By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes. --Second Witch, Act IV, scene I - Macbeth.
That’s one of my favorite Shakespeare quotes; it’s so ominous and filled with dread. However I’ve always been a little vague on the whole, pricking of the thumbs bit. I mean, I’ve heard of pricking your finger, meaning a small puncture to the finger, but of the thumb? That’s just crazy. Shakespeare was a nut!
I digress; this quote though has served me well in a lot of situations. For instance, when I’m at the bar and some person who has a reputation for causing trouble comes in, I’ll quote the above. Then everyone looks at me and is like, “What?”, and then I have to explain to them that it’s from Macbeth and they say, “Who?”, and then I stare in disbelief and start talking about something else, “So….how about that local sports squadron?”
But this phrase has always been cool for its obscurity and dark foreboding. Not only is there the hint of bloodletting but also the lure of malicious intent on the horizon. That just gives me chills.
I first heard the phrase, not in Macbeth, but in a pseudo-scary movie Disney made in the early ‘80’s called Something Wicked This Way Comes. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086336/
Jason Robards and Jonathan Price give splendid performances in this forgotten movie. Jason Robards character quotes Macbeth and I remember thinking, “Wow. That is cool”. (Apparently it was a Ray Bradbury story as well, but I never read that.)
I also feel the quote is Halloween appropriate. There is a true sense of something wicked coming. Maybe it’s the high winds or the crackling of leaves underfoot or that on moonless October nights, shadows seem to linger and the new coolness to the air makes your hair stand up on the back of your neck. It always seems like there’s someone following you, spirits and ghouls at your back, ready to snatch your soul and drag it to hell.