Monday, February 26, 2018

Book Note: By the Pricking of my Thumbs

Christie, Agatha. By the Pricking of my Thumbs: A Tommy and Tuppence Mystery. New York: William Morrow, 2012.

If you ever feel like Alice and want to jump down a rabbit hole, start browsing and / or reading your way through this list of works that take their titles from Shakespeare quotes. The works may or may not have anything else to do with Shakespeare–they may simply be parasitical works that find a nifty title in a Shakespeare play.

Agatha Christie's By the Pricking of my Thumbs is along those lines—there's not much in the way of Shakespeare in it . . . and what there is is misquoted.

The novel starts Christie's Tommy and Tuppence—a pair she used for more adventure / spy / thriller types of mysteries. A little way in, Tuppence tries to explain why she thinks there's something odd happening at the nursing home. She says, "I don't quite know . . . .  It's like the fairy stories. By the pricking of my thumbs—Something evil this way comes" (55).

"Evil" is a fairly common substitution in that quote, but "wicked" is the word Shakespeare used. In this case, it's not a question of a difference between a quarto and the folio editions—no quarto of Macbeth exists. And Macbeth is not quite a fairy story.

All the same, let's let Dame Agatha put the misquoted line in the mouth of her character. And I'll give you the rest of the context of the quote as well.  Enjoy!


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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

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