The 12 Plays of Christmas – Day 7 – MacBeth

As New Years Eve is known as Hogmany in Scotland, what better choice for the 12 Plays of Christmas for Day 7 than ‘the Scottish Play’ itself, “MacBeth”.

“MacBeth” is a tragedy centred around the character MacBeth, as he plots and takes over the role as King of Scotland.  MacBeth, a soldier, bumps into witches who predict he will become Thane of Cawdor and well as King.  His friend Banquo is with him, who presses the witches for information and is told that he will not be King, but his offspring will.  MacBeth writes to his wife, and she immediately goes into a murdery mindset and plots to kill the King, Duncan, that very evening.

Long story short, MacBeth ends up killing the King and inheriting the Kingdom as Duncan’s sons escape for fear they are seen as the murderers.  Lady MacBeth is so wracked with guilt over attempting to kill the King herself, she goes mad and eventually throws herself through a window.  MacBeth having fulfilled the prophesy of the witches seeks them out for more information, where he finds he should beware MacDuff, none of woman born shall harm him, and he will be safe until the woods come to his castle.  He presses further to find that Banquo will have issue reigning for 7 generations.  He has his friend killed and attempts to kill his son Fleance, but he escapes.  He orders the death of the MacDuff’s, which basically sends MacDuff his way for a final fight, which MacBeth dies in after finding out that MacDuff was born by caesarean section.

“MacBeth” is Shakespeare’s shortest play, and it is brilliant.  Written for King James I fo England who had just taken over the thrown from Queen Elizabeth I, James was a Scottish King who believed in witches, and the play was put together in about a week to please him.  Lady MacBeth is interesting and well written.  There is a lot of action.  And the whole thing is fast paced.  I have directed it a few times, most recently playing the witches as paparazzi, and the main cast as actors etc.  Last year I saw a brilliant rendition of the relationship between MacBeth and his wife played by 2 male actors.

Cool suggestions obviously include the witch sequences (and the chance to do something awesome with the premonitions)… and the banquet attended by the ghost of Banquo.  The final fight sequence is compelling, and even more so when you show the way MacBeth completely annihilates Young Siward prior to his battle with MacDuff.  Showing the way that MacBeth is a master soldier and how he doesn’t even think twice about killing a young boy, adds to the audience’s siding with MacDuff.

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