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«We Three»

The Mythology of Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters

Laura Shamas

The Weird Sisters, from William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, are arguably the most famous trio of witches in English literature. Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters are a complex trinitarian mythological construction – a unique amalgamation of classical, folkloric, and socio-political elements. This book is an archetypal exploration of the Weird Sisters; by examining this feminine trio through the lens of mythology, new insights about their significance may be understood. The ramifications extend from classical comprehension to twenty-first century pop culture observations related to female trios.

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Acknowledgments XI

Extract

Acknowledgments “Whate’er thou art, for thy good caution, thanks” —Shakespeare, Macbeth, 4.1.73 A heartfelt thanks to David L. Miller, Ginette Paris, and Michelle Gosselin for their expertise, patience, and kindness. This study was supported in part by the Brett J. Love Award for Teaching Excellence from Pepperdine University; I am very grateful. Thanks also to the University of Southern California’s Center for Feminist Research. I am also grateful to Edie Barrett, David Rodes, Elizabeth Terzian, Gene Toews and Anne Feely, Robert Freedman and Jeannie Kauffman, Miriam Braveman, Susan Cartsonis, Beth Blickers, Dori Sippel, Andy Walker, Jessica Kubzansky, William Adams, Victor Faessel, Jean Franzblau, Melissa Faber, Dana Sutton, Winnie Holzman, my husband Jon Klein, Kaylene Wright, Annamarie Wright and the Creative Cluster. Most of all, thanks to my mother Annawyn, my father Jim, my “weïrd brother” Jim, and my “weïrd sister” Ellen. “Three Women Supposing to be the Weird Sisters or Feiries” is the title of the woodcut reprinted on the book’s cover. Special thanks to the Horace Howard Furness Collection, University of Pennsylvania Library, for permission to reprint it. Originally published in 1577 in Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Irelande, this woodcut is from “The Historie of Scotlande,” page 243. Its caption reads: “The prophesie of three women sapposing to be the weird sisters or feiries.” Shamas_Fm.qxd 27/10/2006 19:51 Page ix Shamas_Fm.qxd 27/10/2006 19:51 Page x

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