Monthly Archives: October 2021

Pic of the Day

Round About the Cauldron Go

Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I
[Round about the cauldron go]
By William Shakespeare

The three witches, casting a spell

Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights hast thirty one
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.

      Double, double toil and trouble;
      Fire burn and cauldron bubble.   

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,   

Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.   

      Double, double toil and trouble;
      Fire burn and cauldron bubble.  

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,

Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse,
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.

      Double, double toil and trouble;
      Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

The Three Witches, also known as the Weird Sisters or Wayward Sisters, are characters in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. They have always been one of my favorite parts of the play. I used to love teaching Macbeth and reading the witches’ parts aloud. The witches are one of the most striking and memorable aspects of Macbeth. However, many of the witch scenes in the play were most likely not written by Shakespeare at all. They were taken from another play, by Thomas Middleton, and added to Macbeth by Shakespeare’s acting company after he had died. They draw heavily on the conventional theatrical stereotypes of Shakespeare’s time, giving us witches that are sometimes scary, sometimes silly, which is how they’ve been played since then, although often directors try to make them as frightening as possible.

Shakespeare’s historical source for the events of the play, Holinshed’s Chronicles, says that the witches who appeared to Macbeth and Banquo looked like “creatures of elder world,” and that many people thought they were “the goddesses of destiny.” This is in keeping with the way the witches refer to themselves in their dialogue: they call themselves “the weïrd sisters,” where “weïrd” comes from the Old English term wyrd, meaning “fate” or “destiny.” And the primary power that the witches have in the play is indeed the ability to prophesy about what will happen in the future.

Shakespeare’s Macbeth was written not long after King James VI of Scotland became James I of England in 1603, and James’ interest in the subject of witchcraft undoubtedly influenced the play. Of all the plays that Shakespeare wrote during the reign of James I, who was patron of Shakespeare’s acting company, Macbeth most clearly reflects the playwright’s relationship with his sovereign. Scottish history and legend contain a real life King Duncan, who was really murdered by Macbeth (the real Macbeth apparently was a decent king— that wouldn’t have really worked for Shakespeare’s play though). Banquo, too, was apparently a real figure. King James claimed descendance through him, so in Macbeth, when the Weird Sisters tell Banquo that “thou shalt get [beget] kings, though thou be none,” Shakespeare was really trying to help legitimize James’s place on the Scottish throne— he was saying that Banquo’s descendants deserve to be king, therefore James has a rightful claim to the throne.

Macbeth contains many supernatural elements, including the witches. James I was an avid scholar of all things strange, weird, and superstitious. In 1597, the king published a book called Daemonologie; it was a study of witchcraft, necromancy, demons, werewolves, vampires, and all sorts of other spooky things. In fact, much of the witchcraft in Macbeth was actually taken directly from Daemonologie, probably as a form of flattery to the king himself. It goes further than that, though. Witchcraft seems to have been a real obsession of James, as he was heavily involved in a series of witch trials in 1590. James had become convinced of the danger of witchcraft when he sailed to Copenhagen in 1590 to marry Princess Anne, sister of the King of Denmark. During their return to Scotland, they experienced terrible storms and had to shelter in Norway for several weeks before continuing. The admiral of the escorting Danish fleet blamed the storm on witches. Several nobles of the Scottish court were implicated, and soon more than a hundred suspected witches in North Berwick in Scotland were arrested. Supposedly, James believed a coven of witches were trying to personally attack him, which was high treason, so James had them tracked down, forced them to confess to witchcraft, tortured them, and had them burned at the stake. So it’s no wonder that the witches in Macbeth are so demented and evil! Shakespeare wanted to make it clear that he was on the king’s side in the whole witch debacle. 

This is why I love the witches in Macbeth. There is so much history and intrigue in the play, though exaggerated and twisted to fit the purposes of Shakespeare. So remember, when your standing around your cauldron this Halloween:

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Pic of the Day

Boosted 💉

Yesterday, I got my Pfizer booster for the COVID vaccine. I was eligible because of my diabetes but also because universities are considered high risk work places. As of last night, I only had a sore arm. I barely felt the shot itself, but it was definitely painful afterwards. I basically did very little over the weekend. I ran some errands yesterday and watched the Alabama vs. Tennessee game Saturday night.

I roasted a chicken for dinner. Besides that, I watched the new Dune movie staring Timothée Chalamet that was just released in the U.S.; it’s streaming on HBO Max. I’ve been looking forward to its release for over a year when first saw the trailer. I have to say, it was far superior to the original 1984 film. What I did not realize was that this was Part One. So now, I have to wait God knows how long for the sequel, which doesn’t even have a script yet.

Pic of the Day

A Soft Answer Turns Away Wrath 

I’m going to do a different post than I usually do on Sundays because I want to discuss some of the sayings in Proverbs 15. I will not go through all 33 pieces of advice given in this chapter, but many of them hold some good advice. Proverbs 15 is a long string of short expressions of commonsense wisdom, aka “proverbs” which are said to be written by King Solomon and gathered in the Book of Proverbs. Solomon begins (Proverbs 15:1–5) with several statements commending self-control. Cautious, gentle answers not only prevent additional strife, but they also reduce whatever tension already exists. A wise person carefully chooses their response, rather than babbling out whatever comes to mind. Closely connected to this is the need to humbly accept correction. 

Next (Proverbs 15:6–12) are several contrasts. These compare the righteous with the wicked, using the parallel ideas of those who are wise and those who are foolish. These proverbs echo themes such as the life-giving nature of godly wisdom, the disastrous consequences of sin, the importance of humility, and the value of seeking advice. 

A soft answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.

When somebody is trying to get a rise out of us, we far too often fall right into their trap especially when we react with a quick temper, with violence, or with an angry outburst. A harsh word in response to a person who likes to pick fights only stirs up anger by adding fuel to the fire. We are better off giving a gentle answer to show that a person is better off picking a fight with somebody else who will make a better sparring partner. Other times, we are best to just walk away or say nothing.

The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly,
But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.

Part of wisdom is trying to convince and reason with others to show them what is the best way. Bad people are blinded toward the truth of morality and virtue, and there are times to reason with them to show them their ignorance and foolishness. They need to see that what they are saying and how harmful it is to us all. We have seen this so much during the pandemic as people have followed political cruelty and greed all in the name of “personal freedom.” If personal freedom comes at the cost of the good of humankind, then they do not deserve personal freedom. They are a menace to the public good. Wisdom comes as people come to see the truth, not those who blindly follow other fools.

The lips of the wise disperse (spread) knowledge,
But the heart of the fool does not 
do so.

Wise people want others to understand wisdom because they recognize that its value is far beyond anything this world has to offer. They want others to have the joy and hope that they have. They want to teach others the ways of goodness and light. Fools could care less about following truth about God and wisdom. Ignorant and selfish people delight in their hatefulness, they could care less about the welfare of others. Fools are unable to offer others the help of valuable knowledge and insight even if they wanted to because they do not know wisdom in Christ, whether they claim to or not.

10 Harsh discipline is for him who forsakes the way,
And he who hates correction will die.

Those who hear the truth of the gospel and accept it and follow it will find their reward, yet those who reject it will find only punishment. Those who do not respond in faith and humility to the revelation of God to man (God has revealed Himself through the conscience (Romans 1:32), through Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17), through Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2), and through the creation (Psalm 19:1-2Romans 1:18-21)) will pay, for they have made a mockery of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Those who are unwilling to respond to the truth when it hits them squarely in the face will suffer and pay the penalty. On the other hand, those who seek the truth and practice it will find the Light in Christ (John 3:21).

12 A scoffer does not love one who corrects him,
Nor will he go to the wise.

The fool scoffs at truth and hates to be confronted with correction. He is not going to seek out wisdom from the Bible or from people who could share with him wisdom. He enjoys his folly and error and the company of other scoffers and mockers of truth. We see this far too often in American politics (i.e., Republicans), hate groups, and religious leaders who preach only hate and fear.

13 A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance (face),
But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.

It is possible to force a smile even when the heart is sorrowful, but a joyful heart leads to a true, full, and genuinely happy and uplifted countenance (Genesis 4:7). A sad heart breaks the spirit by draining us of energy, hope, and passion. There is a time to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep so that they can be comforted and encouraged to continue. It is not wrong to be sad as a Christian or to feel discouraged at times. It is how we respond when we are in the valleys of life that counts. We need to remember that Jesus traverses the valleys of death with us and comforts us with His presence (Psalm 23:4-6). It is by His strength that we can endure, His mercies are new every morning, His faithfulness is great (Lamentations 3:22-25), He exceeds beyond all that we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), and He is an expert at turning sorrow into gladness and weeping into joy (Esther 9:22).

I will continue my discussion of Proverbs 15 next week as we look at more of the wisdom of Solomon.

Pic of the Day

Moment of Zen: “Safe/Haven”

Labeled “Young Man Posing for Polaroid, 1959,” this photograph from the Cherry Grove Archives Collection and a gift of Don Steeple is part of the New York Historical Society’s exhibit “Safe/Haven,” showcasing photographs of LGBTQ people in Cherry Grove, New York, a popular vacation getaway for the community in the mid-century.

You can read more about this exhibition here and here.

Curator Confidential: Safe/Haven: Gay Life in 1950s Cherry Grove

Pic of the Day

Long Day

Today is going to be a long day. While I won’t go into work until 9:30 am (I am usually there by 7:30 am), I have to be at work until 8:30 or 9 pm. The Board of Trustees is having a dinner at the museum tonight and somebody from the museum staff has to be there. I’ve mentioned that before. However, when I mentioned it before, I had not planned on going into work until noon or so. Then, I found out that I was supposed to co-teach a class at 11 am, so, I was planning to show up just before 11 to teach the class. It would have still been a long day, but just an extra hour at the office. After I left work, my boss texted me to say that he’d been meaning to tell me that he couldn’t help me teach the class (he has always helped with this class because it’s one of the [few] things he knows more about than me). Apparently, he is being interviewed by one of the television stations from 10 am to noon, but he’d leave me talking points to get me through the class. I said, “Fine. I’ll be there at 10:30 to review the materials and get set up before the class at 11.” I also told him that if they send the cute gay reporter from this station, he’d better introduce me. He then texts me back to say, “The class is at 10 am.” What the hell? He’d put 11 am on my calendar, but apparently, that was a mistake. Do you see the type of dumbassery I deal with on a daily basis? So now, I have to be at work not at noon, not at 11, not at 10:30, but I have to now be there at 9:30 and teach a class I know nothing about and have little time to prepare for, so he can get his dumb looking ass on TV. Regardless, I still have to be there until 8:30 or 9 pm.

Just a side note: my boss is every shade of dumbass because he won’t take a few minutes to think before he says anything. It’s because he’s in way over his head in his job. He was promoted far too soon. Maybe one day he’d have made an effective administrator, but currently and because he’s also a tight ass, he is very good with the budget. He’s also good with donors, but that’s it. With that said, he really has a heart of gold and would give me the shirt off his back if I needed it, but that’s not enough to make him a good manager.