Five Fascinating Facts about Of Mice and Men

A short introduction to the classic novel Of Mice and Men, in the form of five interesting facts

1. John Steinbeck’s original title for his classic novella, Of Mice and Men, was ‘Something That Happened’. This deliberately nondescript title was intended to remove any sense of individual blame for the events that occur in the novella (something quite different from the ironic intention behind the similarly titled play Stuff HappensDavid Hare’s recent play about the Iraq War). Of Mice and Men, as the novel came to be known, focuses on two migrant workers, George (a smart, quick-thinking man) and his friend Lennie (a simpler man, who is mentally disabled but physically big and strong – ironically, his surname is ‘Small’), who work on various farms during the Great Depression in America in the 1930s (Steinbeck was drawing on his own experiences as a ‘bindlestiff’, as he also would for his next novel, The Grapes of Wrath). Joseph Heller, author of Catch 22, was possibly alluding to Steinbeck’s working title when he called one of his own later novels Something Happened.

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Five Fascinating Facts about Macbeth

A short introduction to the classic play Macbeth in the form of five interesting facts

Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s very best plays. Here are some of our favourite bits of trivia about ‘the Scottish play’. (Those who wish to learn more about Shakespeare might like our list of the top ten best books about Shakespeare.)

1. Lady Macbeth’s real name was Gruoch and Macbeth’s real name was Mac Bethad mac Findlaích. Many people know the story of Macbeth: the ambitious Thane of Cawdor, egged on by his wife who taunts him with jibes about his (insufficient) manliness and encouraged by the prophecy imparted to him by three witches, kills the Scottish king, Duncan, while Duncan is asleep in Macbeth’s own castle. Macbeth takes the crown for himself, and tyrannically rules Scotland until Macduff defeats him, killing Macbeth and enabling Duncan’s son Malcolm to be crowned King. But the story as told by Shakespeare is somewhat different from the historical truth. The real Macbeth killed Duncan in battle in 1040 and Macbeth (or Mac Bethad) actually went on to rule for 17 years, until he was killed and Macbeth’s stepson, known as Lulach the Idiot, became king (though he only ruled for less than a year – then Malcolm, as Malcolm III, took the crown). Unsurprisingly, the historical record is rather lacking in witches, and the idea of killing Duncan while the king was a guest in Macbeth’s own home was Shakespeare exercising his artistic licence.

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