Monday, September 24, 2018
Shakespeare References in If I Should Die Before I Wake
The novel contains a couple of references to Macbeth. The first comes in a passage that the girl addresses to her father: “Innocent sleep, that ‘balm of hurt minds’ Macbeth speaks of, is not possible for us” (p. 139). She then continues: “We murder sleep” (p. 139). These lines are of course references to Macbeth’s speech after he has murdered Duncan. The second reference to this play comes just a few pages later: “A smell that cannot be extinguished. My body as hopeless of cleansing as Lady Macbeth’s blood-drenched hands” (p. 142).
There are also references to Othello, after Dean hands Carla his handkerchief. Carla tells him: “All right, Dean, but let’s make it a real romantic thing then. I’ll embroider some strawberries on it and give it back to you. Just like in Othello” (p. 150). Dean replies that she’ll have to explain the reference, adding “Our class read Julius Caesar” (p. 150). Carla obliges: “Well – Othello gives his wife this handkerchief embroidered with strawberries. It was one his father had given his mother years before. So to Othello, of course, it is a treasure. He gives it to Desdemona when they’re first married – as a pledge of his love” (p. 150). Dean then replies: “That means you’re Othello then. And I’m Des-mona, or whatever her name is” (p. 151). Michelle Morris then writes: “But it did seem right for us, because I understand Othello. And Dean is as beautiful as Desdemona ever was” (p. 151). Dean asks how the story turns out. Carla says: “The play? Oh. Well, it’s a tragedy, of course. So you can’t expect… I mean. Well – uh, he kills her actually” (p. 151). Dean responds: “Othello? Kills Des-mona?” (p. 151). Carla explain that Othello does love Desdemona, right to the end, to which Dean replies, “Sick.” Carla then says: “No, no. You don’t understand. It was because of Iago. And all the lies he kept telling” (p. 151). There is then a reference to Shakespeare himself: “There I was, Jessie – do you believe it? Making excuses for Shakespeare!” (p. 151).
If I Should Die Before I Wake was published in 1982. The copy I read was a first edition.