Sunday, May 29, 2016

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Mr and Mrs Macbeth find out what's done cannot be undone

Macbeth, simple and brave general under good King Duncan, is accosted by three witches who address him as King. Their spooky salutation/prediction plants an idea in Macbeth’s head, and even more urgently, the head of his wife. Spurred on by her merciless words, Macbeth kills the king as he sleeps. Initially panicky, the couple washes away the royal blood with a little water, then claims the throne. The once trustworthy Macbeth finds he now cannot trust anybody, and since murder has become a quick and effective tool, begins to murder friends and innocent women and children, all to keep his grasp on the crown. The list of his enemies grows long. Meanwhile, Lady Macbeth cracks beneath the guilt. Foolishly trusting the ambiguous words of the weird sisters, Macbeth believes he is invulnerable. Once he realizes all is lost, however, he dies like a warrior.

I forgot how good this is. How compact.  How it is a tiny sharp portrait of marriage.  The play hurtles along, supported by the clean and wonderful poetry. (The deceptively simple nursery rhymes of the witches – lingering on the “o” sound.) In many ways, the plot is that of a horror movie, though Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are not villains. The horror is the murder, and yet, at the same time, the horror is that the murder could very well be meaningless. Everything could be meaningless.  Murder, don’t murder – in the long run, does it make a difference? The Macbeths try for a better life, spotting a once in a lifetime opportunity, intending to keep their crime hidden in the dark. Instead the murder infects everything, the peace of their sleep, indeed the entire country.

At times, their judgment is off - Lady Macbeth fairly begs for demonic possession – typically a bad idea. They underestimate the long term consequences of cold blooded murder. It is at the end, when all hope is lost, that Macbeth becomes fully the hero.

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