The supernatural, it seems to us, must be ever present in a production of Macbeth. It is a temptation, an excuse and a symbol for all that is beyond our control.
The complete text of Macbeth: Scenes from Shakespeare's Macbeth
Productions of Macbeth often fail through their attempt to solve the complexities of the play at one stroke by selecting an historical or geographical setting. But the play resists this simplification. A purely modern setting undermines the play, since without the concept of Kingship as the future of society the play dissolves. Finally, the play itself is not perfect.
It moves at a sensational pace and then grinds to a halt in Act Four. Its possible that Shakespeare was straining to include themes and characters that would flatter King James who was supposed to be descended for Banquo. In terms of poetry and symbol these scenes lack nothing, but in the theatre the energy suddenly subsides and does not pick up again until Lady Macbeth sleepwalks to insanity.
This raises the question as to how close the published texts are to the plays actually performed at the Globe. Yet neither play can be performed in two hours without savage cuts. It is called the Padua Promptbook after its present home.
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Many scenes are cut, even the Porter. Its also clear that scenes were added, notably the later witch scene was extended by Thomas Middleton, probably with the agreement of Shakespeare. We have chosen to strip away the minor characters and cut back those scenes where the dramatic pace drops. We have also followed Shakespearian practice by doubling performers in their roles and ignoring the gender of certain performers.
Our overriding aim has been to illuminate the text, to interpret for a modern audience without simplifying and generate theatrical excitement. We hope that the actors and playwright of the original Globe theatre or their ghosts might respect our attempt to aim for the heart of this extraordinary and ever relevant play. They are also his generals.
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They defeat a Norwegian invasion of Scotland and on their return from t he battlefield meet three witches who predict that Macbeth will become King and that Banquo will found a dynasty of Kings. They also predict that Macbeth will be made Thane of Cawdor, which happens almost as soon as they vanish. Macbeth starts to believe their prophesy and tells it in a letter to his wife. Lady Macbeth is actually more ambitious and tough than her husband and when she receives the letter starts o hatch a plot to murder the old King when he stays with them soon after the victory.
Banquo is troubled by these events but keeps silent. Macbeth wonders if he should do the terrible deed of killing his guest and King. Prompted by his wife he does kill the King, almost has a breakdown and is saved from discovery by his cooler wife. Both Banquo and another noble, MacDuff are worried at the turn of events.
Only Macbeth can see the ghost, the nobles are worried that their new king is mad. Lady Macbeth, now Queen, tries to hold the banquet together and cover up for her husband but the effort almost destroys her and we never see her energetic or rational again.
MACBETH – Latin America Tour 12222
This drives Macbeth to new fury and he decides to be bloody and murderous. He is angered that MacDuff has gone to England to meet with Prince Malcolm and so has his whole family murdered including the children. The scene shifts too England where MacDuff is trying to persuade a cautious Malcolm to return to Scotland and lead a revolt against Macbeth.
Back in Scotland, Lady Macbeth goes mad, driven to distraction by her guilt. She eventually commits suicide and Macbeth sinks into dark despair. Macbeth still trusts the witches but MacDuff reveals he was born by Caesarian operation and so not truly born from the womb. Macbeth sees he is doomed but chooses to fight to the end. MacDuff kills him and cuts off his head. Malcolm is restored as King of Scotland.
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Over one thousand performances have taken place in over twenty countries on four continents. We have a small troupe of multi-skilled actors who double roles and even swap genders as needed, we use live music and minimal set. We have to be able to perform without theatre lighting. We have to appeal to a wide audience and our greatest weapon is the imagination of that audience.
Shakespeare Study Guide
The resources of a large modern theatre often impede these plays. Poetry had high status in Elizabethan and Jacobean England, theatre was low status. What is interesting is that there are alternative texts to the Folio, the so called Quartos, names that come from the smaller sheets of paper they were printed upon.
Some of these alternative texts may be corrupt, pirated copies but increasingly they are being recognised as theatrical versions of the texts. They are shorter and often more dynamic. These feel like amendments Shakespeare made to the script after it was first performed. Our aim is to clarify the narrative, and above all to elucidate the original.
Examples like this add up to a translation that manages to accomplish what before now had seemed impossible: a faithful rendering that is simultaneously an original and gripping poem in its own right. But for whatever reason, changing the language of Shakespeare remains an anathema, while the setting, costuming and theoretical conceptualization of his plays are fair game for innovation. Such projects are understandable, if worrisome. Shakespeare does have a reputation for being too dense for ordinary people to easily comprehend.
While the company hopes that the newly commissioned versions of Shakespeare will be performed in Oregon and elsewhere, they also retain their commitment to presenting the conventional texts, albeit with regular tweaks and cuts.
As Shapiro and many others admit, Shakespearean drama has been altered, rewritten and reimagined repeatedly since the plays were first presented during the reigns of Elizabeth Tudor and James Stuart. During the English Restoration, King Lear was given a happy ending.