When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
When the hurlyburly's done,
When the battle's lost and won.
That will be ere the set of sun.
I first read Macbeth when I was in high school. I can't be positive, but I believe it was something we read senior year. For sure, I had to memorize the soliloquy from Act II, scene 1 for English class. It's the one that begins "Is this a dagger which I see before me, /The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee." I don't recall if we actually had to say the soliloquy aloud; I rather suspect that we had to write it out from memory – that's the sort of thing that was "done" back in the day. Nowadays, of course, kids have to make videos for class for this sort of thing.
In addition to being a music geek (aka a "band fag", among other pet names) when I was in high school, I also did all the plays. For one of the plays I was in, my character was an eccentric woman who liked to spout lines from plays. These included some of Macbeth's lines from Act V, scene 5:
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,
Macbeth is the shortest of Shakespeare's tragedies, and is pretty easy to read and comprehend. It's terribly bloody, of course. Death follows death in this story of power-hungry madness.
In preparing to talk about the play here, I've been re-reading it, of course. I also watched Season Two of Slings & Arrows (thanks again, mystery giver!), in which they produced the Scottish play. (More on why I occasionally refer to it that way in a moment.) In Episode 3 from the second season, the character Geoffrey Tennant (director of the fictional New Bumbrage Shakespeare Festival) says that the key question at the heart of the play is "What is it that turns a man into a monster?" I suppose that's as good a summation of the crux of the play as any other.
The Scottish Play
In researching Macbeth for a post in 2007, I learned that for centuries, it's been considered unlucky by many theatre folk to say the name "Macbeth" unless it's during rehearsal or performance, perhaps because Shakespeare presumed to use real magic, but more likely because theatre folks are a superstitious lot, the same as athletes and other folk. Others think it's only unlucky to say the name of the play whilst in or near a theatre, but saying it elsewhere (like in a classroom) is okay. It's usually called "the Scottish play" or "the Scottish king" or "MacBee" in order to avoid the curse, although in Slings & Arrows, some of the actors call the character "Mackers" when not in performance. The remedy, should one utter the name aloud, is to leave the room, close the door, turn around three times, say a dirty word (or spit, some say), then knock on the door and ask to be let back in.
Or you can undo the ill by quoting from Hamlet, act 1, scene 4, beginning with line 39:
Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn'd,
Being with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell,
Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
Thou comest in such a questionable shape that I will speak to thee.
Later today, a summary of the play. Assuming I'm not prevented by thunder, lightning, or by rain.
- Current Mood: determined
- Current Music:Macbeth on Slings & Arrows (TV)