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Apr 23

Talk Like Shakespeare Day

Witches' Blood (Shakespeare Day)
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The Incantation
Wood engraving, 19th century
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"Double, double toil and trouble ..." ~ Act 4, Scene 1, Macbeth, William Shakespeare (1606)

Shakespeare's witches in the Scottish play have prophesied "a charm of power trouble" for more than just the lead character! The Scottish Play and The Bard's Play are euphemisms for William Shakespeare's Macbeth. According to a theatrical superstition, called the Scottish curse, speaking the name Macbeth inside a theatre (other than as part of an actual rehearsal or performance) will cause disaster. Because of this superstition, the lead character is most often referred to as the Scottish King or Scottish Lord. Lady Macbeth is often referred to as the Scottish Lady. And even sometimes Mackers or MacB is used to avoid saying the name. This troublesome play also provides fodder for the great authorship debate - the argument that someone other than William Shakespeare  of Stratford-upon-Avon wrote the works attributed to him. Oxfordians (champions of the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward DeVere as the true author), point to evidence of intimate knowledge of Scottish court intrigue and contemporary geo-political scandals, uniquely topical Scottish colloquial references, points of Scottish law, as well as documented travel to Scotland to support his candidacy. In terms of the authorship question, are you a Stratfordian, Oxfordian, Marlovian, Baconian, something else? Insult your authorship rivals today with one of the myriad Shakespearean insults from the entire canon, including this one from the Scottish play: “Go, prick thy face, and over-red thy fear, Thou lily-liver’d boy.”

"Double, double toil and trouble; 

Fire burn, and caldron bubble."

The Three Witches or Weird Sisters are characters in William Shakespeare's "Scottish play" Macbeth (c. 1603–1607).

Shakespeare's witches are prophets who hail Macbeth, the general, early in the play, and prophesy his ascent to king. Upon killing King Duncan and ascending the throne of Scotland, Macbeth hears them ambiguously prophesy his eventual downfall.

The Shakespeare authorship question is the argument that someone other than William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon wrote the works attributed to him. Anti-Stratfordians - a collective term for adherents of the various alternative-authorship theories - believe that Shakespeare of Stratford was a front to shield the identity of the real author or authors, who for some reason did not want or could not accept public credit.  All but a few Shakespeare scholars and literary historians consider it a fringe belief, and for the most part acknowledge it only to rebut or disparage the claims.  

But of the huge body of analysis on the subject, it is the troublesome "Scottish play" which provides some of the most concrete evidence to strengthen one of the arguments of the Oxfordians, champions of attribution of the works to the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward DeVere, whose intimate knowledge of court intrigue and contemporary geo-political scandal, uniquely topical references, as well as documented travel to Scotland make him a leading contender in the authorship debate.

The accurate geographic detail, points of Scottish law, and uniquely topical references, according to some scholars, unwittingly provide strong support for this alternative candidate, amongst the 80 proposed. From a topical article by Richard F. Whalen:

"A review of historical documents and topical allusions in Macbeth shows that the author knew a great deal about Scotland and that he knew it long before 1606, which orthodox scholars argue was the year it was written by William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon. Six of these scholars, however, unwittingly provide much of the evidence supporting Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, as the true author of Macbeth."

Inspired by Stratford Festival's 2016 production of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, this tartan was created to coincide with worldwide celebrations of the playwright's enduring legacy, 400 years after his death in 1616.

As described by the designer:

"Macbeth abounds in images of blood and the darkness of night, hence the tartan's striking use of red and black. The charcoal tone, equivocating between the polar opposites of black and white, evokes both the literal and moral fog of an uncanny world in which, as the Weird Sisters (or witches) proclaim, 'Fair is foul, and foul is fair.'"

For more on this fascinating theory of how intimate knowledge of Scotland and the political climate of the day supports the Oxfordian view of authorship, click the 19th century wood engraving titled "The Incantation."