A book review.
Dr. Alma Bond does not suffer fools gladly. She is an insightful and hard-hitting author and demands an intelligent and discerning reader. Choosing Lady Macbeth, a semi-fictional character immortalized by Shakespeare, immediately selects her audience. Lady Macbeth, On the Couch: Inside the Mind and Life of Lady Macbeth is of course, a novel, but it is designed and treated like a psycho-biography. It is a book for Shakespeare lovers, Scottish history lovers, psychology lovers and even adventure lovers. But not for the faint-hearted.
What made Lady M. behave as she did? Dr. Bond, a psychoanalyst of no small accomplishments (both professionally and as an author of more than a dozen books) has researched the factual evidence thoroughly, as indicated by her extensive bibliography. She is further challenged by the fact that Sigmund Freud himself could/would shed no light on Lady Macbeth’s psyche.
Eleventh century Scotland was a violent, rough, superstitious country, reminiscent of the blue-faced near-barbarians of Braveheart. A dozen kings had already been murdered by men who a) believed they had a better claim to the throne, b) thought they could do a better job of it, or c) because they felt like it. Prior to her marriage, Lady Macbeth was born into a royal line, and raised as a queen-to-be. She was abducted twice, abused, ravaged and treated as violently as the rest of her counterparts since her claim was just as good, if not better, than anyone else’s. Her marriage to Macbeth, which according to Dr. Bond, became a love match sometime later, and following the usual murders and mayhem. Perhaps Macbeth was merely her vehicle to achieve her birthright.
If the prophesies of Shakespeare’s three weird sisters were instrumental in Macbeth’s vision of his future, then too, Lady M had her own prophesy of a sort: the reinforcement of a childhood trait. If she set her mind to something, while others would waver, she would not. She was very proud of that steadfast quality, according to Dr. Bond, and, of course, much to her later regret, she did not waver. She pushed, she prodded, she cajoled, she challenged, she humiliated and did whatever she needed to do to set Macbeth on his quest for their throne, and his bloody and murderous decline into damnation and ruin. Once she realized her role, she could not live with the consequences any more than he could.
There is no weakness in Dr. Bond’s writing style nor in her psychoanalytical abilities. She is a fluent and articulate author. If there is any weakness, it is in the believability of Lady M as written. She is described as young, beautiful, sultry, sensuous and red-headed – shades of Rita Hayworth. The blue-faced bravehearts were a scraggly, snaggle-toothed, grimy lot – male and female. It doesn’t fit. Besides, the intensity of Lady M suggests Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca rather than Gilda.
The one question of Shakespeare’s fictionalized character that is answered (although not by Dr. Bond) is why the great playwright never gave her a first name. She is always and only “Lady Macbeth.” According to Dr. Bond, who is an excellent researcher, her given name was Gruoch. Our beloved poet-bard, was likely aware of that as well. The name “Gruoch” alone is death to young, beautiful, sultry, sensuous and red-headed. And he who created Juliet, Ophelia and Desdemona, names that dance trippingly on the tongue, likely could not stomach a Gruoch, which comes gaggingly up the gullet. What’s in a name, indeed!
Lady Macbeth: On the Couch, nevertheless is a fascinating into-the-mind-of book for those who want a challenging and interesting psychological expose. And if you are a Shakespeare lover, even more so!
LADY MACBETH: On the Couch: Inside the Mind and Life of Lady Macbeth
Bancroft Press, 1914
Available Hardcover, Paperback and Kindle