Macbeth : A Love Story

This article is little more than the announcement of a particular show, but I like the way they spun it. This particular interpretation will focus on the Macbeths as one of Shakespeare’s great romantic couples.

“Our director Iam Coulter kept telling us she wanted Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to light up every room when they walk in. They’re dynamic, they’re sexual and they’re very much in love,” says Konchak.

What do you think? I know we’ve discussed Shakespeare’s best couples in the past, but sometimes it’s fun to revisit topics for the new geeks.
Are the Macbeths an example of a wonderful couple, or are they incredibly dysfunctional?

7 thoughts on “Macbeth : A Love Story

  1. I don't think you can play Macbeth as an innocent victim, JM. After all, Banquo hears the Witches prophecy future glory for him, too ("Thou shalt get kings") but he doesn't murder anybody. The Weird Sisters test and reveal, but they don't force anything on Macbeth. It's just the potency of suggestion.

    On the topic of the post however, I'd have to agree that the Macbeths are a passionately united couple. Macbeth is constantly thinking about his wife in the beginning of the play ("I'll be myself the harbinger and make joyful the hearing of my wife with your approach"). For her part, Lady Macbeth believes her husband can and should be king–I read her as more concerned about her husband's desserts and position than her own. All she wants is to be his "dearest partner of greatness."

    Therefore, a major part of the tragedy is the growing gap between them. They respond in opposite ways to guilt, and soon they lose the ability to interact at all: One an insomniac, the other a somnambulant. When the partners in love become partners in crime, blood becomes all that holds them together, even as both are inwardly torn apart.

  2. All right, J, I'll bite – does that make the Macbeths dysfunctional people? After all, right before the play opens haven't they had a pretty good life? Mr. Macbeth seems to be doing quite well at his career, rising up the ranks in the way that a good soldier should. His wife hasn't yet planted the idea in his head of killing the king. What changed?

  3. Just to be clear,I meant to indicate that they're both.

    What happens to them? The Weyard Sisters.

    They immediately begin to make 'dysfunctional' choices, based upon the influence. One of the things Stewart said about his performance was that there was a time when, as an actor, he made a conscious choice to "embrace the depravity". I disagree. I don't think either of them 'embrace' anything other than each other and what they desperately want. I think the power of the supernatural aspect, although many times overplayed, is also many times overlooked. As a result, we're shepherded to look for the 'evil' in both the Macbeths, rather than their humanity. Macbeth–in the text–fights what he has to do throughout, his conscience caught in a vortex. It drives him insane. He's "murdered sleep". She's driven insane by what she sees happening to him. One thing builds on another, set in motion by a single choice informed by superstition. We shouldn't forget the great imagination of both characters. Too often, in a modern adaptation, this can be understated or lost simply because of the realistic and familiar quality of the surroundings. Then it becomes the tragedy of everything around Macbeth– what he 'causes'.
    But that's not the title of the play.

  4. Alexi, I'm not attempting to make Macbeth totally innocent at all. But the 'tragedy' is what happens to him, not anyone else.
    The "potency of suggestion" is a little weak-kneed and oversimplified jargon-wise, don't you think? It's in their nature to get carried away with such a 'suggestion'. The supernatural wasn't just "suggestion" in Shakespeare's time, it was real, visceral, sometimes tantamount to a physicality for them.

    Yes, Banquo has better judgment. And no imagination. But a simple comparison to Macbeth doesn't automatically indicate the 'evil' and equal opposite. Also, although regicide is a pretty nasty thing altogether, Scotland and all of its clans had something of a history of rationalized throne usurpation. It wasn't what it is to us.

    From an acting standpoint, for Macbeth to get any sympathy (and there should be only an inkling, somehow) for what happens to him, he can't simply equal evil. Underplaying the importance of circumstance removes any possibility for what happens to have any relation to "The Tragedy of Macbeth".

    Your last paragraph is great overall analysis from a psychological stance. (And I'm not being flip) But looking at it from the inside, it would have given me no help when I played the role.

  5. I absolutely agree the tragedy belongs to Macbeth (and Lady Macbeth). And I agree that "Macbeth=Evil" is a gross oversimplification. It's tragedy of a great man's spiritual fall charted against his societal rise. Macbeth has conflicting shades of both Richard III and Hamlet.

    It appears we disagree about the power of the Weird Sisters. I'd absolutely agree that they are frightening and supernatural. But I don't think they mind-control Macbeth, or compromise his free will in any way. They provide the temptation that he falls for, but he isn't their pawn. Most of their prophecies derive their power from the belief Macbeth invest in them, especially "No man of woman born can harm Macbeth."

    I think Banquo has imagination. He just struggles to control it. "Merciful powers, restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature gives way to in repose." And unlike Macbeth, he has a son. I think the Macbeth's childlessness is a big motivational factor for them. Rather than the future of descendants, they choose "the future in the instant."

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