(Does a “Church Lady” impression date me pretty badly?)
Bardfilm wanted some academic discussion on Twitter today, and knowing that it’s very hard to learn anything permanent on Twitter (try Googling for it later!) I’m summarizing in a blog post but you can check to see if the #SeytonSatan hashtag is still active.
Question : In Macbeth, would “Seyton” be pronounced like “Satan”? And, if so, would that have suggested some sort of desired audience reaction? When Macbeth calls, “Seyton!” would the audience have been all, “He’s calling SATAN?! Dude’s evil!” (My paraphrase. Bardfilm’s original question had more “you betcha”).
There’s much that’s been said on the topic but little of academic note.
On the subject of sounding it out I linked in @BenCrystal, an expert in original pronunciation (OP), who responded, “I’d say them the same in OP, something like [‘sei-tun] with a really soft /t/.” This then led to a discussion about when exactly the Scots burr came into the language (after the arrival of King James) and whether Macbeth would have been played that way.
But what of the whole Satan thing? Do we think that Shakespeare intended to put Satan in the mind of his audience?
My personal position on this is perhaps too grounded – what happens next? The audience hears Macbeth call, “Satan!” and then this regular old soldier shows up and starts taking orders. So either you just get this brief scare where the audience is left thinking, “Oh, phew, for a minute there I thought Macbeth was actually calling you know who!” and then we go about our business. Or we get something more like “Who’s this guy? Is that Satan in the form of one of Macbeth’s soldiers? Oooo, I bet he’s going to do something just off the charts evil.”
I just don’t know enough about the time period to know if this was a think that Shakespeare would even attempt. Did you get to mention Satan on stage like that? Would Shakespeare have suggested that Macbeth was so evil as to invoke the big man himself? And, worse, order him around like a lackey?
Lots of discussion material here. Show of hands, who’s done the Scottish play and has an opinion from experience?