“Is this a poisoned blade which I see before me, the handle toward my hand?”

WoW and Shakespeare – not much crossover?

You might just be wrong there.

Erinys at The Harpy’s Nest writes another one of her truly fascinating studies of literature and WoW today. Particularly fascinating given the occasional mutterings about WoW’s lack of strong female characters, this time she’s talking about Magatha Grimtotem, Elder Crone and architect of Cairne Bloodhoof’s death, and how her character maps surprisingly well to the most famous of all femme fatales, Lady Macbeth

“It’s her words softly spoken into Garrosh’s emotional ears which lay the ground work. She picks her moment perfectly, Garrosh, like Macbeth has returned from a great and successful campaign when he’s waylaid by his very own Crone. Both of them have new and shiny titles,

I have heard you called the Hero of Northrend, and I think that an apt title (Pg 47 of the Shattering, Thrall to Garrosh)

and Macbeth is newly called Thane of Cawdor on top of his own existing title yet both have a hunger for more. Magatha pushes the right buttons, mentioning first Garrosh’s father and then his own deeds claiming to be impressed by them, knowing that the boy inside Garrosh will fall for her flattery, especially in the light of his “treatment” by Cairne and Thrall. Just like the Three Witches, Magatha influences the events which follow. Her title too, “The Elder Crone” plays into this idea of her as a witch, a wise woman with the answer to everything, even the question not yet asked. Even those that don’t trust her, respect her abilities and her opinions.

Then later, she reinforces what has already been said, making sure Garrosh “does the right thing”. She doesn’t want his weakness getting in the way. It’s not hard to imagine Lady Macbeth’s words coming from Magatha’s mouth.

That I may pour my spirits in thine ear;

And chastise with the valour of my tongue

Of course she is helped by Garrosh’s personality and his fear of looking stupid. He doesn’t want to question her motives because that might highlight his own lack of knowledge. He accepts because she has offered him a prize, already mentioned, the support of her clan, her tribe and to bring the Grimtotem to heel, to accomplish something so quickly that both Thrall and Cairne never managed, of course he’s going to leap at the chance.”

It might seem strange or even ludicrous to compare WoW to Shakespeare, but the fact is, whilst the story’s of uneven quality, WoW has a massive body of narrative, and much of it (conciously or unconciously) makes use of classic archetypes and plots. Whilst WoW’s rarely in iambic pentameter, the fact is that, like the rest of Western literature, it owes many things to Shakespeare, and it’s interesting to see them discussed.

Unlike Erinys’ previous piece on this subject, discussing the similarities between WoW’s women and those of Victorian literature, this piece is a good deal more flattering to Blizzard, as well as being extremely interesting. I had no idea quite what a complex character Magatha had become, and I’m now looking forward to her future appearances a good deal!

And this comparison makes me wonder whether the Garrosh / Macbeth comparisons are deliberate, too. Could it be that Blizzard are doing something a good deal more complex – and literary – than we expected? Will Encounter 2 of the Siege of Orgrimmar be set in Birnam Wood, or the Kalimdor equivalent?

WoW and Shakespeare – any other similarities you can think of?