Hello, my dear strangers!
I gave Macbeth five out of five stars. Justly earned, too! Definitely, definitely, definitely the best WS play I’ve ever read! I loved it so much! I don’t even know where to start.
Macbeth, our flawed protagonist, is a man of great potential. His prowess on the battlefield is one of his most striking features. The battlefield is where he feels at home the most. He was born to be a warrior and to die being a warrior, serving his king in the manner best suited to him. However, he rose beyond himself. With great desire come great temptations. Macbeth is a play with no easy answers. There are a lot of loose ends and unchecked assumptions left by its end. Scholars have been trying to decipher them for centuries, but ultimately, it’s all left for the reader’s own interpretation of the events.
For instance – the witches. They represent the ominous portents of fate and things beyond human comprehension, yet my own interpretation is slightly different. I don’t believe that their role was to profess the future, but rather that their aim was to meddle with humans for sport. They already possess an innate understanding of human psyche and are quite aware of what’s going on around them and they use that knowledge to spur on weak souls, again – for sport. They knew that Macbeth had received the title of thane of Cawdor much earlier than he did and they used this to make him believe they could see the future. Everything else, in my opinion, happened because humans did it and the witches knew they’d do it, not because they’re psychic, but because they possess a profound understanding of the human psyche.
Take Banquo. I don’t believe his son will ever become a king for two reasons – firstly, he knows nothing of the witches’ prophecy and secondly – he has no desire to take the throne. Banquo could have acted differently upon hearing the prophecy. He could’ve taken steps to insure that his children would take the crown. But, he didn’t. It was a conscious choice. Macbeth, on the other hand, never would have dreamed of taking the crown, had it not been for the witches. Yes, ambition did linger in his heart, but he never would’ve acted on it. That is the crucial difference, in my opinion. The witches’ prophecy does set in motion the play’s plot, not because it’s an accurate reading of the future, but because the characters themselves chose to pursue it or ignore it, respectively.
Lady Macbeth is one of the most remarkable heroines of Shakespeare’s to grace the stage. Her strong presence, intense ambition and ever-so-shakeable psyche are superbly portrayed. One might argue that the Bard was a bit of a chauvinist, given his slightly misogynistic portrayal of female characters within the play. After all, it is women who initiate the play’s chaotic chain of events and it is women who demand that they persist till the bloody end, spurring on male characters and providing encouragement and support when they waver. Misogynistic or not, Lady Macbeth’s nature is still a compelling one. As a woman living in a certain age when a sundry of societal norms exist to limit her desires, Lady Macbeth acts the one way she can and uses the only weapon available to her – manipulation. She openly defies her husband, mocks him, berates his manhood and manliness, provoking him and challenging him. Her ambition is even greater than Macbeth’s. So is her guilt. Her earlier statements that it only takes a bit of water to wash their hands clean of Duncan’s murder are later countered by her heavy conscience. She begins sleepwalking, hallucinating, blabbing on about their crime, slowly descending into madness until the breaking point when she decides to take her own life.
Macbeth, ironically, ends his back in his rightful place. He used to be a warrior. Then he became a king. Nevertheless, he suffered a warrior’s death, hacking away at enemies on the battlefield, until being slain. The play begins and ends with him as a warrior, a position he never should have abandoned. In reaching too high, in placing blind faith in the words of three haggard witches, Macbeth seals his own fate. He could’ve been a great man. Hey, a thane of Cawdor, that’s not a bad title at all! However, his potent ambition ironically proved to be his demise.
Another excellent theme of the play which I find extremely interesting is the one of gender roles. Lady Macbeth is described as woman with manly qualities. She gets what she wants by poking fun at her husband’s manhood, equating his hesitation to commit murder with impotence. Note how this royal couple has no children. In a similar manner, Macbeth manipulates the assassins to slay Banquo – by questioning their masculinity. In many of the characters’ eyes, being a man equals being ruthless and violent. Even Banquo, a character many see as grounded and sensible, uses his last breath to urge his son to avenge his death. Not to forgive, not to forget, not to make deals, simply to “act as a man” and solve his problems with violence. Lady Macbeth herself notes that she would like to be “unsexed”, so that she could murder on her own, without having to rely on a hesitant husband. In some ways, the play may even be interpreted as liberating to women, since it at least acknowledges the limits women were expected to live within. Lady Macbeth’s frustration at being trapped in a dress is a strong echo of thousands of female voices who have felt just as trapped and frustrated throughout history.
Yet, there is one character out there who doesn’t equate manliness with violence and bloodshed. And, interestingly enough, it is a male character. Upon hearing the news of his wife and children’s deaths at the hands of Macbeth, Macduff experiences a sort of pain no one wishes to feel. Malcolm, the young heir to the throne, urges him to take it as a man and channel his grief into ire, yet Macduff answers that he must first feel it as a man. Obviously, there’s more to being a man than simply spilling enemy guts. A profound loss such as one Macduff experiences simply has to be processed, no matter how primitively and harshly within the bounds of an earlier, tougher era. To become a man, a boy must first learn to feel. And that is one of the greatest lessons that Malcolm, the future king of Scotland, learns.
And that concludes my Shakespeare month. Hope you enjoyed. Keep reading 🙂