Thou hast it now: king, Cawdor, Glamis, all as the weird women promised, and, I fear, thou play’dst most foully for’t. – Act 3, Scene 1
On Saturday night I had the all-to-rare opportunity to attend a local production of one of Shakespeare’s plays, Macbeth. Although I’ve read the play, I’d never seen it performed before, and at $20 a ticket it was too good to miss.
For those unfamiliar with the plot, Macbeth is based very loosely on historical events – Shakespeare wrote it around the time that King James VI of Scotland succeeded to the English throne as King James I in 1603 – and portrays the efforts of Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, to lay claim to the Scottish throne after a trio of witches prophesy that he will be king, and that his companion at the moment of the prophesy, Banquo, will father a line of kings. Spurred on by his wife, the formidable Lady Macbeth, Macbeth engages in a series of murders beginning with that of King Duncan. Guilt and remorse, however, swiftly drive both the Macbeths mad: he begins to hallucinate, while she sleepwalks while babbling confessions of her foul deed. In the end, Lady Macbeth commits suicide while Macbeth himself is killed by Macduff, Thane of Fife, a man ‘not of woman born.’
Although this was an amateur production and some of the secondary characters were difficult to hear (a significant problem when one is trying to comprehend Elizabethan English), the main actors were brilliant. The witches in particular provided both comic relief and a suitable air of menace as they hovered in the background of many scenes. An innovation which I thought was particularly successful was having the slain characters rise as ‘zombies’ in response to the gestures of the witches – a very successful way of removing bodies from the stage and reintroducing Banquo at the feast. I was a little confused, however, when, after the final line, Macduff embraced the witches, implying that they had been in cahoots the whole time. Even leaving aside the fact that Macduff loses his wife and children to Macbeth’s assassins, he is one character who has absolutely nothing to gain by setting up Macbeth as king. Lady Macbeth, played by local woman Rachel Plank, was particularly impressive in her raw, persuasive ambition: were I ever to have the opportunity to play one of Shakespeare’s roles, I think that would be the one I would choose simply because of the sheer forcefulness of the character.
The open air venue lent a relaxed atmosphere to the evening, although I did get a little chilly as the night wore on, and I can only hope that Shakespeare in the Park becomes a regular event on the local calendar.