The Third Witch

A Novel

The Third Witch

In this stirring debut novel, Rebecca Reisert enters the world of Shakespeare's Macbeth, in which a young woman's search for vengeance plunges her into a legendary tale of deceit, murder, and retribution....
I have made my life an arrow, and His heart is my home. I have made my life a blade, and His heart is my sheath....So pledges Gilly, vowing to destroy Macbeth, the most powerful man in medieval Scotland. She escapes from the hut in Birnam Wood in which she has lived for the past seven years, ever since she was taken in by Nettle and Mad Helga -- wise women whose powers are widely feared and reviled. Disguising herself as a servant boy, Gilly finds work in the kitchen of her enemy's castle. Soon she insinuates herself into the lives of Macbeth and his beautiful, dangerous wife, subtly manipulating the forces governing their fate. But as Gilly moves closer to her private revenge, she finds herself at risk when she confronts the startling legacy of a long-concealed heritage.
  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743417723 | 
  • October 2002
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide for
The Third Witch
by Rebecca Reisert

1) The way gender dictates actions and behaviors and affects expectations plays a central role in this story. While Lady Macbeth utilizes traditional views of womanhood, claiming that she is "only a weak woman" when she is, in fact, manipulating those around for personal gain, Gilly sloughs off her female status to embrace the anonymity and freedom that boyish-ness allows her. Yet both women ask to be "de-sexed" so that they may fulfill their murderous plans without hesitation. Why do these two women feel that their genders stand in their way? Is it fear and cowardice that they see as inherently female, or empathy and compassion?
2) Does it logically follow then that men find it easier to kill, either for revenge or for selfish gain? What do you think the character of Macbeth suggests? Is Macbeth less susceptible to the madness that guilt brings than Lady Macbeth because of his gender? When Gilly speaks of being "de-sexed," is she referring to her desire to be like a man, or is she asking to be made sex-less, or somehow less human -- an inanimate object, without consciousness and therefore conscience?
3) The Third Witch is the story of a young woman in a desperate search for justice. And despite numerous warnings that "Doom is more costly than love," Gilly chooses to seek this justice through mad, blind revenge. What is the price of Gilly's revenge, both literally a see more