Thursday, August 4, 2016

Macbeth - Shakespeare

I read 'Macbeth' a couple of years ago for the Great Books and blogged about it here.  You can compare the readings if you'd like, though the older one is pretty bare.  As before, I'll say that the mechanics of the story are fairly well known.  Macbeth is promised the crown by the witches.  His wife is quickly on board and pushes him into murder.  He does, and death follows death.  In the end, the witches have tricked him and he dies alone.
While rereading the play, I wondered about the Macbeths.  If Lady Macbeth doesn't push him, does he just sit back and see if nature plops the crown in his lap?  If he stands up to her, would she have let it drop?  Oh, not easily, I'm sure, but if he told her to banish such thoughts as killing his lord and guest, would she have gone and done it without him?  That's hard for me to imagine.
I also couldn't help but compare Macbeth the man to that or Richard III.  They both climbed over a pile of corpses to put themselves on a throne, but Richard III seemed happy as he did it.  He delighted in the game, the sport.  They both saw ghosts of the departed but only Macbeth was truly shaken by them.

What a role is Lady Macbeth!  She is really the living embodiment of the term 'bloodthirsty'.  She gets wonderful speeches throughout.  The role even calls for one of the better crazy bits with the whole 'out damned spot' business.  The only thing it lacks is an onstage death.
Of all of Shakespeare's women in tragedies, she is the most guilty.  Her death is fully deserved.  In fact, you can persuasively argue that she gets off easy.  Still, what a role...

My favorite speech comes near the end:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

What a gloriously dark passage!  Gives me the shivers. 

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