From Christie to Shakespeare, in one easy leap

October 5, 2009 at 11:50 am (books, Mystery fiction, Performing arts, Shakespeare)

So there I am, happily engrossed in this book: caribbean . My reading of A Caribbean Mystery followed our viewing of the film:

Joan Hickson as Miss Marple in A Caribbean Mystery

Joan Hickson as Miss Marple in A Caribbean Mystery

This in turn had followed my listening to the audiobook, read by –  who else:  Caribbean-Mystery-N41110L There was something curiously mesmerizing in Ms. Hickson’s narration. A story which in itself is not remarkable became, at least for this listener, imbued with a deeper meaning.  (On the back of the book on tape, an Audio Editions Mystery Masters production, we are informed of the following:

“This audio performance is unique in that the recordings were made at Miss Hickson’s home when she was approaching her 90th birthday. Just as Miss Marple is an octagenarian, she is perfectly portrayed by an octagenarian par excellence.

Scroll down to the  bottom of this post, and you’ll see video of Joan Hickson being interviewed at a celebration of Agatha Christie’s one hundredth birthday. This video also features a segment in which Ms. Hickson and David Suchet, in character as Hercule Poirot, meet for the first time.)

***************************************

Here’s the set-up for A Caribbean Mystery: following a severe illness, Miss Marple is treated by her nephew Raymond to a stay at the Golden Palm resort on the lush ( and fictitious) Caribbean island of St. Honore. She’s not been there long when an elderly guest dies suddenly. Miss Marple has her suspicions regarding this death, but she is not sure whether she should communicate them to those in authority. At one point in her cogitations, she reflects on these lines from Shakespeare: ‘Duncan is dead. After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well!’

That first sentence is not rendered correctly: the exact words are “Duncan is in his grave.” The quote is from MacBeth; it occurs about midway through the play. MacBeth is already beginning to feel like a soul in torment. Speaking to his wife, he declaims these bitter words:

…better be with the dead,
Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace,
Than on the torture of the mind to lie
In restless ecstasy. Duncan is in his grave;
After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well;
Treason has done his worst: nor steel, nor poison,
Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing,
Can touch him further.

This is an amazing speech. Here is a murderer, envying his victim the peace conferred by death – a death that the noble Duncan neither sought nor desired. It is as good an indicator as any of the moral cesspit into which MacBeth has already sunk.

And I can’t resist adding that where I come from, this would be called the ultimate in chutzpah!

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Here is the review I wrote of the Folger Theatre’s stunning 2008 production of “the Scottish play.” This performance is now available on DVD.

These images appear on the Folger site:

Henry Fuseli. Macbeth consulting the vision of the armed head.

Henry Fuseli. Macbeth consulting the vision of the armed head. 1793

Kenny Meadows. Lady Macbeth. Engraving, 1850.

Kenny Meadows. Lady Macbeth. Engraving, 1850.

 William Shakespeare. Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies: published according to the true originall copies. London, 1623.

William Shakespeare. Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies: published according to the true originall copies. London, 1623.

There is seemingly no end to Shakespeare’s power to astonish (or in Agatha Christie’s power to entertain and oftentimes, to provoke).

4 Comments

  1. sandysays1 said,

    Very interesting logic thread line.

  2. Kerrie said,

    Roberta, you might like to submit this to the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival
    http://blogcarnival.com/bc/submit_6057.html

    • Roberta Rood said,

      Done, Kerrie – Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. Nan said,

    This is just wonderful. I loved the Shakepeare connection. Sometimes I think everything is connected to him. :<) I've found that listening to audio books is a wonderful reading experience. When Barbara Rosenblat is narrating the Mrs. Pollifax books or Amelia Peabody books, it feels as if the characters are real people to me. I haven't listened to any read by Joan H. but have heard both David Suchet and Hugh Fraser (the man who plays Hastings in the television versions) and they give an incredible sense of immediacy. The voice brings the reader into the story. I will be on the lookout for A Caribbean Mystery. Thanks.

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