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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lady Macbeth's Daughter by Lisa Klein

This tale, inspired from Shakespeare’s MacBeth, is remarkable enough to have drawn in my husband, a Shakespeare fan. To my surprise, he read it to the end.

It’s told at times from the point of view of MacBeth’s wife and generally from the point-of-view of her daughter, Albia. Albia was born with a lame foot, and MacBeth condemned her to death. Instead of this fate, she is whisked away by Macbeth’s lady-in-waiting, and raised by the Wyrd sisters (the witches from Macbeth.)

Later, she is adopted as a foster daughter to Banquo when he loses his own daughter. She falls for his son, Fleance, and in the end both seek revenge on Macbeth for his foul deeds.

It’s a remarkable re-take on Shakespeare. It is quite its own story while in keeping with the general details of Macbeth. I found it an engaging perspective with reservation for the tween audience.

I’d be cautious about handing it to a tween. One of Macbeth’s foul deeds is an attempted rape of his own daughter. The details were not lurid, and he was not successful. He also was brought up short by the realization of what he was doing as he did not know at that point that his daughter had lived, let alone that his would-be victim was related. It’s intense and so is the young age and arranged marriage of Lady Macbeth at the beginning.

The witches, no surprise, engage in herbology mixed with pagan practices and invocations to pagan gods.

The book reads through a modern feminist lens and the feminist perspective reminds me of paganism itself.

That is:
parts of it hold some truth:

…women should not be the possession of men
…you can prophesy strife and trouble for they are certain, but the other prophesies are double-talk meant to twist Macbeth’s reason not foretell the future.

some parts miss the mark:

…the strong woman character picks up arms and learns to fight like a man (I don’t mind the sword-training, but I object to the hint that it somehow balances the inequalities women experienced. Recognition of being made in the image of God is what slowly righted the balance. That didn’t come from the barbarian or pagan culture.)

some parts are a dangerous mix with the occult presented as good or neutral:

invoking the gods with spells and potions; using the “magic” of trees to promote healing, for example

I thought the rehabilitation of Lady Macbeth as a bit of a victim of arranged marriage at a young age, and the witches’ rehabilitation as pro-life, spritual ladies interesting but not real plausible. Catherine of Aragon, for example, I think had a better case than Lady Macbeth for murder, but she managed to remain noble up to her beheading. If the novel were non-fiction, the pro-life role would land firmly where it did historically: with the Christian minority.

Lady Macbeth’s portrayal disturbed me when she gave birth to a son whom she never bonded with or loved and subsequently to a daughter whom she loved deeply and lost. I thought it in keeping with a negative slant on the patriarchal system that was a bit exaggerated, although not much by today's standards.

Albia’s friend, Colum’s effort to make sense of the term, justice reflects his non-Christian upbringing. He tries to define it separate from a God who is Justice and tries this out: “ Justice comes from wanting what is good. Not for yourself alone but for others.” I think this limps toward Truth but falls short because it defines good apart from God and His revelation. Time and again, such disconnect leads to certain groups excluded from this field of justice….good intentions nonwithstanding.

I liked it a bit better for an adult and educated audience than younger tweens…


See: Catechism of the Catholic Church Justice: 1807


Psmith,  November 10, 2011 at 3:30 PM  

Hey, thanks for reviewing this!

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