It’s been so long since our last destination that I could hardly remember where we were! We left off in England with King Lear, and today, our journey is not too long. We are in Scotland! This wonderful place is the home of many of my favorite things: kilts, bagpipes, William Wallace, and David Tennant. It is also the setting of Macbeth.
Macbeth is fighting in the service of King Duncan, the king of Scotland. He and Banquo are travelling together when they come upon some witches. These witches tell Macbeth that he will be king and Banquo that his descendants will rule. Macbeth writes of this to his wife, Lady Macbeth, and the two plot to kill King Duncan. This is accomplished with much agony and uncertainty on Macbeth’s part, but he later hires murderers to kill Banquo and his son as well. Macbeth becomes obsessed with maintaining his power, turning into a cruel leader, while his wife loses her mind over the crimes she has committed.
By the time we reached Macbeth, I was over tragedies. I’m starting to get that feeling now as I write about the plays in the order we read them. You can only take so many plays where trust is broken, love is lost, main characters go insane, and everyone dies at the end. Shakespeare reused key ideas in his high tragedies because they work (I would never say that Macbeth isn’t good). If you want to stay entertained, however, you have to look at what makes one high tragedy different from the others.
So, what makes Macbeth different? One of the most notable differences is how Macbeth and his wife handle evil. Hamlet tried to deceive and kill it, Othello trusted it, and Lear lost his mind over it. Macbeth weighed the pros and cons. After some consideration, he decided to join it. Macbeth and his wife, who should have been heroic figures, became villains in their own story. Each had a unique transformation as a result of accepting evil, and these transformations are what really make the play for me.
As far as an adaptation goes, there’s a new one coming out that’s expected to start shooting later this year. It stars Michael Fassbender as Macbeth and Natalie Portman as Lady Macbeth. I think that Portman is a little too pretty to fill the ambitious shoes of Lady Macbeth, but she did surprise me in Black Swan, so I have hope. One to watch now as you wait anxiously for the new release would be a 2010 film by Rupert Goold. It stars Patrick Stewart as Macbeth and has an air of the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. (I have not personally seen it. The adaptation presented to us in class was about night club mobsters… Not the sort of thing I’d readily recommend.)