________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 22 . . . . June 22, 2007

cover

Enter Three Witches: A Story of Macbeth.

Caroline B. Cooney.
New York, NY: Scholastic Press (Distributed in Canada by Scholastic Canada), 2007.
281 pp., cloth, $20.99.
ISBN 978-0-439-71156-2.

Subject Headings:
Macbeth, King of Scotland, 11th cent-Fiction.
Regicides-Fiction.
Scotland-Fiction.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Diana Wilkes.

**** /4

excerpts:

Mary crept into the solar like a dog expecting to be kicked.

Ildred was undoing Lady Macbeth's hair, which had been woven around a circlet of gold. The necklace worn that day had been tossed on the fat feather bed. Embroidery spilled off a bench, a book lay open, flowers tilted in a jar. It was a lovely place and a lovely hour, and Mary did not deserve it. I must tell her who I am, thought Mary. Daughter of a traitor.

Humiliation drowned her, filling her lungs. Mary thought, They will not need to execute me; I will die of shame. (p.45)

 

In the dark he began to see things.

A dagger hung by itself in the empty air. Unsupported. Untouched.

Seyton's mouth went dry.

He felt for a weapon but had none. Was that his own dagger hanging there? Had he had so much to drink it was giving him visions?

Somebody breathed.

Seyton had checked e very inch of this chapel in case Lady Mary had crept under the altar or behind a pillar. He was alone in here. And whatever else God and His saints could do, they couldn't breathe. Now Seyton couldn't breathe, either. Before his frozen eyes walked Macbeth, staring where Seyton had stared.

"Is this a dagger before me?" Macbeth whispered.

Yes, thought Seyton.

"Thou firm-set earth," breathed Macbeth. "Hear not my steps."

But Macbeth owned this castle. His steps ought to ring out, so his people could run to attend him.The chapel's single bell moved. It did not ring so much as shiver. Its half-music half-spoke, and Seyton half-shuddered.

Macbeth laughed harshly. "Hear it not, Duncan. It is a knell."

A knell was not just any bell ringing. It summoned mourners to a funeral. And when a bell rang without a man pulling its rope, the bell was telling of death to come. Whose death? Thought Seyton. Is it mine?

The dagger quivered.
Macbeth seized it. He ran his thumb down the blade of the knife he had plucked from the air, and the bell rang one more time. "It summons you to heaven, Duncan," whispered Macbeth. "Or hell." (p. 91)

 

 

Want to get hooked on Shakespeare? This novel for young adults will ease you into the supernatural world of Macbeth and the tragic consequences surrounding this Medieval Scottish King. Caroline B. Cooney has skillfully adapted one of Shakespeare's greatest plays and fleshed out a story that is rich in intrigue, history and high adventure but written in a more easily accessible style. Taking quotes and characters from the actual play, she has woven an enriched tapestry of this great tragedy and added a few new players and twists of plot. It's highly entertaining and makes the sometimes dreary topic of war bristle with suspense and pulse with romance.

     By Cooney’s introducing several new female characters bothin peripheral and pivotal roles, readers are able to access different points of view apart from the traditionally male Shakespearean one. This allows for more gender balance to the story which has previously focused on the male response and interest in battle, loyalty and power and either the obsessed Lady Macbeth or the three troubling witches. Although various characters present their particular view of events, it is young Lady Mary who stands centre stage most often in Enter Three Witches. Both she and Banquo's son, Fleance, develop strength of character through acts of courage and desperation.

     Although there is plenty of bloodshed, torture, and murder, as this story dictates, these events are presented without gruesome details. Even the mention of desire, rape, forced marriage, unwanted pregnancies, and other sexual references are carefully worded so as not to be exploited. This is a story about betrayal and the seductive nature of power as greed is fed through evil means. The Macbeth story is the same, but Cooney has fleshed out the details so that the reader may more readily empathize with the characters and understand the far-reaching consequences of these evil events. The counterpoint to the evil is, of course, the good that triumphs through heroic deeds by good people. Hoorah!

     At the beginning of the novel, readers are thrown into the turmoil of soldiers on the field and the anxious gossip of scullery maids in the kitchen. Lady Mary is eavesdropping and watching, both being carried out from a safe distance; mild and unassuming, she doesn't participate in the realities of castle life. She lives in her own safe world of ladies-in-waiting and dreams of marrying her betrothed knight. But her perfect world is shattered, and she is thrown into circumstances beyond her control when her nobleman father betrays their king during a crucial battle with Norway. When Mary’s father is hung as traitor and she awaits her own certain demise, the good King is murdered by the aspiring Macbeth and his greedy wife while celebrating the victory at Inverness Castle. Mary remembers the witches' prophesies as events reveal the many evil deeds that have transpired in order to support the Macbeths' rise to power. 

     Enter Three Witches is largely successful because of the creative skill of two great storytellers, Shakespeare and Cooney, and the blending of fact, fiction, and magic that makes readers enter the story and catch their breath with the drama of it all. The Shakespearian quotes that are sprinkled within the text and as section headings introduce readers to this master's language and play with words. Cooney weaves them so well into the text of Enter Three Witches that readers often feel that they are reading the actual play and not a clever adaptation. Even in her author's note, Cooney entices readers - no, commands readers- to read Shakespeare's Macbeth. But readers won't need any convincing. They’ll already be hooked.

Highly Recommended.

Diana Wilkes has taught grades K to 10, is an English major with a Bachelor of Education from Simon Fraser University, and holds a fresh Master of Arts Degree in Children's Literature at the University of British Columbia.

 

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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