“MACBETH” Live from RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon

Wed April 11th @ 7.15pm

A production of “Macbeth” from Stratford is something to look forward to eagerly. The story of an essentially good man who, we are not sure why, turns to monstrous deeds, is endlessly fascinating.  The play is one of the most popular of all tragedies; it’s one of the most often filmed and most frequently staged of all its author’s plays.

“Macbeth” was always a joy to teach; a rivetting, fast-moving and easy-to-follow story with no subplots, enough action and violence to satisfy even the most bloodthirsty – and two of the most intriguing and repellent charters in all drama. Then, there are the mysterious witches and, above all, some of the greatest poetry ever set down. It’s also one of the shortest of all Shakespeare’s plays

The events of “Macbeth” move swiftly and unrelentingly from the meeting of “brave Macbeth”, the heroic, loyal defender of his king, to a conclusion of tragedy, cruelty and disloyalty. We are witnesses to the physical and moral destruction of somebody who is admired and trusted, brought low by the promptings of a ruthlessly ambitious wife; or, perhaps, by the evil promptings of the witches; or are these external agents merely catalysts that release hidden evil lurking within his psyche. Directors undertaking this play have come up with a myriad interpretations as to why such evil is released during the play.

How does Macbeth descend in a short period of from a loyal subject of King Duncan to being a regicide. It’s true that the witches first plant the seed in his mind but he is abhorred by the very thought of it. We soon encounter one of the greatest monsters in all literature, his wife, Lady Macbeth.

As the play opens, Macbeth is returning in triumph with his fellow soldier, Banquo, having defeated a rebellion against his King and country. On the heath, they are confronted by three witches (although they never refer to themselves as such, rather as the ‘weird sisters’ – from the Old English meaning ‘fate’ or destiny) who tell him that he “shalt be king hereafter”. He is horrified at the very thought of what the fulfilling of the prophecy might entail but is strangely engaged by it. He writes an ambiguous letter to his wife; she thinks him “too full of the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way (i.e. act ruthlessly)”. She prays to the spirits to make her an inhuman monster free of all human feelings. Almost immediately she is bent on a murderous course and goads him, with taunts of unmanliness, into killing their guest, the King.

This evil act only leads to further atrocities. Ironically, while he revels in evil, she is destroyed by it. It has been said that the Macbeths are the perfect example of a couple who as a couple are capable of depraved deeds of which neither, acting alone, would be capable. The actress, Harriet Walter, says; – “None of it would have happened if either had been acting alone”.

“Macbeth”, Live from the Bard’s home town, is a must see for lovers of great drama.

By Jim Ryan