Let me shout it from the rooftops! I LOVE MACBETH! Macbeth is my absolute favorite thing to teach all year…and my enthusiasm for the play must be catching because usually it’s my students’ favorite thing to read too. Clocking in as Shakespeare’s shortest play, there’s a heck of a lot going on it in. Rumor has it that King James I had a very short attention span (was prone to falling asleep at the theater) and loved the occult, therefore Shakespeare tried to write for his royal audience. He quickly introduces the witches establishing that there is a supernatural element and then set off to show us that Macbeth is a true and noble warrior. Some of my students have difficulty believing that Macbeth is able to decline morally so quickly, but for me? The clues are there in the beginning as to what kind of man he truly is. When the bloody sergeant recounts Macbeth’s exploits on the battlefield he tells us that Macbeth killed Macdonwald by “unseaming him from the nave to th’ chops” and then cuts the guy’s head off and pikes it on the wall. That’s what I would call a teensy bit overkill. But hey, that’s just me!
There are so many interesting things to talk about with Macbeth that each year I have to calm myself down and just pick a few things to focus on because otherwise we’d be doing Macbeth all year, and while I’d be totally cool with it, I think I’d lose a few students along the way. So we keep it short, sweet and deep on a few levels. This year something that we ended up talking about was the relationship between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth. Shakespeare vacillates in his depiction of women in his plays. Sometimes they’re owning their sexuality with bawdy jokes, sometimes they are acerbic and witty and sometimes they are downright weak;but in Macbeth we see something special. Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are equals. When Macbeth hears the witches predictions his first instinct is to write to his wife (calling her his dearest partner in greatness) and to share his news. While the play was written in 1600’s it takes place during Medieval times, very few men were treating their wives as partner (or so I hear). It’s cool to think that Shakespeare depicts a couple who appear to be at the very least, equals…I lean toward the idea that Lady Macbeth possesses more power in the relationship (at least in the beginning). Consider that when Macbeth learns that Malcolm is to be Duncan’s successor, he wastes no time in running home to his wife. He states that he wants to set up for the feast but in reality he needs to talk with his wife. From that discussion all wheels are set in motion and their relationship is never the same again.
If you haven’t tackled Shakespeare since high school or you don’t think that you’re cut out for it, I would highly recommend Macbeth to you. It translates well as an “action story with brains”. As the play gets packed up today, I realize that my seniors and I are quickly moving towards the close of the year and I don’t think that I’m quite ready to say goodbye to this group. We’ve got two more months of fun books to read together! Let’s go! As a fun side note, I’m going to see a production of Macbeth this weekend in Philly and I’m very excited for it; almost as excited as I am for the big screen version featuring Michael Fassbender. From what I’ve heard, they’re going in the direction that Macbeth is suffering from PTSD which makes him more susceptible to the idea of killing the king. Veeeeeerrrrrrrryyyyyy interrrressssting….