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