Michelle Ephraim is Associate Professor of English at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Along with fellow Shakespearean Caroline Bicks (Boston College) she writes a humor blog called Everyday Shakespeare. It's delivered fresh Monday-Friday at www.everydayshakespeare.com.


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JUNE 28, 2010 11:17PM

When Trees Start to Move, You Know That Things Are Bad

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When trees start to move, you know that things are bad.

I'm talking about the end of Macbeth, when Macbeth realizes that Birnam Woods CAN move--in the form of the approaching enemy army, who camouflage themselves with branches. The witches' prophecy to Macbeth (which he had initially found laughable) has actually come true:

"Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until
Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinaine Hill
Shall come against him" (4.1.92-4)

I've spent a good part of this weekend thinking about moving--make that, falling--tree branches. That sweet baby; the sweet dad who worked at Google. Parents of the World, are you with me on this? I know, I know: We can't spend our time dragged down by every unfair, tragic incident. There are too many of them.

But those falling tree branches in Central Park are hard to accept. The elite Conservancy Trustees are rubbing their brows somewhere, thinking that this was supposed to be a laid-back philothropic affilation. Bystanders are quoted saying things like "well, you can't live under a rock." Shit happens. I guess that's how some people need to understand it. Everyone has their strategies at times like these.

Macbeth's moving trees make sense. Here's one way to read the witches' "prophecy": Justice is served. Macbeth commits bad deeds, and thus he must suffer the consequences. That's why this play goes down easy. That's why it works in the middle school curriculum.

The branches in Central Park are tragic: the consequences of them as well as the very idea of them. Something that literally punctures an otherwise logical narrative--a young couple out on a perfect day, a successful dad on his way to work. No conclusion, no resolution. These are unacceptable stories--on paper and in real life.

Author tags:

news, new york, central park

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