THE SLINGS AND ARROWS Reviewing Shakespeare

Two writers on the Bard and pop culture

Archive for January 2012

Macbeth in five minutes

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Belated Happy New Year true believers. We’re down to out last 100 metres in our 500 metre dash through the Shakespeare canon, and it’s with some circularity that I kick off this first post of 2012 by repeating an anecdote mentioned in my very first post on this site. In that post I recalled that my earliest exposure to Shakespeare was in comic book form, reading comic book versions of Macbeth, Othello and Romeo and Juliet borrowed from my local lending library. I didn’t actually “read” them per se, but I looked at the crude yet compelling images in close detail and was able to take in the story. Macbeth made the deepest impression: the images of a bloody baby apparition conjured by the three weird sisters and  Macbeth’s severed head held high in triumph by his slayer were funky and freaky, and kept me awake for a couple of nights. These were my immediate shorthand for both Macbeth and for Shakespeare for several years until I actually started reading and watching the plays.

Of course, Macbeth has a reputation for fucking with people. It has quite a history of troubled productions, though that’s less about the curse of the so-called “Scottish play” than the fact that any production of Macbeth is likely to entail a large number of potentially hazardous props and pyrotechnics not found in, say, Much Ado About Nothing or The Cherry Orchard. That, and a whole lot of coincidental deaths. Ahem…

I like Macbeth. A lot. It’s lean – zero per cent body fat I’d say, compared to the bloat (masterful as that bloat may be) of Hamlet or King Lear – and muscular, and has two truly compelling protagonists/antagonists  in Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. In fact, one of the play’s big issues is that it tends to drag when neither of these characters are present, a problem also felt to some extent – but I’d argue to a lesser degree – in Hamlet (that play’s supporting cast is a whole lot more colourful). Still, when the play’s as lean as Macbeth is, the bits that drag don’t overstay the reader’s tolerance.

This is one of those plays which has been digested so many times over,  and which I myself have digested many times over – twice in high school (at different high schools), once at university as an undergrad, a couple of times during my thesis work, once as a teacher, and a couple of times for purely recreational reading, as well as in film form courtesy or Orson Welles, Roman Polanski, and Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood, one of the very best Shakespeare films ever made – that I’m struggling to come up with a new angle to talk about. And I don’t want to just post a checklist of iconic lines and moments, a blogging dead end I’ve fallen prey to here and elsewhere. So, I’m going to borrow a diversionary tactic I picked up watching Family Guy. Ladies and gentlemen, Conway Twitty.  

 Ben

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January 22, 2012 at 9:25 am

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