heart.
Yeah, no fool in Macbeth. Other than the one who tells the tale of life.The writing
I truly cannot find that Shakespeare has influenced the later novel, which is fine, because Romeo and Juliet remakes are the absolute worst. No class warfare whatsoever, except a joke on each other’s taste. The focus is on impressionists, Monet, Degas, cars, yatches, engines, Beethoven’s fifth. It’s an historical romance that wants to feel modern. There is in fact many a Shakespeare quote. “Parting is such sweet sorrow”. Is that the most quoted sentence ever? If not, it's probably close.
Macbeth’s writing is a masterpiece for the ages.Not such thing as Destiny
Macbeth differs from the greek standard of tragedies in the fact that destiny, if any, comes from within. The will of the gods’ role is unclear. Blah blah blah.
Quarter naked guy could perfectly have spent his life in NY without ever seeing again naked girl. There's no fate involved whatsoever.Morals
Don’t trick your husband. Don’t kill your king.
I think that both of them have a surprisingly similar message, if one is willing to crop Macbeth a lil' bit. Both say that the one thing you want, whatever the odds may be, will not happen unless you make it happen, but once your part is done the consequences are out of your hands. While the romance pushes you to go ahead and do it anyway, Macbeth requires reflection. Would he be happy if he hadn’t killed Duncan? It’s unlikely. Would quarter-naked girl be happy if she hadn’t forged that note? Who know? It’s a romance, the possibilities of plot contrivance are endless.
I wrote 4 pages on this subject. Pfff. At least I bet nobody has done this particular review of Macbeth before. There's probably a reason for that though.