Sunday, May 27, 2012

For Three-Word Wednesday, Magpie 119 and ABC Wednesday

("T" is for "trite")
This week we take up the work of Edward Hopper, one of America’s best-known realist painters.
A century ago Hopper had visited Paris, had studied the emerging art scene there in all its forms, but he came down with a style that was all his own. History has shown he was vindicated; his realism is successfully rooted in the presentation of the familiar, the commonplace – we might even say the trite.
But his sharp lines and large shapes, the unusual lighting, create a special meaning and mood.
As for this week’s prompt, a critic said of Hopper: “he achieves such complete truth that you can read into his interpretations of houses any human implications you wish.”
In this prompt the house is seen as very quiet – perhaps there’s even a hint of stagnation – but there’s a psychological impact to the scene. That impact comes from the dark, lowering background, which seems to raise a sinister threat.
When I viewed the picture above I thought of the quiet home life of one of Shakespeare’s most famous couples – the Macbeths.
Surely Lady Macbeth is one of the playwright’s most fascinating creations.
Well before greed and ambition caused the wild, melodramatic actions of the couple, before the killings began, they had a solid loving relationship.
The critic Barbara Everett wrote that, far from being strange bedfellows, “The Macbeths are probably Shakespeare’s most thoroughly married couple. He addresses his wife with extra care, as ‘Love’ and ‘Dear wife’ and ‘Dearest Partner of Greatness’; she is everything to him.”
The public usually thinks of her as a scheming and evil force – which, admittedly, she became. But Lady M originally brought to their life a sense of calm, of order, of practicality. The heart of the tragedy is the destruction of their marriage. She changes. She becomes the one who moves Macbeth to brutality: the killing of King Duncan.
She uses a phrase that stayed with me for years after I had first studied the play. To get her reluctant husband to act, she says, “Screw your courage to the sticking-place!”
Now that was interesting. What was the sticking-place?
Well, if you’ve ever done wood-work, say as a hobby, ever created end tables or chairs or whatever, you have had the experience of using a screwdriver to drive a screw into wood. You twist the screwdriver and turn it and finally it sticks and it will turn no more - that’s the sticking place. She wanted her husband to gear his courage up to that point.
Finally, however, Lady Macbeth is not able to live with her basic error, with what she has done. She has put her image of their future where her conscience should have been. Her nerves go jingle-jangle: her life finally becomes a long, endless nightmare. Barbara Everett: “And she can’t live with it; it stops her sleeping ever again.”
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings.)

34 comments:

Daydreamertoo said...

It seemed a very dark painting to me too. Lonely, foreboding even.
Thanks for the info on Lady Macbeth, shame she became the way she did.

Linda said...

I loved that you connected this art to Shakespeare, Berowne. I am always fascinated by the stories and references you post each week. MacBeth was perfect! Thank you for sharing. =D

Brian Miller said...

cool...thanks for bringing back some of her words...and for the sticking place connection as well....interesting...

Leslie: said...

After reading & studying Macbeth again last year with 2 students, I'm much more "into" Shakespearean tragedies. I have a feeling you'll be using this for ABCW, too. ;)

Stafford Ray said...

She was the driver and he got screwed! Wonderfully informative, as usual!

Berowne said...

Leslie: "I have a feeling you'll be using this for ABCW, too." ;)
I have that same feeling. :-)

gautami tripathy said...

I love most of Shakespeare's works. Macbeth is one of my favourite. I like your reference of it to the painting.

discontent

Rinkly Rimes said...

'All the perfumes of Arabia' in your piece. Once again, a good read and a novel view of things.

Kathe W. said...

I can visualize her washing her hands in one of the windows....

Tumblewords: said...

Always a learning experience here - interesting post!

Wander said...

It stops her sleeping again...those are some very powerful words, very powerful!

I like how you take the prompt and turn it to the subject you want to talk about...good write sir.

Wander

Little Nell said...

It’s not often we are urged to think of the Macbeths having a cosy homelife before ambition got the better of them. The gloominess of this picture has certainly called up a few haunted pasts. Very interesting.

Helen said...

I assembled a platform bed for my son last week ... many 'sticking places' during a long two hour project! Nice Mag, as always!

Roger Owen Green said...

Your basic domestic bliss (yeah, right)

EG CameraGirl said...

An interesting read and now I know what the "sticking place" refers to.

Kat Mortensen said...

Lady MacBeth is one of my favourite characters of all. I never tire of her!

I CAN see how the image would take you there - with those rather Norman turrets, and the "Birnam Wood" trees.

Berowne said...

Kat M: "I CAN see how the image would take you there...with the 'Birnam Wood' trees."
I'm forced to admit I hadn't thought of them. Congratulations on a very perceptive comment.

Berowne said...

Little Nell: "This picture has certainly called up a few haunted pasts."
And a few haunted posts. :-)

Tess Kincaid said...

Hopper and Shakespeare...extra fun post!

Carver said...

Interesting post. I have heard the quote about screwing your courage to the sticking place used in novels and movies and had completely forgotten that it originated with Lady MacBeth. Carver, ABC-Wed. Team

Ms. Burrito said...

Nice!

Tug of War

Black Jack's Carol said...

Fascinating post! That quote about courage stuck with me as well, but the words "sticking place" now have gained clarity. In the painting of the house, the windows create emotion for me. Blinds closed but warm light behind, curtains half open with darkness behind, other curtains also half open but with a stark light bulb at the centre, a lone person looking out.

Shoshana said...

Lovely post and informative. I actually like that slightly lonely house painting.

Dandelion Girl said...

This is one of my favourite painters and the first picture on this blog recently inspired a flash story. I love reading your posts, so full of interesting information and well crafted. Like how you linked to the 'Scottish play'as well. :)

Berowne said...

Dandelion Girl: "I love reading your posts, so full of interesting information and well crafted."
Thanks, Dandy, for such a gracious comment.

Berowne said...

My thanks also to Tess Kincaid, not just for her comment this week but for the prompts, always engaging and challenging.

Reader Wil said...

Interesting painter, Hopper. Almost as interesting as van Gogh!
About lady Lady Mcbeth i can say, that you put her in quite a different light. What's more you made her human, whereas I always regarded her as a dangerous monster.
Thank you for the interesting post.
Wil, ABC Team.

Sheilagh Lee said...

It was dark and foreboding in the background of this picture. I love how you brought out Macbeth to compare it to, Macbeth has long been one of my favourite Shakespearean plays.I read as a child. My parents believed in letting me read all reading materials but especially Shakespeare.

Laurie Kolp said...

How fabulous of you to tie Hopper to Macbeth. I felt the house was rather cold and institutional-like.

Berowne said...

Laurie K: "How fabulous of you to tie Hopper to Macbeth."
I must admit I thought it a bit too much of a stretch at first, but it seems to have worked oout okay. Thanks.

Carrie Burtt said...

You are the Shakespeare King Berowne....love this! :-)

Sharp Little Pencil said...

You had me at Hopper. And the MacBeth info was interesting, because I heard Shakespeare invented the phrase "sticking place," but it's almost a universally understood concept, which is one of the reasons I adore Shakespeare.

Now, about explaining "Backs to the wall!" ha ha ha Amy
http://sharplittlepencil.com/2012/05/31/the-troubadour-abc-weds-thurs-think-tank/

Bee's Blog said...

And as I've always said ' served her damn well right'.

Berowne said...

Always great to hear from that Little Pencil - thanks, Amy.

 
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