This column originally appeared in the April 18, 2007, edition of the Smith Mountain Eagle.
Howdy, Ida B. Peevish coming at you from Ida’s Salon of Beauty & Live Bait Shop where Spring has sprung, the pollen count is high and everybody is sniffling and sneezing. If you need a new look to complement your red nose, come on down to Ida’s Salon of Beauty & Live Bait Shop and we’ll see what we can do. We do have in our extra heavy duty hair spray, so now matter how hard you sneeze, your hair will stay in place. Now, lessee what we got in the mail:
Dear Ida B. My English class is studying MacBeth and I can’t make head nor tails of it again this year. It don’t make much sense and all the characters talk funny. Can you help? —Senior again
Dear Repeater: You are in luck. That is one of my favorite plays because it shows just how important it is for a woman to nag her husband in the proper way. Plus all stupid men are killed off in the end, which is a good lesson for them.
Now, as I recall, the play starts after a bunch of guys won a battle commanded by King Duncan. Back in those days, kings got right into the thick of the action instead of riding around in limos and stuff. One of the heroes was named MacBeth, which is a sissy name, so let’s call him Mac. Him and his buddy Banquo (another stupid name, so let’s call him Bubba) are riding around after a big battle and carrying on like men will do after they win something big, when they come upon three ugly women. Mac and Bubba think the gals are witches because they talk and act funny, but could be the women was just under the influence of something and they looked bad because Ida’s Salon of Beauty & Live Bait Shop did not exist at that time. Anyhow, since they aren’t good-looking, Mac and Bubba didn’t fool around with them. They got to talking, and these strange women tell Mac he’ll be Thane of Cawdor, which was a big deal back then, and then he’ll be king. Well, Mac doesn’t quite believe this, but he plays along. They tell Bubba he won’t be any big shot but he’ll beget kings, so at least his boys will be well-fixed and might look after him in his old age. It turns out that King Duncan does let Mac be Thane of Cawdor as a reward for winning (and since the previous thane was conveniently dead).
Now, since Mac is obligated, Duncan decides to spend the night at Mac’s castle rather than have to pay to stay somewhere else. That’s where all the problems start, as many of y’all know who has had unexpected company pop in. Mac’s wife (who doesn’t seem to have a first name) decides that if her hubby kills Duncan, he can jump the line to become king (which means she’ll be queen, another incentive for poor hospitality on her part), so they decide to do that.
Getting Duncan’s guards drunk is the easy part, because they probably didn’t get many perks being bodyguards and would welcome any six-packs handed their way, especially by a real friendly-acting lady. It takes a good bit of nagging on Lady Mac’s part—she was ready to kill Duncan herself if she had to—but she finally gets Mac to stab him. If they had thought about it, poisoning would have left a lot less evidence (like blood all over the place) and would have looked considerably less suspicious. When she tells Mac to screw his courage, she’s really saying, “Stop being such a wimp and kill off the old buzzard!” instead of something off-color.
Anyhow, after Mac stabs Duncan, Mac goes kinda nuts, hearing voices and all, which makes you wonder what he’s under the influence of. He’s so out of it that he can’t even put the blood-covered daggers beside the passed-out guards, so Lady Mac has to do it for him. (Now some of y’all women can identify with this. Your hubby can probably gut a fish just fine, but can he remember to clean up the sink afterwards or throw away the discarded fish parts? No, you got to go clean up after him. What is it with men anyway that they don’t finish what they start?)
Anyhow, the Macs might have got away with what they did if somebody hadn’t started knocking real loud on the front door. The weather was getting bad, so they had to let in the knockers, which turned out to be MacDuff and Lennox, who just happened to be in the neighborhood on such a stormy night and who just happened to want to see their buddy Duncan right now. Mac does his best to act surprised to find Duncan dead and stabs the guards for killing Duncan, which we know they didn’t do. However, this did spare them a bad-hangover the next morning.
Naturally Mac gets to be king and ought to live happily ever after, but some men just can’t accept responsibility, and Mac is one. He goes completely nuts. So does his wife, who sleepwalks all over the castle and finally kills herself, which is a shame because she was the one with good sense. It is also a shame that Dr. Phil didn’t exist in those days because he could have set her straight or at least got her into a good counseling program.
Without a wife to keep him in line, Mac starts killing folks right and left, including Bubba’s kids, but one gets away. Then a whole bunch of other folks get killed, including MacDuff’s family, which really sets MacDuff off. Mac consults the witches again and he thinks they give him good news, but you just can’t trust women who don’t get their hair done on a regular basis.
Anyhow, MacDuff’s buddies disguise themselves as shrubbery and sneak up on Mac’s castle. If Mac’s wife had been alive, she could have pointed out that landscaping don’t change of its own accord, but Mac is so dumb that he don’t realize what is happening. The gals with bad hair told him he wouldn’t be killed by a man born of woman, so—not being clued in to obstetrics (like he would be in he hung around Ida’s Salon of Beauty & Live Bait Shop when some of the customers are discussing the grittier points of giving birth)—he figures he is safe. Turns out MacDuff’s mama had a C-section, so she technically didn’t give birth. When Mac hears this, he kinda loses his focus and MacDuff hacks off his head. Since Mac already lost what little good sense he had, losing his head is kind of superfluous. With most of the characters dead, the good thing is that there won’t be a sequel.
One thing you can count on with Shakespeare is that in his tragedies everybody ends up either dead or disappointed, which is kinda the way life is in Rock Bottom. However, if you get your hair done at Ida’s Salon of Beauty & Life Bait Shop, you will be happy about that for a while.
Well, that’s it for another go-round. Remember, you get what you pay for, talk is cheap, and my advice is free.