[LMB] Piotr's Dagger, and wider Shakespeariana

John Lennard john.c.lennard at gmail.com
Tue Aug 30 16:21:40 BST 2016

Markus said, of Pouncer's splendid post, "thank you this very nice and
interesting reflection on Pjotr and his
position", and Pat added, "Oooh! Put this on the fanfic page! This is

I second both, but was also struck by the juxtaposition ("Is this a dagger
that I see before me?") of *Macbeth* and Piotr's position, with some other
Shakespearean possibilities.

In Macbeth's case the dagger is of course (a hallucinated symbol of) the
one with which he will end King Duncan's life, against the laws of fealty
and care for one's guest. "Who would have thought the old man had so much
blood in him?" But Macbeth is also a notable childkiller, seeking the life
of Fleance and taking those of Macduff's wife and children ("What? All my
pretty chickens and their dam?"), who is also notably childless, obsessed
with his succession, and married to a woman who has borne at least one
child ("I have given suck"), apparently not living, but has also prayed to
trade her female and specifically maternal capacities for sufficient
resolve to seize and keep power.

In Piotr's case we're dealing with a Vorfemme knife, a traditional
bridegift symbolising genetic purity through the expressed willingness to
cut the throats of any mutant children surviving gestation and delivery. We
also seem to have a chain of only children, in various ways: I don't recall
Piotr having any reported siblings, after Mad Yuri's Massacre Aral is an
only surviving child, and Miles is destined (until much later, and Ser
Galen) to be an only child. But Piotr is also, with Aral, a notable
kingkiller, ensuring Yuri's death by a thousand cuts.

It might all be serendipity, or Lois's backbrain at work, but we know
Shakespeare is a source of some kind in several VK books, and though I had
never much pondered *Macbeth* and *Barrayar*, I am now wondering quite hard.

What Piotr wants, though, isn't so much Macbeth's dagger as Oberon's
blessing at the end of *A Midsummer Night's Dream*:

So shall all the couples three
Ever true in loving be,
And the blots of nature's hand
Shall not in their issue stand.
Never mole, harelip, nor scar,
Nor mark prodigious such as are
Despised in nativity
Shall upon their children be.

What he gets is Cordelia and the Uterine Replicator.

So. We know that Nikki thinks *Hamlet* would work rather better with fast
penta. What would *Macbeth* be like with access to a uterine replicator?
And what would Cordelia's uber-Betan reaction be to (a) the Weird Sisters,
and (b) Lady Mac?

So I'm now also wondering if any bright young theatrical spark on Barrayar
ever set up a season of short, technologically corrected Shakespeare.
Personal locator beacons would make short work of *Errors*, *Twelfth
Night*, *Pericles* and more ; fast penta for *Othello* and *King Lear* as
well as *Hamlet* ; simple marine insurance for *Merchant* ; Betan earrings,
strictly applied, for *Rom and Jules*, though accurate diagnosis of
non-death would also work there, and in *Pericles* and *Cymbeline* ;
surgical intervention for Richard Crookback's adolescent-onset scoliosis.

Other ideas?

And there's an interesting reciprocal, in asking which of Shax's plays are
*not* susceptible to technological advances ...

John Lennard, MA DPhil. (Oxon.), MA (WU)

Bye Fellow, Christ's College, & Director of Studies in English, Hughes
Hall, Cambridge
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