Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth

by

Susan King

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Bethoc Character Analysis

One of Gruadh’s cousins. A healing woman who comes to live with Gruadh after the birth of her son, Lulach. Bethoc is one of Gruadh’s oldest and most trusted friends, and is with her even in the book’s final chapters as Gruadh enters middle age. Although a talented healer, Bethoc struggles in emergency situations, like when Maeve and Macbeth are poisoned, in these cases deferring to more practiced healers like Catriona.

Bethoc Quotes in Lady Macbeth

The Lady Macbeth quotes below are all either spoken by Bethoc or refer to Bethoc. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
History, Memory, and Storytelling  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Three Rivers Press edition of Lady Macbeth published in 2008.
Chapter 7  Quotes

Them men formed a circle around me, friends and enemies both. Ahead, on the earth of the practice yard, two swords lay crossed and ready, shining blades reflecting the glow of the sunrise. Nearby, horses stood, gleaming and grand, ready to be ridden, while overhead, two eagles winged toward the mountains, and a raven settled on a gatepost. Moon and stars were still visible in the sky, and the sunrise flowed over the hilltops like a spill of blood, the sun in its midst like a golden wafer. […] I knew some of the elements—ravens were death and warning, eagles pride and pairing, horses freedom; the swords might be conflict or war, and the circle of warriors around me could have been a sign of protection, or the men in my future. […] My mother had been gifted with the Sight that brings spontaneous visions, so common among the Gaels that we call it Da Shealladh, the gift of two sighs. A great-grandmother on Bodhe’s side had been a taibhsear, a seer, from whom others sought advice.

Until that moment, I had not known that I, too, had a hint of that talent.

Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8  Quotes

“Often the meaning of the omens we see it not clear until later. If we knew too much about the future, we might be afraid to step from our houses. Do not fret—the signs you saw speak of Scotland’s future even more than your own.”
“Scotland?” I blinked. “Because of the warriors and symbols of warfare?”
“Perhaps they will be Rue’s husbands in future,” Bethoc said. “Well, not all of them,” she amended when I gaped at her.

Mairi took my hands in hers and closed her eyes. “Two husbands,” she said. “Three, if you so choose. Like most women you will have a share of happiness and measures of sorrow. Unlike most, you will have… power.” She let go of my fingers. “You can draw strength from within yourself, like water from a well. Your mother gave you the sign of the good Brigid on your shoulder,” she went on, touching my upper sleeve, which covered the symbol. “Call upon that protection whenever you need it.”

Related Characters: Gruadh / Rue / Lady Macbeth (speaker), Bethoc (speaker), Mairi (speaker), Macbeth, Bodhe , Gilcomgan , Ailsa , The Goddess Brigid
Related Symbols: The Triskele
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9  Quotes

In the afternoon I looked up toward the ridge of a hill and saw a stand of tall pikes thrusting up like slender trees. The point of each carried a decapitated head, black and gruesome, pitch-soaked to preserve them a long while, until they decayed to skulls […] Aella gasped, near to retching, and hid her eyes with her hand. Bethoc looked away. But I stared, horrified and transfixed, even when Ruari and Conn drew their horses alongside to urge us onward. I remembered that my guard and my only brother had been beheaded but […] never piked.

I would not shrink form the grim display Someday I might have to show toughness for such things, even if I quailed within. As wife to Scotland’s most powerful mormaer, it was in my interest to understand the ways of men and warfare. My own life might turn on that knowledge one day.

Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17  Quotes

“Men,” Catriona said, “understand life and death differently than women. Ours is to give birth, life, and comfort. We cannot bring ourselves to take life, knowing its struggle and value.”

Somehow this saintly show of opinion irritated me. “If I had to kill to save a life, mine or my son’s,” I said, “I would do it.”

“Rue is trained at arms,” Bethoc said proudly.

“Lady Gruadh has a stiffer backbone than I do,” Catriona said. “It is my work to bring life into this world. My heart is far too tender to destroy it.”

“That is not my intent,” I defended. “The lady of a powerful region must have a martial spirit as well as a virtuous one. I would not hesitate to put on armor and take up a sword, if such was needed for the good of all.”

Related Characters: Gruadh / Rue / Lady Macbeth (speaker), Catriona of Kinlossie (speaker), Bethoc (speaker), Macbeth, Lulach
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19  Quotes

“The old legends are filled with such women—the great Irish queen, Macha, and Princess Scathach of Skye, who trained warriors in her fighting school, and also her sister Aoife, who bested Cu Chulainn and bore his son […] Celtic women have fought beside their men since before the names of kings were remembered. And even though Rome forbids Gaelic women to fight, it is rightful enough according to our customs.”

“They forbid with good reason,” Maeve said, bouncing Lulach on her lap. “Women have enough to do and should not have to go out and fight men’s battles, too.” […]

“The eyes of the Church cannot easily see beyond the mountains of the Gaels,” I said, “where warlike behavior in a woman is not sinful heresy, and is sometimes even necessary.” And I remembered my early vows—as a girl taking up a sword to defend herself, as a woman swearing on a sword to defend her own. Another facet of my obligation to my long legacy came clear: if others were so set on eliminating my line, and I and Lulach the last of it, then I would be steadfast as any warrior.

Related Characters: Gruadh / Rue / Lady Macbeth (speaker), Aella (speaker), Bethoc (speaker), Maeve (speaker), Bodhe , Lulach , Dolina, Scathach of Skye
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 22  Quotes

Although I had a place on his war council, lately he had not included me, claiming I needed rest. I did not. I needed something more to do, for my household was smoothly run, and my son was finding his way in the world more and more without his mother. With no other little ones to fill my arms, as I should have had by then, I lacked enough to do. […] I watched carefully as I could over Macbeth’s Moray in his absence, and the responsibly was no chore. Later I realized that in small and large ways, I had begun to prepare myself for what might come. Queenship in its many aspects was not a teachable thing, yet instinctively I tutored myself with charitable works and sword training. Inch by ell, I became the small queen of Moray in more than name alone.

Related Characters: Gruadh / Rue / Lady Macbeth (speaker), Aella , Bethoc
Page Number: 213
Explanation and Analysis:
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Lady Macbeth PDF

Bethoc Character Timeline in Lady Macbeth

The timeline below shows where the character Bethoc appears in Lady Macbeth. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
Gender Roles  Theme Icon
Fate, Family, and Ambition  Theme Icon
...she has no need of a husband, Gruadh is lonely. She has her childhood friends Bethoc and Drostan to keep her company but misses her late husband Macbeth and her sons. (full context)
Chapter 1
Magic, Tradition, and Religion  Theme Icon
Fate, Family, and Ambition  Theme Icon
Gruadh is abducted again four years later, at thirteen. She goes out with Bethoc and Aella to look for herbs, but does not have anyone give a sian, or... (full context)
Chapter 8 
Magic, Tradition, and Religion  Theme Icon
Fate, Family, and Ambition  Theme Icon
Overwhelmed by Dolina’s wedding preparations, Gruadh visits her cousin Bethoc and Bethoc’s mother Mairi, who live in the hills outside of her fortress to ask... (full context)
Magic, Tradition, and Religion  Theme Icon
Mairi and Bethoc also advise Gruadh to participate in the tradition of kissing people on the new moon... (full context)
Chapter 9 
Gender Roles  Theme Icon
Fate, Family, and Ambition  Theme Icon
...Cnut and wants other Scottish lords behind him to show his strength. Both Aella and Bethoc come with Gruadh so she is not the only woman on the trip. (full context)
Chapter 14 
Fate, Family, and Ambition  Theme Icon
Violence, Justice, and Revenge  Theme Icon
...also asks him to send men to Fife to ask for her cousins Mairi and Bethoc to come help with her birth. She explains that she only trusts her own kin... (full context)
Magic, Tradition, and Religion  Theme Icon
Fate, Family, and Ambition  Theme Icon
Violence, Justice, and Revenge  Theme Icon
Although Gruadh stubbornly waits for her cousins Bethoc and Mairi, Macbeth eventually goes for a midwife himself. She arrives hours later and introduces... (full context)
Chapter 15 
Fate, Family, and Ambition  Theme Icon
Violence, Justice, and Revenge  Theme Icon
Angus, Bethoc, and an envoy from Fife arrive late in the winter. They also bring gifts from... (full context)
Violence, Justice, and Revenge  Theme Icon
...understands her reluctance to remarry, and her desire to be reunited with her son. However, Bethoc dislikes Catriona and is not upset when she leaves. (full context)
Chapter 16 
Violence, Justice, and Revenge  Theme Icon
Gruadh has the urge to leave the fortress. She has Angus, Bethoc, and Séan, one of Macbeth’s warriors, accompany her. They ride towards the ocean where they... (full context)
Chapter 17 
Violence, Justice, and Revenge  Theme Icon
Catriona returns to Elgin in May to help with the birth of another child. Bethoc remains jealous and unwelcoming. One day Gruadh asks how Macbeth knew to fetch Catriona, and... (full context)
Gender Roles  Theme Icon
Violence, Justice, and Revenge  Theme Icon
Bethoc, Aella, Gruadh, and Catriona discuss the prospect of Macbeth becoming king. Bethoc notes he would... (full context)
Chapter 21 
Violence, Justice, and Revenge  Theme Icon
...order to “claim [her] territory.” Catriona offers to help with the pregnancy, but Gruadh insists Bethoc can take care of her. Macbeth returns to Elgin with her and recovers for a... (full context)
Magic, Tradition, and Religion  Theme Icon
That fall, on All Saint’s Eve, Gruadh goes out into the community with Bethoc and Aella. Her two friends are most excited to visit an old woman who is... (full context)
Magic, Tradition, and Religion  Theme Icon
Fate, Family, and Ambition  Theme Icon
...will marry. She tells Aella she will marry a tall man, which delights her, but Bethoc may not marry at all, which the healer finds upsetting.  (full context)
Chapter 25 
Fate, Family, and Ambition  Theme Icon
Violence, Justice, and Revenge  Theme Icon
...still at the table, begins to vomit. His men escort him out, and Gruadh commands Bethoc to do what she can to counteract what she suspects is poison. (full context)
Fate, Family, and Ambition  Theme Icon
Violence, Justice, and Revenge  Theme Icon
Macbeth convalesces in bed. Bethoc does what she can, but Gruadh realizes she needs Catriona’s expertise. Catriona arrives and begins... (full context)
Chapter 28 
Gender Roles  Theme Icon
Fate, Family, and Ambition  Theme Icon
Violence, Justice, and Revenge  Theme Icon
...as her obligation as queen “to give the king a hero of his own blood.” Bethoc feels she has done all she can for Gruadh’s fertility, and the pair decide to... (full context)
Violence, Justice, and Revenge  Theme Icon
...potions to drink and bathe in. Both women offer a kind of truce—Gruadh tells Catriona Bethoc would like to learn from her, and that she and Macbeth would be happy to... (full context)