Thursday, March 24, 2016

Simon Forman's Snarky English Teacher

A new digital project is making documents about the plays of Shakespeare (now properly transcribed) available to the public on the Internet. To read accounts by astrologer Simon Forman of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, Cymbeline, and Macbeth, you can go here:

Eyewitness Account of Shakespeare

However, while I was reading these, I couldn't help thinking about the mistakes Forman makes. (But you got the order wrong! What were you thinking?)

What would it be like if we could read not just Forman's writing, but also the marks in red pencil by his snarky English teacher?

Well, wonder no more! Here is Forman's account of Macbeth, together with running commentary by an overworked, underpaid educator:

There was to be observed first how Macbeth and Banquo, 2 [Spell out numbers under 10.] noblemen of Scotland, riding through a wood, there stood before them 3 women fairies or nymphs, [witches] and saluted Macbeth, saying 3 times unto him, "Hail Macbeth, king of Codon, [I think you meant "Thane of Cawdor".] for thou shall be a king but shall beget no kings," etc. Then said Banquo, "What, all to Macbeth, and nothing to me?" [You're paraphrasing. Cite the play, please.] There said the nymphs, [WITCHES!!!] "Hail to thee, Banquo, thou shall beget kings, yet be no king." [You're still paraphrasing, but closer this time.] And so they departed and came to the court of Scotland to Duncan, king [capitalize] of Scots, and it was in the days of Edward the Confessor, and Duncan bade them both kindly welcome, and made Macbeth forthwith Prince of Northumberland, [Where are you getting this? Duncan makes his son MALCOLM the Prince of CUMBERLAND, not Macbeth Prince of Northumberland...] and sent him home to his own castle and appointed Macbeth to provide for him for he would sup with him the next day at night. [awk.] And did so. [sent. frag.] And Macbeth contrived to kill Duncan, and through the persuasion of his wife did that night murder the king in his own castle being his guest. And there were many prodigies seen that night and the day before. [Such as...?] And when Macbeth had murdered the king, the blood on his hands could not be washed off by any means, nor from his wife's hands which handled the bloody daggers in hiding them. [Simon, I think you're getting a little confused here. They can PHYSICALLY wash their hands, but MENTALLY they still imagine seeing blood there. Shakespeare is indicating a guilty conscience. We discussed this in class.] By which means they became both much amazed and affronted. The murder being known, Duncan's 2 [Again, spell out numbers under 10.] sons fled, the one to England, the Wales to save themselves. [You appear to be missing some words here.] They being fled they were supposed guilty of the murder of their father, which was nothing so. [At least you got that part right.] Then was Macbeth crowned king, and then he, for fear of Banquo, his old companion, that he should beget kings but be no king himself, he contrived the death of Banquo and caused him to be murdered on the way as he rode. [This is a long sentence. Try breaking it up into a couple shorter ones.] The next night being at supper with his noblemen, whom he had bid to a feast (to the which also Banquo should have come), he began to speak of noble Banquo and to wish that he were there. And as he thus did, standing up to drink a carouse to him, the ghost of Banquo came and sat down in his chair behind him. [Where did you get that he sat behind Macbeth? That's not in the text. The stage direction simply says Banquo sits in Macbeth's place. Did you just watch the movie?] And he turning about to sit down again saw the ghost of Banquo which fronted him so that he fell into a great passion of fear and fury, uttering many words about his murder, by which when they heard that Banquo was murdered they suspected Macbeth. [Honestly, this sounds like you just watched the movie.]

Then Macduff fled to England to the king's son, and so they raised an army and came into Scotland, and at Dunsinane overthrew Macbeth. [Why is this your only paragraph break? Consider breaking up the previous paragraph into two or three smaller ones.] In the meantime, while Macduff was in England, Macbeth slew Macduff's wife and children, and after, in the battle, Macduff slew Macbeth. [Well at least you got the plot.] Observe also how Macbeth's queen did rise in the night in her sleep and walk and talked and confessed all, and the doctor noted her words. [THAT is your concluding sentence? This was supposed to be a five-paragraph essay, with a clear thesis statement. You're a smart guy, Simon. YOU CAN DO BETTER THAN THIS!]