The Shakespeare Project: Macbeth Act IV

Once again a post under The Shakespeare Project (read about that here), this time on Act IV of Macbeth, which is my current read. My posts on Acts I, II, and III are here, here and here. Please note that unlike the usual posts on this blog, my Shakespeare-related posts are not spoiler-free so read on only if this doesn’t bother you. 

In the last Act, Macbeth had done away with Banquo and his son Fleance in an attempt to remove what he perceived as threats to his power, since it was Banquo’s sons who were foretold to be kings after Macbeth and not his own. But instead of setting his mind at rest, this only serves to haunt him further as Banquo’s ghost appears to him at his banquet and he begins to babble and even let out more than he should. We also learn that the others haven’t quite been fooled by Macbeth’s pretenses, and are preparing to take action. Meanwhile Macbeth has planned to consult the weird sisters once again.

And this is how Act IV opens. The scene is once again in the witches’ realm–a cavern with a boiling cauldron, and thunder in the background. Before Macbeth arrives on the scene, the witches are at work, brewing a spell with the, one poem which (or at least lines of which) comes to mind on thinking of Macbeth: “Double double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble” .

Into the cauldron go an assortment of gruesome ingredients, from the typical eye of newt that we’ve come to expect in witches potions to even some mummified flesh and a couple of questionable (rather non-PC) ones. But once the charm is ready, Hecate once again appears on the scene and praises their efforts. Just as they sing around the cauldron, as Hecate has told them to do, Macbeth appears on the scene. Of course, his arrival has been sensed as the witches speak out another of Macbeth‘s (the play’s) iconic lines, “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes”.

Macbeth enters , and soon demands that his questions be answered no matter what. The witches agree but also ask him whether he wouldn’t rather have the answers from their “masters”. Macbeth agrees, and yet another ghastly ingredient is added to the potion. With this, an apparition–an armed head appears.

Macbeth Consulting the Vision of the Armed Head by Henri Fuseli (1793) via wikimedia commons

This apparition tells him to beware of Macduff, but as he tries to question it further, the witches stop him and another apparition, this time a bloody child is conjured up. This tells him that no one born of a woman will be able to kill him, and disappears. He then seems reassured that he won’t have to kill Macduff to keep himself safe but decides all the same to do so, to be doubly sure. The final apparition, a child with a crown on his head and a tree in his hand tells Macbeth that he will be undefeated till Birnham Wood marches to fight him at Dunsianane Hill. Macbeth now feels that there is no real threat to his power since such a thing could never happen–after all woods don’t move, do they? (But didn’t Hecate say something about tricking Macbeth into believing that there is no real threat. Hmm…) But Macbeth is still not satisfied and wishes to know whether Banquo’s sons will reign. But the witches stop him from going further. Yet, he is shown a vision of eight kings, all of whom seem to be Banquo’s descendants.

The witches confirm that this is true and vanish, while Macbeth calls to whoever is outside. Lennox appears in response, and claims that he hasn’t seen the weird sisters. He however, reports to Macbeth that Macduff has fled to England. Macbeth now plots to seize Macduff’s castle and have his wife and children killed.

John L Prtichard as Macduff by Richard James Lane, printed by Jeremie Graf, published by John Mitchell, after Alfred Edward Chalon, hand-coloured lithograph, published 17 December 1838, via wikimedia commons

And so, in the second scene, we find ourselves in a completely different setting, Macduff’s castle. Here a conversation is taking place between Lady Macduff and Ross, and she asks him what Macduff has done that has made him flee the country, remarking that even if he isn’t a traitor his leaving the country has made him look like one. She is, and rightly so, angry that he has left the country, leaving his wife and children behind for he has put them in danger, while he himself is away safe. Ross tries to convince her that her husband is wise and noble, and is doing what is required, but the reader can’t help but agree with her–Macduff may well have done what he thought right, but knowing Macbeth, he should have ensured that his family was safe too.

Macduff by Dorothy Carleton Smyth [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ross also takes his leave, as Lady Macduff continues to lament her and her son’s situation. She tells her son that his father is “dead” which is what happens to traitors. The boy doesn’t believe that his father is dead and at the same time observing that there are more traitors than honest men in the world, and they would be fools to have the honest men hang them. Meanwhile a messenger enters to warn them of the danger on the way, but he is too late as the murderers arrive, the first killing her son and the second following her off stage, as she tries to escape.

In the final scene of this Act, we find ourselves in yet another setting, in England in fact, where Malcolm and Macduff are having a conversation. They are of course discussing Macbeth, and Malcolm is unsure whether Macduff is in earnest or merely trying to offer him as a “lamb”. He even questions why Macduff has left his poor wife and children there if he really does oppose Macbeth. Macduff merely laments the fact that good people are afraid to face Macbeth, who will end up enjoying all he stole. Malcolm however tries to say that Macbeth, despite all his evil is better as King than he would be for he has many flaws. Macduff continues to try to convince him but in vain, or so it seems. But it turns out that Malcolm was only testing his integrity; he really does want to serve his country, and in fact informs Macduff that there are ten thousand soldiers ready for battle.

Meanwhile Ross arrives and speaks of how Scotland is no longer the land that they knew, with no happiness, only sorrow. He informs Malcolm that there are many who want to rebel; that Macbeth’s army is in preparation; and that his presence would give the rebels inspiration. Before this Macduff has inquired about his family and Malcolm simply said that they were at peace; but now he passes on the news that the castle was attacked and everyone, Macduff’s wife, children, and all the servants killed. Macduff is naturally horror-struck and hurt, but one can’t help but wonder why he didn’t consider the possibility knowing how Macbeth was in the first place. The others give him courage and they prepare for battle.

In this Act, I felt the scene with the witches was once again my favourite while the situation with Lady Macduff and her children gave one a lot to think about. I loved the atmosphere of the entire scene with the witches, the thunder, the bubbling cauldron with the quintessential witch-y ingredients, bloody and frightening apparitions and more prophecies. (And I still wonder how they did the… special effects in Shakespeare’s day). Once again their prophecies have ensured that Macbeth wreaks more havoc, this time for Macduff’s family, though he really had no reason to this time, since their prophecy was that he was safe. The only conclusion we can draw is that Macbeth has crossed the point of no return with the first murder (murders, in fact, since he also did away with the guards), and now nothing will stop him from carrying on.

As far as poor Lady Macduff was concerned, one can’t help but feel for her since her husband, noble though his motives may be, had essentially left her helpless and with no protection whatsoever. That too in the time in which they were living. And Ross too did nothing to take her to safety. Macduff to my mind didn’t deserve the slightest pity on this account, because he should have foreseen it or something like it. Even if he loved his country more, I don’t think this excused what he did. After all, did he not owe anything to his wife and children?

Anyway, for Macbeth, his doom is imminent. Act V will of course tell us how. Let’s see how the witches prophecies come true.

What did you thing of this segment? Did you enjoy the scene with the witches as much as I did? Looking forward to reading your thoughts.

Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster UK for a review copy of this book.

This is a book that so many have talked about on blogs and booktube, especially the latter that what I say/write is bound to be somewhat repetitive but I shall do a review as I do usually all the same. For those who didn’t know already, this book is about Evelyn Hugo, a successful Hollywood star in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s who has gone through ups and down in her career, even won an Oscar, and has also had a personal life that has held the public’s attention, perhaps even more so than her film career, specifically the fact that she was married seven times. In the book, she seeks out Monique Grant, a young writer/journalist with a magazine Vivant, one somewhere at the bottom of the ladder, and agrees to tell her and only her the whole story of her life. Needless to say those at Vivant and Monique herself are shocked, but Evelyn won’t reveal the reason till she is ready to. And so Evelyn begins telling Monique her tale, from humble beginnings, in fact a rather precarious existence, to stardom, the “bold” decisions she took in her life and career, and of course, how she came to meet and marry each of her seven husbands. Alongside we also learn about Monique and her life, and her interactions with Evelyn certainly impact on how she handles the situations that she has to confront. The story is told in both their “voices”, interspersed with reports/articles from magazines/gossip columns, and blogs.   

This book turned out quite different from what I expected, though honestly I am not really sure if I went into it with any specific expectations.  Anyway, Evelyn’s story is of one who will do all it takes, anything it takes to achieve her dreams, and she is not one who regrets the decisions she makes. But while one may achieve the glamour, the fame, and the power, does it necessarily translate to happiness—no it doesn’t. And what Evelyn’s story also shows us is that all of this doesn’t put us above or take us away from the issues that any human being may have to face, and it may perhaps be harder in that position to deal with them than for an “ordinary” human being. Hollywood, the movies, are a place of illusion making, something I thought came through well in Evelyn Waugh’s The Loving Spirit. And it does much more so in this book, the illusions that need to be created and maintained, and the price that they come at—which makes you wonder why people go after them at all, when none of it, the fame or money are really worth it in the end. Still, Evelyn’s story—the struggles she had to undergo, not so much in her career though it had its share too, but to find personal happiness made for very interesting reading, and definitely did have me hooked on. Yet, I felt the bigger “hook” for me in this book was the “mystery” element of why she had chosen Monique to reveal her story to—that was what really kept me reading. Another aspect I enjoyed in the book was the clippings from gossip columns/papers and blogs that were scattered between the chapters—the blog with its comments, and especially the writing style in the older columns—I thought these were very nicely done. Overall, this was a very good read for me but I didn’t find that I loved it quite to the extent that some others have—in other words a 4/4.25 stars but not a full five but only because it didn’t have come completely enamoured.

Some reviews of the book from bloggers I follow: From Ova on Excuse my Reading here and Bibliobeth here

Have you read this one yet? What did you think of it? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

#TheSevenHusbandsOfEvelynHugo #NetGalley

Shelf Control #27: The Genius of Dogs

The last Wednesday of the year (2018 has certainly flown past) and time for Shelf Control again. Shelf Control (as I’m sure you know if you’ve been reading these posts) is a feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. What is Shelf Control all about? Well, all about the books on your TBR and celebrating them. All you do to participate is pick a book from your TBR and write a post about it.

This week’s book, as you can see from the picture (as always), is a non-fiction title The Genius of Dogs by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods.

What this book is all about: Dogs, of course!!! The book goes into questions of whether there are any specific breeds that can be dubbed the cleverest, and who should be boss when it comes to your dog, and many others. The author Dr Brian Hare shares insights from his own research on dogs and how one can better one’s relationship with one’s dog. The book is divided into three sections, the first on Hare’s own dog (and I’m assuming what he learnt about dogs from him), the second on “Dog Smarts”, and the last “Your Dog”. The book also discusses topics like domestication, and how it was probably dogs that domesticated themselves more than humans domesticating them.

My edition and when I got it: I am not adding a where I got it in this section since this was once again ordered online. I have a paperback again, published in 2013 by One Word Publications. The edition has 367 pages. And as to when I got it, it was may be around six months (ish) ago.

Why I want to read it: For starters, because I love dogs (almost all animals, really) and always love to learn more about them. But besides that, a couple of years ago, probably in 2016, I’d taken a MOOC called Dog Emotion and Cognition on coursera which was based off of this book, and since they had a lot of interesting things to say, I thought the book would be a good place to explore the themes further. In the course, we “met” some very bright dogs who could identify hundreds of toys by name, and also foxes who were as domestic as dogs. These I think appear in the book as well. The course also introduced us to different games that one can play with one’s dog (and even submit the results to be included in their research programme).

A little about the authors: The authors are a husband and wife team who both work with animals, Brian Hare as Associate Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University and Vanessa Wood as journalist and researcher. Both are associated with the Duke Canine Cognition Center, which has in fact been founded by Hare.

Anyway, before this begins to sound like an advert for the course/book (it isn’t meant to be, really, just that I found one via the other), I’d better stop.

Have you read this one/taken the course? What did you think of it? Any other books on dogs (or any animal) that you’d like to recommend. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and recommendations!

Christmas for Everyone

Merry Christmas to everyone!!!

I haven’t written a poetry-based post for a bit, and had this one in mind for a while, which is rather “perfect” for the day and the season. I especially love the sentiment that it conveys. The poem is “Eddi’s Service” by Rudyard Kipling and appears in his book Rewards and Fairies (1910), which is the sequel to Puck of Pook’s Hill. It is set in A.D. 687.

The poem is about “Eddi, priest of St Wilfrid“, in a chapel at Manhood’s End. It is Christmas eve, and Eddi organises a midnight service for all that care to attend. But it is stormy night, and no one appears for the mass, although Eddi rings the bell. However, Eddi is neither disheartened not deterred.

“Wicked weather for walking,”

Said Eddi of Manhood End

But I must go on with the service

For such as care to attend.”

And so he begins the service by lighting the altar candles. Just as he is doing this, an old marsh donkey arrives, “Bold as a guest invited“, and as the storm gets stronger, water beating at the windows and splashing on the floor, another guest arrives, this time “a wet, yoke-weary bullock“.


Eddi observes his guests and thinks:

“How do I know what is greatest,

How do I know what is least?

This is my Father’s business,”

With this sentiment, Eddi proceeds with the service, narrating the story of Christ–of Bethlehem and the rider who rode to Jerusalem. His “audience” listens patiently, and does not stir, and only when the gale blows away, and day breaks, they leave the chapel together.

The Saxons, who have been keeping Christmas, but haven’t attended the mass, mock Eddi, but his belief still strong, he says,

“I dare not shut His chapel,

On such as care to attend.”

As I wrote already, I loved the sentiment that is in this poem, that all creatures great or small are the same in the creator’s eyes, or at least that we (humans) cannot know who “greater” or “lesser”, who is more “important” and who is not, and so our duty is to treat them all the same. At least, that’s a more general message that I feel we can take away from this, and one that is relevant to us as much today, since so many are rather callous when it comes to our fellow living creatures who are not the same as us. After all, they too are on this earth, and equally entitled to be here. If we (humans) consider ourselves so very superior to these “animals”, doesn’t it fall to us to make space for them, to let them live, rather than demonstrate our mastery over them or our disdain for them as being “lesser” creatures?

Eddi I think did get the point, and I hope more and more of us do too!

Find a little about the “real” St Wilfrid and his chapel, and Eddi here, and another post on this poem, here.

Have you read this poem before? What are your thoughts? Looking forward to hearing them!!!

Images: both from pexels.

Bookquotes: Quotes from Books (36)

“The smell of that buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one’s ramble was over, and slippered feet were propped on the fender; of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries. “

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows (1908)

Shelf Control #26: Children of Blood and Bone

Shelf Control time again! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. It celebrates the books waiting to be read on your shelf. To participate in this feature, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it, linking back to Lisa’s blog.

This week my pick , as you can see from the cover picture above, is a very popular read this year, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. This is a book with so much hype around it that I was a little apprehensive picking it up, but it sounded pretty interesting and I have also been reading a lot of positive feedback so I’m looking forward to giving it a try.

What it’s all about: This is the first book in the Orisha Trilogy, and tells the story of Zelie who is a diviner, one of magical blood, who resembles her mother but cannot be a maji (or one possessing magic) like her for her mother and others like her have been killed and all magic destroyed. But she finds a chance at striking back at the ruthless monarch responsible for this, and bringing back magic. In this quest, she is helped by a rogue princess, and must outwit the crown prince, who is also bent on destroying all magic.

When and Where I got it: Very recently–I ordered a copy online and it arrived I think last week. My copy is a paperback edition by Pan Macmillan.

Why I want to read it: Not so much because of the hype or even because it is a fantasy, though I do enjoy fantasies but more so because this book is supposed to have elements of West African mythology, and this is something (in fact any African mythology, other than Egyptian) I really know nothing about, so I thought this would be an interesting way to get a peek into that. [This was also the case for me with Japanese mythology which I got a little idea of from Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean (review here) and hope to get some more of from Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa.] And of course, the cover–another very striking one this year!

A Little About the Author: Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American writer and creative writing coach. In this, her debut book, she has taken inspiration from West African mythology, the Black Lives Matter movement, and also fantasy fiction like Avatar: The Last Airbender and Harry Potter.

Have you read this one yet? Or do you plan do? If you have, what did you think of it? Did it live up to all the hype or did it not meet your expectations? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Review: Ganga: The Constant Goddess by Anuja Chandramouli

My thanks to the author Anuja Chandramouli and Rupa Publishing Co Ltd for a review copy of this book.

The river Ganges or Ganga is of course, the most sacred river in India, and in mythology she is also a goddess, who lived in the heavens but came to earth after a sage–king, Bhagirath, undertook a rigorous penance. This is the story of Ganga the goddess, taking us through many episodes in her life, from her days as a young girl living in the home of her loving parents, the mountain god Himavan and his wife Mena, and with her sister Parvati, Shiva’s consort, with whom she shares a difficult relationship, to the time that she occupies an important role in the events or story that we know as the Mahabharata. We learn a little about her life, her loves, her children, her friendship with Saraswati, Brahma’s consort, and how it is she who must console and rejuvenate whenever there is pain and tumult in the heavens or on earth. In the author’s interpretation, Ganga the goddess is quite literally a personification of the river—she is spirited and free, going and doing as she likes and refusing to be tied down in any way, by any other mortal or immortal, by custom or patriarchy. And in line with that personality, she is outspoken, questions all that is unjust about society, challenges “norms” imposed on women, who, whether god or mortal, are always blamed (and must bear the brunt) for all that goes wrong, no matter whose fault. But she is also magnanimous, ready to forgive every sin, to bring solace to those without any comfort (“And forever more, I will serve as a conduit for trapped souls, taking them where they must go, and I will never turn away from the cries of my children, be they ever so wicked.”), and ever ready to do her duty even when she has been wronged.

While I was familiar with many of the stories told in this book (though not all, by any means), a couple of them (Yami’s story from Yama’s Lieutenant and Kartikeya’s from her book on him) from the author’s earlier books, this was the first time I read of all of these events from Ganga’s point of view, and it certainly made the flow of events and the connections between different events far clearer (for instance, that her story with Shantanu and her children was connected with her story with Mahabisha and that of the curse on the Asthavasus, eight celestial beings, especially Prabhasa), and I enjoyed reading it. I hadn’t known that Ganga is simply another face of Shakti and so in that way too, connected with Parvati. I also liked the author’s interpretation of Ganga’s character, and one can well see her thought process and views being as they are, being a manifestation of the river. The cover art also captures this quite perfectly, Ganga emerging from the waters, a woman, and yet part of the waters.

It was also interesting to see how the gods/immortals aren’t very much different from human beings, with the same failings and flaws, and the same prejudices that us humans have. (Kind of makes you wonder why they are gods, then?—especially Indra, whose behaviour I’m glad the author questions. I still remain unconvinced why he is fit to be the King of the gods.) But because of this, the author is able to comment on some of the ills that have been ever prevalent in our world, and still continue—disrespecting women and our rivers (who are perhaps alike in more than one way, nurturing, and caring for everyone, and not getting their due despite all they give). I enjoyed the author’s writing, particularly her descriptions which I think are her greatest strength—she is able conjure up these really vivid images which enable the reader to visualise (even hear and smell) them as he/she reads. For instance, “The silvery river wound its way sensuously through the peaks, glistening and lustrous as a string of pearls against the blackness of the rocky terrain”; and “The first wave of the waters splashed with a merry tinkle, released from her fingertips, foaming and bubbling around her feet, deliciously cold and sweet to taste. Narrow streams that trickled down the mountainside like little children at play, laughing and caterwauling as they skipped, hopped, pranced and leapfrogged their way across the bumpy terrain, sure as mountain goats.” But of course (and this is something I’ve brought up in my reviews of her earlier books too) when these descriptions are of grislier aspects—war, and torture, and destruction—this does tend to get a touch too gruesome for my liking. Another small complaint was with some of the dialogue which felt to me somewhat “modern” sounding—perhaps it’s just me but when I’m reading historical or mythological fiction, I expect the language too to sound somewhat more appropriate to the times. But overall this was once again an interesting read for me!

Bookquotes: Quotes from Books (35)

“Poirot,” I said. “I have been thinking.”
“An admirable exercise my friend. Continue it.”

Agatha Christie, Peril at End House (1932)

Image source: Agatha Christie plaque -Torre Abbey.jpg: Violetrigaderivative work: F l a n k e r [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

#AgathaChristie #humour #Wodehousian

Review: Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce

My thanks to Harper Collins UK and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.

Emperor Mage is the third of Tamora Pierce’s Immortals Quartet. It opens with Daine, Numair, Alanna, and other nobles arriving in Carthak in their ship, where the older group, including Numair who has been given a pardon by his sworn enemy, Emperor Orzone of Carthak, and the titular Emperor Mage, for peace talks while Daine has been sent to cure Orzone’s birds (he is a bird lover) who are suffering a mysterious illness. Once there, they are welcomed with great pomp and ostentatious entertainments and feasts. But all is not well in more than one way. The peace talks are not going as planned. And the Badger god has warned Daine, just as they reach that the gods are displeased with Orzone and something bad is in store for Carthak. When there, more than one bad omen is observed. Daine however, wants to stay on to help the birds, and she does so, also befriending Orzone’s heir Kaddar who turns out very different from what Daine thought he would be. They also meet Numair’s old teacher and friend, Lindhall Reed. Daine also begins to discover new and unexpected dimensions to her powers, which have some very interesting results, while also using what she learnt in the previous instalment, her shape-shifting powers. Not only that the patron goddess of Carthak seems to want something from her as well. Daine also learns or at least gets a hint of the secrets of her own history.

This was once again an enjoyable instalment, and very different from the previous one. Carthak is a rich place where much is attached to ceremony and ostentation, and I enjoyed reading the descriptions of everything, especially the costumes of the King, Kaddar, and the nobles—the feasts too but one wouldn’t really want to eat any of what was served. This book also,in addition to animals, has dinosaur fossils, with whom Daine ends up having some interesting adventures, but of course, it was Daine’s connection with animals(live ones) which remained my favourite element of the story. The adventure elements of the story were also fun, with Daine as always having to enlist the help of her friends to defeat the enemy. The last part of the book where they actually have to take action, Daine’s temper also having got the better of her,was pretty exciting to watch unfold. As she had begun to discover in the last book, even the immortals she considered evil are not really so—in fact she might even find a friend in them—something that can as well hold true in the real world. Another bit of our current world (in fact, the world at any time)that is in the book even if it may be fantasy, is the deception and betrayal that is often practiced against one another, at the individual level and even as units/groups; and of course that of people letting power get to their heads and its inevitable results. This was another entry in the series that I enjoyed, though so far I think, the second book is my favourite. With how this book ended though, I wonder what turn in terms of plot the next (and last) book in the series will take? Four and a half stars.