Tolkien and the Scottish Play

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Tolkien and the Scottish Play

Post by Orwell on Sun Aug 19, 2018 11:25 am

I had read that Tolkien was most unimpressed when the forest that arrives in Macbeth was just a bunch of blokes carrying bits of branches... yeah... we all know that story.

Also: Tolkien was not that huge a fan of Shakespeare’s take on history. (I state this from memory, maybe I remember wrongly).

But I was just watching a documentary on the real MacBeth narrated by Tony Robinson. And something struck me:

Cawdor!

Cawdor? Mordor? It’s the sound, my friends, the sound. And the suggestion of evil. The evil Lord (Thane) of Cawdor!

Anyway, I now plan to take another look at the Scottish Play...

How many other things from that play might have been working on Tolkien’s conscious and subconcious and unconscious (dreaming while asleep) mind!?!?

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Re: Tolkien and the Scottish Play

Post by azriel on Sun Aug 19, 2018 12:28 pm

I believe a lot of things affect us subconsciously. Im bloody sure stuff from my childhood has loitered in the back of my mind & Ive done, said, wrote & named things because of a secret silent influence that has woken up & stuck its oar in. And there am I thinking Im clever, wondering where I got "that" from. It was there all the time, waiting.

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Re: Tolkien and the Scottish Play

Post by halfwise on Sun Aug 19, 2018 1:04 pm


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Re: Tolkien and the Scottish Play

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sun Aug 19, 2018 2:10 pm

{{That second one is good read. Personally I think Tolkien was more bothered by Shakespeare getting o much prominence at the expense of what Tolkien considered older at least, if not more important, works. Add to that Shakespeare tends to use faerie when he does either just for farce and comedy, or when it is taken seriously its either very much n the vein of the Christian fears of the time- witches and the like, or its just representative of base human urges like Caliban in the Tempest, or personifications of natural forces like Ariel.

I dont think I have ever read anything where Tolkien actually criticised Shakespeares  work though as a whole or his story-telling abilities. Just those elements of it.

For me Macbeth is sort of LotR's reversed in an evil mirror! Not that Tolkien just nicked it and turned it round, just that there are a lot of comparisons to draw.

Frodo is told about somehtng, what the Ring is, and reluctantly is forced to go about doing something about it, even as he grows more possessive of the Ring.
Macbeth is told about something, that he will be King, and decides to do something about it, even as he becomes more obsessed with the idea of power.

Both of them have a strong female character who renounces her femininity long enough to commit a world changing event in aman's world- Eowyn slays the Witch-King, Lady Macbeth the former King (its her plan, even if she needs her husbands help- she cant actually do the stabbing at first, but after the deed is done its her who sets up the murder scene and happily smears the drunk guards with the recently deceased Kings blood).

Eowyn finds eventual peace and happiness through love to a good man and through her acts, Lady Macbeth gets loneliness and rejection from a bad man she loves, and eventual suicide.

And both end in a big fight hinging on fulfilment of prophecy- no man can kill the Witch-King, no man of women born can kill Macbeth. And both have a moving forest, if in different ways.

And both versions end on peace being resorted, evil overthrown and a new King being crowned. 

And as that article you inked to Halfy points out, you can see Denethors treatment of his sons in Lear, or Gollums feuding selves in Othello.

In a sense Tolkien's genius was to transpose all these post-Elizabethan ideas back in time to a Celtic pre-Christian world allowing for Shakespeares unseen world of faerie to be treated seriously as part of the seen world.}}

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Re: Tolkien and the Scottish Play

Post by azriel on Sun Aug 19, 2018 2:10 pm

Ha, a bit of honesty at last. Chewing over Shakespeare was never my favourite pastime at school either. & chew I had to. Half of what he said is too long, to complicated & downright boring in places. Why say 50 words when 3 are sufficient ? But that's just me. He did give us a foot stool to stand on & from his ideas we have many reproductions of our own.

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Re: Tolkien and the Scottish Play

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sun Aug 19, 2018 2:18 pm

{{ I love Shakespeare! You just have to see a really good production Az- preferably a live on on stage- though there are some good Shakespeare adapted plays out there- Polanski's Macbeth, Brannaghs Henry V or Much Ado About Nothing and the BBC's Hollow Crown (though not all of it- Richard II is superb however and the War of the Roses trilogy isnt to shoddy either- Cumberbatch makes a very good Richard III) }}}


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Re: Tolkien and the Scottish Play

Post by halfwise on Sun Aug 19, 2018 2:20 pm

I was always shocked on going to the original text after watching a performance to see about half of the original is routinely cut. Good riddance in most cases, Ol' Bill does tend to drag things on a bit. Pick out the best parts and you've got something. I'm not sure I've seen any credit given to the editor who does this job.

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Re: Tolkien and the Scottish Play

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sun Aug 19, 2018 2:35 pm

{{I'd generally agree there Halfy though not always- the BBC Hollow Crown version of Henry V I felt gutted the play in its overzealous editing. Yet the same style of editing worked fine in the later Rose's plays.
Brannaghs Hamlet on the other-hand is barely edited at all interms of the prose, and its far from my favourite version.
Language in plays of the time was in general far more flowery that todays- for example in Hamlet we have the line - "the morn in russet mantle clad over yonder hill doth break'- which today could be less poetically rendered as "Sun's coming up."
His strengths for me lie in the complexity of characters, the invention of phrasing and language and the power of the narratives.


Reading that list of writers who disliked Shakespeare its hard to get over the impression they are just really snobby gits in a lot of cases, disliking Shakespeare's base roots and that he pulled himself up from common player, the 'upstart crow'!   }}}

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Re: Tolkien and the Scottish Play

Post by halfwise on Sun Aug 19, 2018 2:51 pm

Actually I think these successful writers are capable of giving a clearer eyed assessment of Ol' Bill than the common reader who is browbeaten by claims of his genius. But they go a bit over the top - once trimmed him down to size they feel they have to keep whittling away with the inertia they've built up.

Shakespeare spends more time letting his characters ruminate and expand their thoughts upon the action. That's something he gives us that more recent writers have progressively stripped away. I feel this is why people go back to him - he's explored the human mind and contradictions in words.

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Re: Tolkien and the Scottish Play

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sun Aug 19, 2018 3:03 pm

{{ Talking editing- Richard II the Hollow Crown production is quite heavily edited (which given it's all in rhyming couplets that must have been a nightmare to do!) but also one of my all time favourite Shakespeare productions with a mesmerising central performance by Ben Wishaw. And got a pretty impressive supporting cast too, among them Patrick Stewart, David Suchet, James Purefoy and David Bradley. }}

https://vimeo.com/channels/551513/58737725

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Re: Tolkien and the Scottish Play

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sun Aug 19, 2018 3:11 pm

Shakespeare spends more time letting his characters ruminate and expand their thoughts upon the action. That's something he gives us that more recent writers have progressively stripped away. I feel this is why people go back to him - he's explored the human mind and contradictions in words.- Halfy


{{ This scene from Richard II I feel perfectly illustrates that Halfy. The speech is informed by the action which has occurred, but there is this space to expand on nothing more than the philosophical ruminations of a deposed King }}


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Re: Tolkien and the Scottish Play

Post by Orwell on Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:14 pm

Pettytyrant101 wrote:{{I'd generally agree there Halfy though not always- the BBC Hollow Crown version of Henry V I felt gutted the play in its overzealous editing. Yet the same style of editing worked fine in the later Rose's plays.
Brannaghs Hamlet on the other-hand is barely edited at all interms of the prose, and its far from my favourite version.
Language in plays of the time was in general far more flowery that todays- for example in Hamlet we have the line - "the morn in russet mantle clad over yonder hill doth break'- which today could be less poetically rendered as "Sun's coming up."
His strengths for me lie in the complexity of characters, the invention of phrasing and language and the power of the narratives.


Reading that list of writers who disliked Shakespeare its hard to get over the impression they are just really snobby gits in a lot of cases, disliking Shakespeare's base roots and that he pulled himself up from common player, the 'upstart crow'!   }}}

‘What light through yonder window doth break’ (or similar) = ‘Oi! She’s not a bad bit of crumpet, over there, in that window, mate.’  Think of me as the Ozhobbitstani Peter Jackson.

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Re: Tolkien and the Scottish Play

Post by azriel on Wed Aug 22, 2018 1:34 pm

Laughing

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Re: Tolkien and the Scottish Play

Post by Forest Shepherd on Fri Aug 24, 2018 6:35 am

A fearsome creature, to be sure!

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