Doré’s Ghost of Banquo (Ghost Riff 1)

It’s the disconcerting incompleteness of Gustave Doré’s The Spectrum Appearance of Banquo at Macbeth’s Feast that, paradoxically, creates the full, troubling effect of the picture.

“Enter Ghost of Banquo, and sits in Macbeth’s place” (Act 3, Sc. 4)—thus the stage directions from Shakespeare (or the actors who wrote down his words from memory)—and thus Banquo, draped, robed, sullen, taciturn, a marble effigy—but no, lifelike—no?

The Macbeths, shocked—Doré stages Lady M as a shadowy echo/support for Lord M—teeter aslant, Lord M’s left hand braced on the chairback that divides the painting—their faces, the Macbeths’ faces, wholly enshadowed (not wholly; Lady M’s nose peeks out in white silhouette); Lord M’s whole head a gravid mass of dark crowned with an incomplete crown, a broken circle.

Banquo’s eyes: Chilly, stern, accusatory, sad. And over them, thy gory locks. Do they shake at Lord Macbeth?

In The Life and Reminiscences of Gustave Doré, Blanche Roosevelt claims to have “seen no less than six sketches of Macbeth at the banquet, when confronted by Banquo’s ghost.” The biographer continues: “Doré was so original that it was almost impossible for him to repeat himself, even designedly.”

There seems here a condensation of repetitions. Doré’s control is to let loose control: Banquo’s robes are mummy wrappings unraveling: unraveling Lord Macbeth’s consciousness, even, I suppose. Squiggles, pulses, suggesting phantom movement, energy without depth. They unwind from his firm, marble visage—the look, the gory locks that shake, the chin that nods.

Cousin Ross has called out Banquo for his absence, which “lays blame upon his promise,” and of course this is Shakespeare’s big trick, the trick that Doré captures so well here—that Banquo is the most startlingly present absence, the most impossible absence, the absence that proves the radical uncertainty of presence, the present absence that haunts Macbeth, that silently affirms future ghostliness, attesting mutely that “charnel-houses and our graves must send Those that we bury back,” that “our monuments Shall be the maws of kites.”

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The Death of Don Quixote — Gustave Doré

So my other blog, Gustave Doré’s Don Quixote, has come to an end with the death of the Don.

The Don Sadly Revisits the Place of His Defeat — Gustave Doré

Harpies in the Forest of Suicides — Gustave Doré

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Sancho Finds Trees full of Hanged Men — Gustave Doré

World Destroyed by Water — Gustave Doré

Sancho Regrets Having Traded the Care of His Donkey for the Role of Governor — Gustave Doré

My other blog, Gustave Doré’s Don Quixote, is winding down to its end.

Don Quixote Meets Merlin’s Ghost-Skeleton — Gustave Doré

Don Quixote — Gustave Doré

Ravens and bats swarm as Don Quixote hacks a passage into the cave of Montesinos (Gustave Dore)

Sancho and the Don Indulge in Philosophical Reflections — Gustave Dore

(Via).

Don Quixote in a Cage — Gustave Doré

(Via).

Ezra Reads the Law to the People — Gustave Dore

Don Quixote Reads a Sonnet — Gustave Doré

More at Gustave Doré’s Don Quixote