Macbeth is a daring member of the Scottish military who receives a revelation from three menacing sorceresses that he will someday become the King of Scotland. This information gives him a ... See full summary »
Nicol Williamson takes the lead role in this star-studded 1969 version of William Shakespeare's tragedy. Prince Hamlet mourns both his father's death and his mother's marriage to Claudius. ... See full summary »
When the Duke of Vienna takes a mysterious leave of absence and leaves the strict Angelo in charge, things couldn't be worse for Claudio, who is sentenced to death for premarital sex. His ... See full summary »
As Macbeth rides home from battle, three witches stop him. They tell him that he will soon rise in power, first becoming Thane of Cawdor and then King of Scotland. King Duncan has just ... See full summary »
This episode was shot with a 360 degree cycloramic backcloth in the background which could be used as representative of a general environment, with much use made of open space. See more »
Whither should I fly? I have done no harm. - But I remember now... I am in this earthly world, where to do harm is often laudable, to do good sometimes accounted dangerous folly.
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Enter the myth of the tyrant and his end. The story is so well known that it does not surprise us any more. Macbeth is superstitious, so he believes oracles. But he is on the dark side of the moon, so he only accepts oracles from witches, the weird sisters who are three of course. More about it later. He is a military man, a soldier, a warrior, so he believes in violence, and yet he knows he should be cautious, so he hesitates, but once he has crossed his Rubicon, that is going to be his Styx he cannot come back at all and will go right through his fate. But he is weak in a way, in his very hesitation, and he needs some support that he finds in his Lady Macbeth, a very sly, neurotic and even vicious woman who ends badly since she started badly, thus expanding another title into "All's bad that ends bad." And it sure does.
We are in Scotland, with England in the background, as usual and as always. When will Scotland be of age and walk on her own feet? The old king is murdered by Macbeth who seizes the throne and luckily the two sons of the old king, Malcolm and Donalbain, have managed to leave before the assassination. They are accused of the assassination of course. And after that first crime Macbeth is on a killing road and he gets rid of his own associate Banquo and his family, and he will go on and on, including the whole family and household of Macduff. When you come to the end of the play you can count a good dozen, if not more, of assassinations of nobles and their families. If we counted the servants and household people we would probably come close to one hundred.
And that's when everything is getting sour because of the initial crime. The prediction or prophesy of the three weird sisters is of course sibylline. Macbeth is to be killed by a man not born from a woman and when Great Birnam Wood shall advance against Dunsinane hill. He will be killed by Macduff who was ripped out of his mother's womb and the coming army of Malcolm cuts branches in Great Birnam Wood and carries them in front so that the wood is moving to Dunsinane. But in the meantime Lady Macbeth had become completely insane with guilt, sleepwalking and washing her hands all the time, in fact rubbing them all the time. And she dies, commits suicide just before the final battle. Malcolm arrives in Dunsinane after Macbeth's death and is given the crown.
This production is contained mostly inside Macbeth's castle with essentially one outside setting for the three witches who work under a dolmen, or standing stones, finding in that a Celtic background. Yet these three weird sisters are not plain witches. They are a typical impersonation of the triple goddess Shakespeare likes so much. First the triple goddess herself, Hecate, the goddess of the underworld and death, who is here the "boss" of the three weird sisters, then Selene, the goddess of the moon and night, and finally Diana, the goddess of life in the forest and pregnant women. This triple goddess is often referred to as Demeter and her symbols are either a pinecone or a female wolf. Then you have the three Furies or Erinyes who are spinning, measuring and cutting the thread of our life. Then you have many others in Europe. For example the Germanic trinity of women — the three Beten. Their given names are Ambet, Borbet, Wilbet, standing for earth, the sun and the moon, respectively red, white and black goddesses.
What is surprising is the mention of these three witches in Elizabethan times. Shakespeare probably took advantage of the slight relaxation Elizabeth introduced concerning witches probably since her mother Anne Boleyn was accused of witchcraft. Unluckily for witches James I was to retighten the vice on witchcraft because he was really afraid if not superstitious about it. Is Shakespeare alluding to that fact? Difficult to know, even if Macbeth is positioned in Scotland. Yet the play was written in 1606, three years after the coronation of James I in London. In Shakespeare's days the connection must have been made. It would be interesting to find out what the reaction of the new king of England was.
The pattern of the elimination of all the protagonists except those who managed to escape Macbeth's clutch before he could catch them. The present production is slightly surprising by the appearance of a second young man, the age of Malcolm, the new king, in front of the people assembled at that time in a circle around Malcolm. This young man is outside the circle, between the circle and the dead body of Macbeth on the steps leading to the throne and the image turns reddish and fades out in that reddish shade. We can understand it may be the brother Donalbain with thus some insinuation from the director that the two brothers are going to recreate the Cain and Abel biblical myth. But I do not see that in the text of the play. That kind of situation is not common in Shakespeare, though I can think of two brothers in Titus Andronicus: of course Titus and Marcus, but there is no rivalry between the two, and Saturninus and Bassianus, the two sons of the dead emperor who are going to enter a conflict that will lead the elder son and brother to killing his younger brother. But this case is not common. There are many rivalries between couples of men but most of them are not brothers and not even relatives.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
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