Not Your Father's Hendiadys I
Bill Long 8/3/05
Macbeth in 1.4 -- Background
Before getting to the substance of this mini-essay, I probably should define hendiadys. It is a Greek word describing a grammatical or rhetorical device in which two words, often expressing one concept, are divided by an "and" rather than linked adjectivally or collapsed into that one concept. The word hendiadys literally means "one through two." If, in marriage, the two become one, in hendiadys the one becomes two. This could lead to a sentence that would confuse all your friends but probably be correct for many of them: "Instead of a marriage, they had a hendiadys." Hendiadys is used improperly here--but you get my drift.
Here are a few examples of hendiadys. We talk about arriving at someone's place "despite the wind and weather." Wind and weather are not separate items; they are two words expressing one concept, and we could have said "windy weather," but we say "wind and weather" to stress the inclement conditions. It is "nice and warm" here, rather than "nicely warm." The Scriptures talk about being dead in "transgressions and sins" even thought there is not a razor-blade's width of theological difference between the two concepts. In his online glossary of rhetorical terms, Professor Burton says that use of hendiadys is a method of rhetorical amplification that adds force to the statement. By separating the words, the "speaker accentuates the adjective by transforming it into a noun." It makes the listener pause mentally to focus on the concept mentioned. He also gives the following example: "The distinction and presence (rather than "distinctive presence" of the dignitary moved the audience." Of course a hendiadys is not present every time there is an "and;" the conjunction can relate disparate subjects or ideas not contained in the other. However, hendiadys is often in view.
The Flow of 1.4
Thus it was surprising to me when I first read Macbeth's words in 1.4.22-27, responsive to Duncan's effusive thanks, I noticed multiple examples of "ands" that appear to be hendiadys but that are not used as traditional hendiadys. That is, Macbeth uses them to weaken rather than to amplify what he is trying to say. Instead of building up an idea, he is depriving it of energy. In order to see this, let's set the stage by understanding the flow of 1.4. Duncan is overjoyed and grateful because Macbeth put down the rebellion and because one of the traitors, Cawdor, has just been put to death. Indeed, Cawdor's death might have brought additional satisfaction to Duncan because Cawdor repented of his rebellion at his death. In words memorable for their vividness, Malcolm says about Cawdor:
"That very frankly he confess'd his treasons,
Implor'd your Highness' pardon, and seet forth
A deep repentence. Nothing in his life
Became him like the leaving it: he died
As one that had been studied in his death,
To throw away the dearest thing he ow'd
As 'twere a careless trifle" (1.4.5-11)
Cawdor left his life with repentance and a clear conscience, a very becoming attitude. So straitforward and earnest was his confession and remorse that he appeared to have "studied" his "lines" thoroughly, internalizing them to the point that they were a part of him. Maybe Shakespeare as director had urged his actors over the years to be so "into" their parts that even if they were to be giving up their lives in the scene they could so earnestly throw it away "as 'twere a careless trifle." So, Cawdor had completely "mastered his lines."
Duncan then responds to the news from Malcolm with a line that has a deep resonance a few scenes later: "There's no art/ To find the mind's construction in the face:/ He was a gentleman on whom I built/ An absolute trust" (1.4.11-14). Duncan is saying that no one is skilled in being able to limn the heart's attitude from the face's expression. He was simply deceived by Cawdor. The double irony that follows, of course, is that he also will be deceived by Macbeth, to whom he is addressing these words, and that one of the ways that Macbeth uses to deceive Duncan is by "changing his face." In the next scene Lady Macbeth will tell Macbeth that his face is a 'dead giveaway' of his mental attitude (1.5.62-66). In order for Macbeth to "beguile the time" he must "look like the time." In other words, 'change your face so that no one will know what is on your mind.'
The scene continues. Duncan effuses over Macbeth, his "worthiest cousin," who has helped Duncan retain his kingdom. After stating his comparative neglect of recognition ("The sin of my ingratitude even now/ Was heavy on me"--1.4.15-16), he uses a hendiadys to express the extreme gratitude he feels:
"..would thou hadst less deserv'd
That the proportion both of thanks and payment
Might have been mine" (1.4.18-20).
Duncan's "thanks and payment" is a "thankful payment," grateful reward. By having Duncan use a hendiadys here, Shakespeare shows that he knows how to use one "properly." This is important, because Shakespeare now will have Macbeth respond with a series of hendiadys that function quite differently.
The next essay describes these.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long