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Lady Macbeth’s Breasts (SFW – honest!)

We’re a week away from the release of the new JULIET trade to bookstores, and to help celebrate that we have something cool for you Shakespeare academics.

Michelle Ephraim, who was one of the scholars who helped to put together our Backstage Edition has thoughtfully provided us with a copy of a Kill Shakespeare inspired essay, entitled, rather provocatively: Lady Macbeth’s Breasts

Lady Macbeth gets the academic treatment thanks to WPI Prof: Michelle Ephraim

Lady Macbeth gets the academic treatment thanks to WPI Prof: Michelle Ephraim

Michelle talks in her piece about the role that sexuality plays in the depictions of Lady M, both in our comic, and in culture as a whole. It’s a funny, thought-provoking and insightful take on one of my favourite characters in the canon, as well as one that gives us a pat on the back for having Lady M transcend her “femme fatale” tropes (yay, us!).

It’s a short and enjoyable read – and you can go here to get in on the fun!

Or if you’d rather just read the whole thing now i’ts here below:

 

Lady Macbeth’s Breasts

 

Before venturing into the influential (and notoriously censorious) Texas library market, the Kill Shakespeare team took some professional advice and gave Lady Macbeth’s ample breasts a bit of a nip/tuck. Especially to the “side boob” swelling out from the periphery of her metal tank top.

 

Even with this strategic augmentation, Lady Macbeth’s breasts are a formidable presence in KS. And even more than her signature props—daggers, poison, wine—the breasts are Lady Macbeth’s most defining accessory. At the end of Issue #6 (also the concluding chapter of Kill Shakespeare: Volume 1), Lady Macbeth is serving up plenty of wine and cleavage to her obsequious paramour, Iago. (You can practically hear him panting.) Issue #7, with which Kill Shakespeare: Volume 2 begins, picks up with the same tableau of booze and breasts, establishing the latter as a key visual and symbolic theme in KS’s grand design.

 

These prominent breasts seem appropriate given Kill Shakespeare’s literary context. In Shakespeare, Lady Macbeth’s most famous speech, her furious response to Macbeth when he tries to renege on their plan to murder King Duncan, concerns this part of her anatomy:

 

I have given suck, and know

How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me.

I would, while it was smiling in my face,

Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums

And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you

Have done to this. (1.7)

 

The speech has launched many an academic publication on Lady Macbeth’s maternal history. Did she give birth? What happened to the kid? Regardless of the true story of little Macbeth, her anecdote is meant as a testimony to her toughness, her refusal to wuss out of any promise.

 

Ultimately and ironically in Act I of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth cites the female breast to articulate her strong masculine attributes and, by contrast, her husband’s weak, feminine nature. We hear her plea to be rid of any and all nurturing attributes: “Come you spirits/Unsex me now, and take my milk for gall.” Just in the highly unlikely case there’s a residual drop of motherly compassion. But her real concern lies with her husband who’s “too full of the milk of human kindness.” Whereas she’s manned-up to the task of killing the king and usurping the throne, Macbeth has not; she must bully him into it. To this end, Lady Macbeth shames her husband: if he refuses the chance to kill Duncan he is unmanly, but if he takes this opportunity he will be “so much more the man.”

 

Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth demonstrates her feminine side by the end of the play, but it’s not a pretty sight. Senseless, sleepwalking, and suicidal, she embodies what contemporary medical discourse would have identified as textbook female hysteria. Modern American psychiatrist Isador Henry Coriat in his 1912 book The Hysteria of Lady Macbeth goes to town with this interpretative tradition: “Lady Macbeth is a typical case of hysteria; her ambition is merely a sublimation of a repressed sexual impulse, the desire for a child based upon the memory of a child long since dead” (28-9).

 

KS, however, clears Lady Macbeth of any trace of maternal trauma or desire. She’s homicidal, not hysterical. She’s characterized by malevolence, not madness.[1] In gaining and maintaining the Scottish throne, she also succeeds where her Shakespearean prototype fails, but this is hardly enough for her. And unlike Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, she doesn’t rely on her husband to get what she wants; she simply rids herself of Macbeth, a nuisance of a husband and an obstacle to her own political ambitions. In fact, KS’s Scottish Queen doesn’t give her husband much thought at all. It’s Iago who comments on their inverted gender roles: “[Lady Macbeth] has none of the soft parts of her husband.”

 

No soft parts, indeed. Those impressively pneumatic breasts are definitely not filled with milk, not even a drop of it. Instead of milk, she’s full of the sinister liquids of liquor and poison, which she administers without a trace of human kindness.

 

Lady Macbeth’s breasts in KS might be seen as inflated, metaphorically, with her voracious ambition. Appropriately, they are also her most formidable weapon, insuring her husband’s lusty oblivion as she straddles him in bed . . . and murders him.  Instead of drinking the “nectar” between her legs as he happily expects, he gets poison thrust down his throat. As Lady Macbeth forces her liquid into him with her phallic vial, she is so much more the man.

 

Like the stage and film productions that have depicted Lady Macbeth erotically, KS emphasizes a connection between a woman’s verbal and sexual aggressiveness. In the Renaissance, the oft-open mouth of a woman who talked excessively or forcefully was thought to have an analogous “openness” in her nether regions as well. In KS, Lady Macbeth’s skill at verbal manipulation hooks not only her husband, but Iago and King Richard II. In bed, she and Richard spar with “wit”–a word that for Shakespeare’s audience would have a double entendre as genitalia. Like their battle of wits, their competition for Shakespeare’s quill, an object with clear phallic symbolism throughout KS, is ultimately a fight for sexual and political domination.

 

The most audacious adaptation of Lady Macbeth’s character in KS, more than her inspired cup size, is her new identity as a bona fide witch. Her magical cred supersedes that of the incanting Weird Sisters who submissively mumble their toil and troubles in her shadow.

No matter how many Shakespearean scholars have argued for their similarities in Macbeth, there is no evidence that Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth knows the three Weird Sisters, save for Macbeth’s mention of them. In Shakespeare’s tragedy, all four ladies may take gratification in controlling Macbeth, but only the witches have true agency; as she discovers, Lady Macbeth is just a poor player strutting and fretting her way to a really crappy fate.

 

By promoting Lady Macbeth to witch status, KS ups the ante of the threat she poses to Macbeth, to Shakespeare, and, if we think about King James’ influential 1597 treatise on witchcraft, Demonologie, to the world of men in general. Richard is warned that she is “bewitching” and to “stay safe from her spells,” but he counters that she is merely his “possession, nothing more.”

 

Nothing more, Richard? Are you sure about that? Shakespeare’s witches are sexual deviants who gets their kicks from screwing with men. Maybe from literally screwing them, too. They brag about removing a sailor’s thumb, a castration narrative KS evokes in Lady Macbeth’s fantasy of snatching the quill from Shakespeare. A well-endowed caricature of a Sexy Woman, Lady Macbeth would evoke a grotesque and subversive (and transgendered?) figure should she gain possession of the phallic quill, that penile appendage. With the quill, she would, as she declares to Richard, be “crowned king of this infinite space.”

 

In Demonologie, King James’ deep paranoia about his subjects’ loyalty is on full display. He writes that women are susceptible to becoming “entrapped” by the “gross snares of the Devil” because they are weak, frail, disloyal creatures by nature. Once they become witches, the devil’s servants, they will launch a sexual and thus, political assault on every man they can get their hands on. Witches, he argues, have the power to:“[weaken] the nature of some men, to make them unable for women.” Unlike the bearded ugly witches in Shakespeare’s play, the extreme sexuality and physical beauty of KS’s Lady Macbeth only underscores, by contrast, the potentially sterilizing, castrating, and generally emasculating effects she has on men.

 

What would King James make of her controlling the dagger that flies around trying to stab Hamlet and Shakespeare? Like the phallic vial of poison, the dagger is a weapon that is both physically and ideologically threatening in its symbolic usurpation of phallic power.

 

It’s easy (and pleasurable) to imagine King James quaking with anger and pointing a shaky finger at this comic book Lady Macbeth.

 

“See?,” he would mutter through clenched teeth, “I told you so!”

 

At the end of Issue #12, after the big fight scene, Lady Macbeth disappears in a puff of magic smoke. It’s her own version of “I’ll be BAAACK.” Suddenly, that visually arresting eye candy of a body is gone, and we are left with . . . well, with eyes. Her eyes, staring out at us from the page. There is no body here, no breasts. Yet their gapingly absent presence is as much of a threat as they are, in all their gloriously visible cleavage, to the horny Iago.

 

Shakespeare’s suicidal Scottish Queen becomes undone by her physicality—she just can’t seem to get that damn spot off her little hand. Not to mention the trauma of that lost child, the pet theory of Coriat and other psychoanalytic critics. There’s nothing little about Lady Macbeth’s character in Kill Shakespeare, but her enormous breasts, and perhaps her entire body itself, is a ruse. As the disembodied eyes suggest, she maintains a purely utilitarian relationship with her own body. Her real power isn’t her well-endowed physique but rather her ability to deploy it and collapse it. In this sense, her magic allows her to transcend the physical body, freeing her from the matters of flesh and blood—such as the prophecy of Banquo’s children who will succeed the childless Macbeths—that sunk her sixteenth-century prototype.

 

Michelle Ephraim

Associate Professor of English

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

 



[1] In Shakespeare, Lady Macbeth betrays a soft spot early on: she says she won’t kill King Duncan because he resembles her father. On the other hand, a reader could imagine KS’s Lady Macbeth nonchalantly offing a family member should she get the chance.

Our Threadless Artist Shop is NOW OPEN!

One of the greatest frustrations we’ve had on the convention scene is having to tell customers, especially our American ones, that while our SHAKESGEARE line of shirts is available, that shipping out of Canada starts to get crazy expensive.

Well, we’re happy to announce that won’t be a problem anymore.

We now have a THREADLESS ARTIST SHOP. For those of you who don’t know Threadless is THE place to buy awesome t-shirts on the wen, and now our cool designs are there too. Being with them means much better shipping options across the USA as well as making it easy to offer new products like long-sleeve shirts, hoodies, and customizable colours for the shirts.

Love The Shakespearean Legion of Doom, but Green is not your colour? No problem now you can switch it up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re also SUPER EXCITED to offer some NEW DESIGNS. We’ve had so many people ask to get the Tide of Blood cover on a T that we just HAD to listen — that’ll be up soon —  but here are a couple of the new goodies available RIGHT NOW!

It's the shirt you always hated to admit you wanted.

It’s the shirt you always hated to admit you wanted.

It’s the Kill Shakespeare classic logo shirt. Need we say more? We do? OK, it’s a shirt. it has our Logo on it. You can wear it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The only trick is that if you search their site for ‘Kill Shakespeare’ you won’t find our artist shop – you need to cruise right in to the URL which you can find at this link.

 

Put it in your bookmarks and you’ll never go wanting for Kill Shakespeare clothing!

 

 

Help boost the Kill Shakespeare Game’s Rating!

Hey Bardolaters and Holmesians!

We’re back beating the gaming drum again and hoping you can help us get a bit more love for our board game baby

 

They love it, you love it, now let the world know!

They love it, you love it, now let the world know!

Board Game Geek is a very influential corner of the internet when it comes to talking games. Right now Kill Shakespeare’s rating is lower than we think the game deserves. We’re asking you to go out there and rate the board game (obviously with what you feel it deserves), the more votes and comments  we get, the more attention we can bring to the game — and the more “frenemies” you can find to play with you!

You’ll need to register for a BGG account first, but if you like board games you’ll want one of these anyway.

Once you are a member rating a game is a bit tricky so let us walk you through it:

a) At the top left of the screen, beside your log-in name, there are a series of drop-down menus. Click “My Geek”

b) Choose “Collection”

c) On the top left is a button “Add Games’. Click that.

d) Type the name of the game you want to add in the dialogue box and click it when it comes up.

e) Once the game title is listed in your collection you can click on the N/A button below the heading Your Rating to add a rating and then click on the empty space below “Comments” to add a comment. Be honest. If you’re frustrated with the game let us know, if you think it’s great, let us know.

Thanks again for being the best group of fans in comicdom! (and gamedom now too!)

C&A

 

Helpful files for the Kill Shakespeare Game HERE

Happy New Year (again) everyone!

Serious Man. Fun Game.

Serious Man. Fun Game.

Many of you have been reaching out to us on social media to let us know you received a copy of the Kill Shakespeare Board Game for the holidays. Thank you so much for supporting us. We want to hear everything we can about how you are liking the game, what you think can be improved, and what you’d want to see in expansion packs for the game.

For those of you who didn’t realize we had a game out you can go here for a great review and discussion of how it came to be (And if you have the game? Ah, go ahead. Click anyway!)

This was the first time making a game for us and for IDW who spearheaded the project. While we’re VERY proud of the game that Wolf and Tomas designed for us, it’s incredibly thought-out and meticulously play-tested and put together, we know that some of the peripherals are a bit lacking.

But IDW isn’t the kind of partner to shrug their shoulders and say “oh, we’ll get’em next time!” They’ve been working their butts off with a few different folks around the internet – including David Minken of ConnectMore - who posts amazing play-throughs of tons of great games. Together they have made a collection of bonus materials, rules, a turn description, a summary sheet of how each round works, etc… to make your game playing (or giving) experience easier – and we want to share those with you.

To access the folder with all these goodies click here.

Now go, play and have fun!

All the best,
Conor & Anthony

We Did It!

Well the dust has settled and the final numbers have been tallied and people, we ROCKED this little thing called Kickstarter!

Richard sits in grim approval of our awesomeness (don't mind him, 'grim' is all he's got.)

Richard sits in grim approval of our awesomeness (don’t mind him, ‘grim’ is all he’s got).

We ended up raising $38,585 dollars — that’s 154% MORE than our original goal. Because of you guys and your support, both in pledging, but just as importantly in spreading the word, we ended up hitting a stretch goal as well. The game now has a better board than it would have without you.

And, I hear rumours, and these are JUST rumours that because we came so close to the SECOND stretch goal — that we may end up seeing that happen anyway! Plus IDW has mentioned their might be some other surprises kicking about for those of you who pledged.

Now I have been hearing a few common questions so let me answer them as best I can:

Iago's severed head has a few questions he'd like to ask...

Iago’s severed head has a few questions he’d like to ask…

Q: Conor, I totally MEANT to support the kickstarter but I was kidnapped by Bolivian revolutionaries and just got back from Sucre… What do I do? Can I still get the Game?

A: Yes. Yes, you can. The game is going to be distributed widely. IDW wants Kill Shakespeare and all the other games coming out to be easy to get. Your local comic shop can order them, as can any store that specializes in board games. We’re told that most of these stores will be able to stock Kill Shakespeare starting in June. And of course, Anthony and I will probably bring a few copies to sell to most conventions.

(Oh, and I hope you had a chance to say “hi” to Evo Morales when you were in Bolivia…)

Q: When will I get my game if I supported the Kickstarter? Before those “Hamlet-come-lately” store buyers?

A: We’re told end of May is the likely time for that. The game has been thoroughly play-tested, we were just waiting to see what kickstarter goals we hit before sending the game to printers.

Q: So, IS the game going to be even more awesome than I am currently thinking it will be?

A: Yes! Definitely! I can’t tell you what it’s going to be but IDW and Pandasaurus have already GUARANTEED that there will be bonus content shipping with your game.

This is definitely NOT a hint.

This is definitely NOT a hint.

 

Nosiree... no hints here. Not a one... Uh-uh....

Nosiree… no hints here. Not a one… Uh-uh….

Q: When can I play you and Anthony?

A: Why, we’re glad you asked that! We’re planning a couple of events, including one here in Toronto, that will give you a chance to play the game against us, see what all the fuss is about, and get copies for yourself.

And right here, right now, I’m saying if you can manage to beat me I will…. uh… sign your comic books for free!

(what can I say? I suck at games…)

Q: Is there anything else I can do to help the game out?

A: Yes, for sure. Once you have the game set up some nights for your friends, and then encourage them to go to their local store and get them to order it. The more we can pull games through the retail channels the more IDW is going to want to do expansion sets and then some of those other stretch goals we just missed out on may become a reality (Meeples anyone?)

Again, you guys are amazing. We’re the luckiest creators in the world to have friends and a fan-base like you.

Much thanks,

Conor & Anthony.

Uncertain Life and Sure Death

As the Ides of March approaches I’m kind of pondering that whole: “my thoughts be bloody or nothing worth” dilemma that Hamlet wrestles with. I mean, on one hand, murder is awful, bad, and often really messy – even if you’ve already covered the bathroom floor with a tarp and have the hack-saw and bag of quicklime on the go.

On the OTHER hand – when Shakespeare does it, murder is pretty awesome. I mean, heads get chopped off, poison is consumed, there is not one, but TWO mass stabbings, people, Shakespeare once offed two kids by BAKING THEM IN A PIE and then SERVING THAT PIE TO THEIR MOM (“Mmm, this is good! Is this veal?” “No, it’s your kids, BOOM!”).

So that got me to thinking about OTHER people who love Shakespeare like we do, and especially love the peculiar joy that comes with snuffing out some punk’s all too brief candle.

This led us to David Malki ! and Ryan North – two of the creative engines behind the most excellent Machine of Death series of books and games. (PLUG ALERT: You may also know Ryan from his Blockbuster To Be or Not To Be: That Is The Adventure Kickstarter campaign.)

Since Machine was such a HUGE success we thought it likely that it’s blend of wit, wordplay and cold-bloodedly hilarious focus on mass murder might be popular with you guys too, so David ! kindly let us design a BONUS SET OF CARDS for Machine of Death that has an all-Shakespeare flavour. You can download the card set here – these print and play beauties are ready to seamlessly fit into any Machine of Death game.

"Uncertain life, and sure death." - All's Well That Ends Well

“Uncertain life, and sure death.” – All’s Well That Ends Well

DOWNLOAD THE CARDS HERE: http://alice.idwpublishing.com/_7NERTM4cugLoZR

Bonus points (and prizes!) go to the first five people to correctly post in the comment section what play each card represents (or tweet us @IDWGAMES or @KillShakespeare). And if you know anyone who plays Machine, send’em over here – the more crossover between fans of Bardicide and fans of murder in general, the better.

(plus, it means more credible suspects to throw the cops off your trail).

Murderously yours,

Conor

We’re on Tumblr!

Last week we launched a Kill Shakespeare Tumblr page, thanks to the amazing work of our editorial assistant Keith Morris.  The Tumblr page will be updated a couple times a week and will feature detailed looks into the artistic process behind Kill Shakespeare as well as giving exclusive sneak peek previews and contests.

Tumblr Logo

So if you’re on Tumblr make sure to follow us!

Ye Olde Black Friday Sale!

Yes, everyone is off to the races this year for Black Friday in the U.S. (and even here in Canada more and more every year)… So in that spirit we figured we would get into the spirit by offering our ShakesGeare tshirts on sale for the holiday season!

Super Shakespeare Fighter Shirt!

Super Shakespeare Fighter Shirt!

Starting today all of our tshirts purchased online are 20% OFF, or now $15.99 (down from $19.99).  This sale will go for the next five weeks so take advantage of it now – they make excellent holiday gifts for the Shakespeare geek in your circle!

Click here, or on the image of our Super Shakespeare Fighter shirt to check out our online sales site.

 

Pictures from that most latin of North American cities. The one that never sleeps – the one that starts with an “M”

… Montreal.

 

I know, I know that I just got back from Miami and you want photos of Manatees and Martinis, but some of you have been bugging me for awhile about La Belle Province.

“Conor,” you say, “Where are all those photos you promised from Montreal? You took like a dozen of you and the belly dancer alone!”

And I had to confess that because I am technologically dumb I had somehow managed to save my Montreal photos in a strange directory that I could not find to upload them.

But lo and behold! While taking photos for my time at the Miami Book Fair, I managed to save THOSE photos in the same place and this time, sitting along in my hotel room with nothing but tap water and angst, I managed to CRACK THE CODE.

So here we go — a small sample of the VERY delayed Montreal photos are here, as well as a video from the show of a hoarse-voiced me trying to pitch a girl on the merits of Kill Shakespeare, but all she’s REALLY interested in is my celebrity look-alike…

For all the photos cruise over to our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152150232089131.1073741855.132288909130&type=3

The Miami photos and stories will be along in a day or so.

Hugs,

Conor

The very talented Steve Paugh has a "Trouble with Tribbles" moment.

The very talented Steve Paugh has a “Trouble with Tribbles” moment.

20130915_143619

I agreed to help at the booth, McCreery. Hugs cost extra.

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Vulcans say not buying Kill Shakespeare is HIGHLY “illogical.”

20130914_191950

When Jessica Rabbit and a Belly Dancer come by to buy your comic — well you know your marketing teams are REALLY doing their jobs.

20130914_144704

Cutest. Costume. Ever.

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Two siblings, each alike in lit’racy, in fair Montreal where we lay our scene…

And now the video!

Love is in the air. Kill Shakespeare-style!

Such is my love, to thee I so belong, That for thy right myself will bear all wrong. - Sonnet 88

UPDATE (May 28th, 2013): Julia Beckmann, who owns Amore Vita, saw the below post and super-kindly sent over a bunch of the most relevant Kill Shakespeare snaps. So while I would still VERY HEAVILY recommend you go over to her site (http://www.amorevitaphotos.com/) you can now look at some of those photos right here, right now!

(How’s that for service, huh?)

Iron Man and Juliet - a natural combination.

As you know, we're unrepentant Star Wars geeks, so Julia gifted us this photo as well. Oh Han, so coy...

As the wonderful Mr. Anthony Del Col so kindly noted, a year ago this day was when the love of my life, Crystal Luxmore, and I got married.

It’s been a fantastic year and I’m blessed beyond belief to have met my perfect partner.

I love you sweetie.

But enough about that… because we’ve got ANOTHER awesome couple we need to focus on.

Rico Renzi, part of the team of awesome dudes & dudettes behind Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find, one of the top comic shops in the WORLD sent this very cool e-mail to me.

It seems that Josh, one of Heroes’ regulars, decided he needed to get his love of comics into his wedding photos. That, in itself, is cool: we love all things geeky and romancing up here in Kill Shakespeare headquarters.

But what made this REALLY awesome? The bride to be, Denise? She seems to be a K.S. fan!

Check out this link for Amore Vita – if you scroll about half-way down through Julia’s pictures you’ll see Kill Shakespeare’s cameo (you’ll also see some great visual references to Superman, Star Wars and other classic components of the geek canon).

Hug someone you love!

Conor