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Tolkien & Shakespeare

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  • Lord Satan Himself
    The first time I read The Lord of the Rings , I remember being struck by several Shakespearean elements, most notably the dialogue between the hobbits and
    Message 1 of 5 , Apr 6 2:36 PM
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      The first time I read 'The Lord of the Rings', I remember being struck by
      several Shakespearean elements, most notably the dialogue between the
      hobbits and Aragorn in Bree ("I look foul and feel fair...", versus "Fair is
      foul, and foul is fair" from Act I, scene one of 'Macbeth'), and the march
      of the ents and huorns at the battle of Helm's Deep/siege of Orthanc versus
      the witch's prophecy in Act IV that "Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be,
      until / Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill / Shall come against him."

      I find it curious that both examples parallel the same play. What thematic
      associations would 'Macbeth' bring to LOTR? This is my third reading of the
      trilogy, and I have found no other undeniably Shakespearean passages... Did
      Tolkien ever acknowledge such an influence?

      David Knight
      Florida International University
    • SusanPal@aol.com
      In a message dated 4/6/2002 2:28:41 PM Pacific Standard Time, ... There s also the not of woman born bit, which parallels (although less directly) the
      Message 2 of 5 , Apr 6 3:01 PM
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        In a message dated 4/6/2002 2:28:41 PM Pacific Standard Time,
        lordsatanhimself@... writes:


        > "Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be,
        > until / Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill / Shall come against him."
        >

        There's also the "not of woman born" bit, which parallels (although less
        directly) the prophecy that "no man shall kill" the Witchking -- who winds up
        being jointly killed by a woman and a hobbit.

        Susan


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Margaret Dean
        ... Tolkien said in a couple of places how disappointed he (like his son Michael) was with the use Shakespeare made of Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane, and
        Message 3 of 5 , Apr 6 4:15 PM
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          Lord Satan Himself wrote:
          >
          > The first time I read 'The Lord of the Rings', I remember being struck by
          > several Shakespearean elements, most notably the dialogue between the
          > hobbits and Aragorn in Bree ("I look foul and feel fair...", versus "Fair is
          > foul, and foul is fair" from Act I, scene one of 'Macbeth'), and the march
          > of the ents and huorns at the battle of Helm's Deep/siege of Orthanc versus
          > the witch's prophecy in Act IV that "Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be,
          > until / Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill / Shall come against him."
          >
          > I find it curious that both examples parallel the same play. What thematic
          > associations would 'Macbeth' bring to LOTR? This is my third reading of the
          > trilogy, and I have found no other undeniably Shakespearean passages... Did
          > Tolkien ever acknowledge such an influence?

          Tolkien said in a couple of places how disappointed he (like his
          son Michael) was with the use Shakespeare made of Birnam Wood
          coming to Dunsinane, and admitted pretty much in so many words
          that the siege of Helm's Deep was his way of doing it =right.=
          He also criticized the use of the witches in the same play; he
          thought in general that attempts to depict the supernatural on
          stage very rarely worked well.

          For a more thorough discussion of the sometimes subtle commentary
          on "Macbeth" that crops up here and there in The Lord of the
          Rings, try Chapter Six of Tom Shippey's THE ROAD TO
          MIDDLE-EARTH. (I don't recall just offhand if that segment was
          taken up into the more recent J.R.R. TOLKIEN: WRITER OF THE
          CENTURY, which to me read very much like a rewrite/rearrangement
          of the earlier book.)


          --Margaret Dean
          <margdean@...>
        • Vincent Ferre
          ... it is a very important question. _Macbeth_ is a very obvious source ; but : - I think that when Dol Amroth checks if Eowyn (who seems to be dead) is still
          Message 4 of 5 , Apr 7 1:27 AM
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            David Knight :
            >I have found no other undeniably Shakespearean passages...

            it is a very important question.
            _Macbeth_ is a very obvious source ; but :

            - I think that when Dol Amroth checks if Eowyn (who seems to be dead) is
            still alive and breathing, bringing his arm's armour close to her lips, is a
            rewriting of _King Lear_ ("bring me a mirror", etc.)

            - moreover, Sam's lament over Frodo's body (he has been wounded by Arachne)
            is a reminiscence of _Romeo & Juliet_ (the description of Frodo's lethargy,
            Sam's hesitation to commit suicide).

            - in their (bad) book on Tolkien, Giddings and Holland suggest a parallel
            between _Henry V_ and Helm ("Would it were day ! Will it never be morning ?"
            ; "we few, we happy few", etc.)

            may I say that I have written a page on this subject in my book on Tolkien ?
            I can send these lines to you, if you read French (it is not yet translated
            in English ; I hope it will be, one day !).

            Vincent

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          • Pauline J. Alama
            Tom Shippey s latest book comments on influence of Macbeth on Tolkien -- despite Tolkien s having once said he found the ending of Macbeth awfully
            Message 5 of 5 , Apr 8 5:18 AM
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              Tom Shippey's latest book comments on influence of Macbeth on Tolkien -- despite Tolkien's having once said he found the ending of Macbeth awfully disappointing because Birnam Wood didn't really march on Dunsinane, or something to that effect.

              Pauline J. Alama
              THE EYE OF NIGHT
              (Bantam Spectra, July 2002)


              --- On Sat 04/06, Lord Satan Himself wrote:
              > The first time I read 'The Lord of the Rings', I remember being struck by
              > several Shakespearean elements, most notably the dialogue between the
              > hobbits and Aragorn in Bree ("I look foul and feel fair...",
              > versus "Fair is
              > foul, and foul is fair" from Act I, scene one of 'Macbeth'), and the
              > march
              > of the ents and huorns at the battle of Helm's Deep/siege of Orthanc
              > versus
              > the witch's prophecy in Act IV that "Macbeth shall never vanquish'd
              > be,
              > until / Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill / Shall come against
              > him."
              >
              > I find it curious that both examples parallel the same play. What
              > thematic
              > associations would 'Macbeth' bring to LOTR? This is my third reading of
              > the
              > trilogy, and I have found no other undeniably Shakespearean passages...
              > Did
              > Tolkien ever acknowledge such an influence?
              >
              > David Knight
              > Florida International University
              >
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