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Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

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cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

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cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

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cover of the book How Novels Think

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

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cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

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cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Macbeth Murder Mystery

Posted by John Holbo on 06/19/07 at 08:57 PM

While we are on the subject of digging up the roots of Macbeth too deeply, for the wrong sort of ‘natural’ meaning, I cannot omit quoting Thurber’s classic, “The Macbeth Murder Mystery":

... “In the first place, I don’t think for a moment that Macbeth did it.” I looked at her blankly. “Did what?” I asked. “I don’t think for a moment that he killed the King,” she said. “I don’t think the Macbeth woman was mixed up in it, either. You suspect them the most, of course, but those are the ones that are never guilty - or shouldn’t be, anyway.” “I’m ‘afraid,” I began, “that I - “ “But don’t you see?” said the American lady. “It would spoil everything if you could figure out right away who did it. Shakespeare was too smart for that. I’ve read that people never have figured out ‘Hamlet,’ so it isn’t likely Shakespeare would have made ‘Macbeth’ as simple as it seems.” I thought this over while I filled my pipe. “Who do you suspect?” I asked, suddenly. “Macduff,” she said, promptly. “Good God!” I whispered, softly.

“Oh Macduff did it, all right,” said the murder specialist. Hercule Poirot would have got him easily.” “How did you figure it out?” I demanded. “Well,” she said, “I didn’t right away. At first I suspected Banquo. And then, of course, he was the second person killed. That was good right in there, that part. The person you suspect of the first murder should always be the second victim.” “Is that so?” I murmured. “Oh, yes,” said my informant. “They have to keep surprising you. Well, after the second murder I didn’t know who the killer was for a while.” “How about Malcolm and Donalbain, the King’s sons?” I asked. “As I remember it, they fled right after the first murder. That looks suspicious.” “Too suspicious,” said the American lady. “Much too suspicious. When they flee, they’re never guilty. You can count on that.” “I believe,” I said, “I’ll have a brandy,” and I summoned the waiter. My companion leaned toward me, her eyes bright, her teacup quivering. “Do you know who discovered Duncan’s body?” she demanded. I said I was sorry, but I had forgotten. “Macduff discovers it,” she said, slipping into the historical present. “Then he comes running downstairs and shouts, ‘Confusion has broke open the Lord’s anointed temple’ and ‘Sacrilegious murder has made his masterpiece’ and on and on like that.” The good lady tapped me on the knee. “All that stuff was rehearsed,” she said. “You wouldn’t say a lot of stuff like that, offhand, would you-if you had found a body?” She fixed me with a glittering eye. “I-” I began. “You’re right!” she said. “You wouldn’t! Unless you had practiced it in advance. ‘My God, there’s a body in here!’ is what an innocent man would say.” She sat back with a confident glare.


Comments

My own theory is that Lady Macbeth was right, but had the misfortune of being burdened with a lily-livered husband. If you look historically at the founding of dynasties, there’s an awful lot of treachery, usurpation, regicide, parricide, fratricide, etc. involved. Sometimes it’s openly acknowledged, and sometimes it can only be deduced. (Whatever happened to Charlemagne’s brother Carloman, with whom he initially shared France? Why did Carloman’s widow flee to Venice for protection?)

Plutarch:

Neither Romulus nor Theseus could could avoid the mischief of quarrel and contention with their friends, nor the reproach of staining themselves with the blood of their nearest kinsmen.

Plutarch

By John Emerson on 06/20/07 at 09:23 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I was worried for a minute there that you were going to say that analytic philosophy killed Duncan. (Whew.)

By John Holbo on 06/20/07 at 09:37 AM | Permanent link to this comment

And here I thought this was going to be a tout for The Hermeneutics of Suspicion For Beginners, forthcoming, or perhaps not ... maybe it is ... I haven’t yet seen The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Analytic Philosophy either.

By nnyhav on 06/20/07 at 11:16 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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