Play Of the Month: Macbeth (The Scottish Play)

Movie pitch: Be careful what you wish for: A Scottish warrior dreams of power and loses his mind, his wife, and his soul.

Rated R for grisly images, violence, drinking, and language.

My two cents.

The play: As you might know I have been in this play and played the title character. For an actor, this play is an intoxicating journey through horror- you ask yourself what brings this man, whom everyone seems to respect and admire, to kill his king, drive his wife to madness, and murder women and children? Was there something horrible lurking in his soul, and if so, could I be corrupted just like him?

The characters: Lady Macbeth is one of the greatest parts ever written for a woman. She can bull, seduce, cajole, and deceive men. Through the centuries, great actresses have become immortal because of their portrayal of the fiend-like Queen. Ellen Terry, Jane Lapoitaire, Judy Dench, and many others have been possessed by the spirit of the fiend-like Queen.

Contemporary Parallels

Breaking Bad. As I posted before, the core of the story of Macbeth is that he’s a good man seduced by power and a desire to act out his most violent impulses. This is what also makes the transformation of Walter White from mild mannered chemistry teacher, to violent drug lord, so shocking. https://youtu.be/mCBJJ0Yr8PA

Wolf 🐺 Of Wall Street (2013) All Of Martin Scorsese’s work is about good men or “Goodfellas” who become monsters on their way to power. Jordan Belfort is no exception, the only difference is that there are no witches and he lives at the end.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2011) Macbeth’s quest for power could be interpreted as an attempt to cheat death, and Voldemort’s mad pursuit of the Deathly Hallows is another such quest. He too is undone by witches and a prophesy that someone will kill him.

Ghost (1990) Patrick Swaze is a successful man who is killed by his best friend and then comes back as a ghost to torture him into madness with the help of a woman (dare I say witch), who can talk to ghosts. Need more proof? Guess what play Swaze’s character goes to see before he is murdered?
Famous Lines

“So foul and Fair a day.”

“Screw your courage to the sticking Place.”

“Is this a dagger which I see before me?” Act II, Scene I.

“Knock knock, who’s there?” Act II, Scene ii.

“Double Double, Toil and Trouble.”

“Something wicked this way comes.” Act IV, Scene i.

For more quotes and analysis of the characters, click here: http://www.shakespeare-navigators.com/macbeth/index.html

Famous Speeches

Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood;
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature 395
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman’s breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature’s mischief! Come, thick night, 400
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
To cry ‘Hold, hold!’
Act I, Scene v. 390-405

If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well
It were done quickly: if the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success; that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all here,
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
We’ld jump the life to come. But in these cases
We still have judgment here; that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
To plague the inventor: this even-handed justice
Commends the ingredients of our poison’d chalice
To our own lips. He’s here in double trust;
First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,
Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,
Who should against his murderer shut the door,
Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off;
And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubim, horsed
Upon the sightless couriers of the air,
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,
That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself
And falls on the other. Act I, Scene vii. 473-500.

  • Is this a dagger which I see before me,
    The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
    I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
    Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
    To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
    A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
    Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
    I see thee yet, in form as palpable
    As this which now I draw.
    Thou marshall’st me the way that I was going;
    And such an instrument I was to use.
    Mine eyes are made the fools o’ the other senses,
    Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,
    And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,
    Which was not so before. There’s no such thing:
    It is the bloody business which informs
    Thus to mine eyes. Now o’er the one halfworld
    Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
    The curtain’d sleep; witchcraft celebrates
    Pale Hecate’s offerings, and wither’d murder,
    Alarum’d by his sentinel, the wolf,
    Whose howl’s his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.
    With Tarquin’s ravishing strides, towards his design
    Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth,
    Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
    Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
    And take the present horror from the time,
    Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:
    Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives. [A bell rings]
    I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.
    Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell
    That summons thee to heaven or to hell. Act II, Scene I. 612 – 640.

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
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. Act V, Scene II. 2374-2384.

General Data

Title: Macbeth

Playwright: William Shakespeare

Year Written: approx. 1605

Primary Source: Holinshed Chronicles http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sources/macbethsources.html

Play Data

Genre: Jacobean Tragedy : Prose/ Verse

Structure: Five Acts, 28 scenes, 2477 lines uncut. (Macbeth is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy).

Setting: Medieval Scotland, around the 12th century.

Characters: 6 female characters, 19 male characters plus soldiers, officers, gentlemen, apparitions, and a porter.

Notable adaptations:

  • Sleep No More (2015- present) A unique physical theater piece by Punchdrunk TheaterCompany. Check out my review by clicking here:
  • Shakespeare Retold: Macbeth (2005) Contemporary adaptation where Macbeth is a chef who murders the owner of a restaurant. https://youtu.be/CsRrRvt2ZvA
  • Macbeth opera by Giuseppe Verdi, 1887.

Resources:

Full play: http://shakespeare.mit.edu/macbeth/index.html

Lesson plans for teachers

  1. Varsity Teachers.com https://www.varsitytutors.com/englishteacher/macbeth
  2. Teaching English.org https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/macbeth
  3. Lincoln Center Theatre: https://www.lct.org/media/filer_public/b1/9c/b19cb77d-63c1-4a35-a8cb-8ca7c9ba358d/shakespearesmacbethstudyguide.pdf
  4. Shakespeare Help.org https://www.shakespearehelp.com/macbeth-lesson-plans/
  5. Royal Shakespeare Company https://www.rsc.org.uk/macbeth/education

Artwork (wave mouse over each image to find out the artist/ year).

Elizabeth Schuch- “Lady Macbeth.” Reprinted with permission from Immortal Longings.com

For more artwork, visit the article below:

http://www.english.emory.edu/classes/Shakespeare_Illustrated/MacbethPaintings.html

Video

  1. Crash Course: Macbeth: https://youtu.be/VPYOs0EGgJk
  2. Thug Notes summary of Macbeth (PG 13 Language alert)https://youtu.be/rD5goS69LT4
  3. Different film versions of the witches https://youtu.be/5hX4QDwSaLU
  4. Shakespearean animated tales: Macbeth https://youtu.be/qfnUq2_0FOY
  5. Royal Shakespeare Company, 1978 starring Ian McKellen and Judy Dench: https://youtu.be/YpKWWK0Pj34