Doug Conroy's Reviews > Macbeth

Macbeth by William Shakespeare
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Jul 03, 2008

it was amazing
Read in July, 2008

** spoiler alert ** ...Still my favorite of Shakespeare plays. First off, I just have to say how this play of one man's imperial hubris and revealed lust for power is just extraordinarily dynamic to watch during a presidential campaign season. Such stories as widely seen and read as Macbeth -- "...a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" -- ought to be well understood throughout most if not all of our worldwide community, one would think, by now?

Two major themes that arise while absorbing (or seeing) Macbeth are blind ambition and lust for power. The story of Macbeth seizes upon one's senses of fear and desire, subtly conjuring up both feats in quiet and oftentimes near restless interplay of one another, diminishing the viewer's soul by the end to a sort of wise child. What does in Macbeth is his provincial inner-restlessness conflicted with his vaunted personal ambition. The inner-trappings of a great victory in battle allowed his armor and gallantry to be seeded by three witches to apprehend the crown by his own hand. To his amazement, yet already news to the King and his subjects, the second of the witches' three prophecies was instantly and unpredictably fulfilled. And so, by the end of Act I, scene iv, just after he eyes the crown with the line, "for in my way it lies," he then anxiously mutters: "Stars hide your fires, let not light see my deep and black desires..." The language and the story start to settle in, grabbing hold of one's senses. The sharp, poetic interplay of events up until this point lets you pretty well know how the rest of the play will pan out. You know what the rest of this play will be about yet stay rapt with fascination, nonetheless.

Starting out as not-so-simple plan, Macbeth talks himself in and out of betraying his valiant service to King and country. Even though he killed as a soldier in battle, never committed murder, or for that matter treason. In the soliloquy outside of the King's chamber, through the dagger of the mind he creates his alter ego, envisioning the blood on the imaginary dagger until at some point he draws the real dagger and the two become one. Yet, still somewhat in this bewitched state of mind, surrounded by the inner-trappings of the moment and the influences behind all that seemed fated to him seeping into his imagination, justifying the evil and avarice in the world, he quite simply "moves ... like a ghost". He tempts his fate, here, in the undertow of ego, to something so fragile as literally fear of the dark to spook him out of committing the unspeakable. Then, like a feather in a wind, convinces himself.

Macbeth repeatedly willed himself to do the ultimate sin in the name of selfishness and dishonor, which he sensed his conscience could be unable to control. You, the reader, can see at this point that this soldier -- this humble man of honor -- is absolutely not cut out to get away with murder and treason. Bound by faith and/or responsibility, one cannot possibly though every impression know every expression in his/her own backyard; act resolute to ever alter fate completely to one's liking. And, from any potential natural obstacle that can arise uncontrollably from a simple plan, these obstacles were cryptically foretold, had arisen, and were all the while denied. (I'd like to note that the film adaptation by Trevor Nunn, with Judi Dench and Ian McKellen in the lead roles, has a better, more thought-provoking ending than the play, as it is written.)

The scene between Macduff and Malcolm's soul-searching/testing the true nature of a hero (under these circumstances) versus a villain is always a fantastic read.
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