McGonagall’s New Reading of “Macbeth”

Lively Times for the Poet

A crowded audience assembled in the Circus, Dundee, on Wednesday, the attraction  being the appearance of McGonagall, the city “poet,” who was advertised to give “Macbeth it should be played.” As is usual in such entertainments, the best item on the programme was kept till the last, and it was about ten o’clock when the “poet” came on. The younger portion of the community was exceedingly well represented about the pit and front of the gallery, and from various preparations made previous to the announcement of McGonagall it was evident that a storm was brewing, and that he was to have a warm, if not a hot, reception. No sooner had the “poet” appeared than he was greeted with a fusilade of all manner of missiles from nearly every part of the Circus. For a few minutes Mac, in a grandiloquent style, endeavoured to impress upon his audience the manner in which Macbeth ought to be played, but had not proceeded far with his mission of enlightening Irving when the rain of projectiles became so thick and fast that he was compelled to stop. Meditating flight, he seemed hesitating between two opinions, when a soot bag, flung with unerring aim, struck the amateur tragedian above the left eye and forced him to beat a precipitate retreat. Loud cheers were raised for his recall, but it was some five or six minutes ere the “poet” would again veuture upon the stage. This time he showed more valour, drew his formidable sword, and, wildly brandishing the weapon, advanced to the edge of the platform where he dared his assailants to do their worst.Again there was a hearty response in the shape of missiles frm all parts of the house. The “poet,” however seemed determined to live it out, and cleverly parried with his steel the bigger elements that came hurling towards him; but the onslaught becoming more fierce than ever, and one of the youths near the platform again succeeding in hitting Mac in the face, the city rhymster gave up the fight, and fled behind the curtain. The audience noisily demanded his return, but the “poet” declined to come forward for a third time, and the band striking up the National Anthem brought the entertainment to a close.

People’s Journal, 2nd February 1889

Comments (1) »

  1. Dan E
    In the year 2016, on the 12th day of February at 10:28 pm

    The really bad thing about this is that the audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy what they were doing, absolutely no empathy here. In earlier times when the stocks and pilories were in use and the populous came to watch and throw all kinds of things like rotten food excrement and stones. In some cases sexual abuse and other demeaning acts usually followed by death in some cases. People on the whole are not very nice and in the mob will do almost anything that individuals wouldn’t do if they were by themselves. I believe William knew about life, he certainly would have been ahead of the game when it came to knowing peoples habits and their dark side.

    So William I take my hat off to you you had to cope with the times and man’s falibilities the unruly mob and all of the nasty side of human nature. Would people today be able to cope in simlar circumstances I doubt it, they may mock in their knowledge that they will never be taken to task over it.

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