chapter  2
How many children did she have?
ByMichael D. Bristol
Pages 16

I have a guilty secret: I want to know how many children Lady Macbeth had. I have a further admission to make. When I read Shakespeare I compare the dramatic characters with real people. I do not make such admissions lightly. ‘How many children had Lady Macbeth?’ is a byword for asinine literal-mindedness, as if asking a question about a literary character’s children is something that would never occur to minimally competent readers. But what’s wrong with wanting to know how many children Lady Macbeth had anyway? ‘Even stupid questions have answers’ as Linus once remarked to Lucy. It’s not, after all, like asking what Duncan’s blood type was, or whether Banquo ever had the measles. Lady Macbeth makes explicit reference to her experience of motherhood. Children are thematically important to the play’s structure. Finally, there is the question of Macbeth’s heirs. It seems entirely reasonable to raise questions about the Macbeth children, even if Shakespeare’s play does not provide any satisfactory answers.