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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: October ::
Re: Macbeth
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0984.  Wednesday, 1 October 1997.

[1]     From:   John Ramsay <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 10:47:20 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0981  Re: Macbeth

[2]     From:   Matthew Gretzinger <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 11:53:03 -0400
        Subj:   Witches Triumphant

[3]     From:   David Hale <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Sep 97 11:33:30 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0973 Re: Mac Ending

[4]     From:   Hilary Zunin <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 09:23:52 -0700
        Subj:   Macbeth Ending

[5]     From:   Michael E. Cohen <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 10:38:40 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0981  Re: Macbeth

[6]     From:   Leslie Soughers <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 07:20:57 -0800
        Subj:   Re: Fwd: SHK 8.0981  Re: Macbeth

[7]     From:   Mary Jane Miller <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 16:26:23 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0981  Re: Macbeth

[8]     From:   Louis C Swilley <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 17:01:13 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0981  Re: Macbeth

[9]     From:   Ed Peschko <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 17:19:21 -0600 (MDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0981  Re: Macbeth

[10]    From:   Abigail Quart <
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Date:   Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 20:07:44 -0400
Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0981  Re: Macbeth

[11]    From:   Joseph "Chepe" Lockett <
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Date:   Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 21:48:28 -2900 (CDT)
Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0981  Re: Macbeth


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Ramsay <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 10:47:20 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0981  Re: Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0981  Re: Macbeth

If I recall correctly, the Orson Welles film version of MACBETH had the
witches seen, from time to time, toying with a doll. When Banquo caught
up with Macbeth and his sword started to cut towards Macbeth's neck the
film cut to the doll, which was decapitated. The kindest cut of all?

John Ramsay
Welland, Ontario, Canada

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[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Matthew Gretzinger <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 11:53:03 -0400
Subject:        Witches Triumphant

One answer to Tim Richard's question: Orson Welles' various productions
of Macbeth on stage & screen all hinged on unhinging the original text
and re-ordering scenes, particularly those with the witches.  I think
his version expands the role of Hecate and ends with the line "Peace!
the charm's wound up." His adaptation has been published and is
generally available, though I can't remember the title (something like,
_Orson Welles on Shakespeare_).  If I remember rightly from the recent
_Battle Over Citizen Kane_, the "Voodoo" _Macbeth_ incorporated scenes
of Hecate exultant over Macbeth's final defeat.

-MG

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Hale <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Sep 97 11:33:30 EDT
Subject: 8.0973 Re: Mac Ending
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0973 Re: Mac Ending

Witches at the end of "Macbeth"

There are a number of film and television performances of the play which
include the witches and/or some other potentially destabilizing
character at the end. Among the simple approaches are the 1976 BBC
production and the 1982 Lincoln Center production which have them appear
at or near the final scene. The witches and their male familiars have an
extensive on-stage presence in the 1981 Bard production, both during the
battle and weaving unseen through the new thanes at the end.

Polanski's film concludes with Donalbain's visiting the witches,
inaugurating another round of political intrigue and violence. The
witches and Fleance appear in act 5 of both Welles's film (1948) and
Gold's 1983 BBC version.  There are historical problems with having
either Donalbain or Fleance show up at the end of the play, although
they could be regarded as surrogates for Lugtake (or Lulach), Lady
Macbeth's son from her first marriage (she has "given suck") who opposed
King Malcom III.

David Hale
SUNY Brockport

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hilary Zunin <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 09:23:52 -0700
Subject:        Macbeth Ending

The usually fine Berkeley Rep put together a rather unsatisfying
*Macbeth* earlier this year, but the witches proved interesting.

Bald, nearly naked, and bodies powdered grey, the witches lay still on
the dark stage as we were seated.  They seemed vulnerable and in some
kind of suspended animation.  Slowly, spots of soft light poured down
from above along with thin streams of sand - as in an hourglass. The
light and sand formed pools around each witch.  As they finally rose in
slow motion, they were clearly a primeval force, but not necessarily a
malevolent one.

The director eliminated "Double, bubble..." (as cliched, we were later
informed) and had the witches come back at the end to strew the body of
Macbeth with flowers (and escort his "spirit" offstage?  My memory's not
clear on this point.) Then they returned to their opening poses on the
stage and the return of the falling sands.  Two men and a woman played
the roles.


[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael E. Cohen <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 10:38:40 -0700
Subject: 8.0981  Re: Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0981  Re: Macbeth

Jung Jimmy <
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>My mind wanders and I was wondering what would happen if Macbeth's
>adversaries were played as more evil and less heroic.  If Duncan, Banquo
>and Malcolm were lound noisy oafish soldiers and Macbeth was the
>slightly ambitious hero.

I've never seen an actual production done that way, but when we were
producing the Macbeth CD-ROM at Voyager, actor Roger Rees (who played
Malcolm in the Trevor Nunn production that we used) visited David Rodes'
Shakespeare class at UCLA, and David asked Rees (following upon a
student's suggestion that Malcolm may not have been the innocent he is
so often played as) to do Malcolm's final speech, playing Malcolm as a
cynical manipulator. As Rees read these lines, his voice was cold,
impatient, and he added a final bit of business that, for all its
triviality, made it somehow especially cold-blooded:

             This and what needful else
   That calls upon us, by the grace of Grace
   We will perform in measure, time, and place.
   So, thanks to all at once and to each one,
                                        [glances impatiently at his
watch]
   Whom we invite to see us crowned at Scone.

I can't say that an entire production would be able to sustain this
reading of Malcolm successfully, but, for a brief moment, I could
imagine it.

Michael E. Cohen <
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[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Leslie Soughers <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 07:20:57 -0800
Subject: SHK 8.0981  Re: Macbeth
Comment:        Re: Fwd: SHK 8.0981  Re: Macbeth

Mike Sirofchuck writes:

>It seems to me that I recall one such production but cannot place
>it as to location, date, or other details.

Re: the witches in Macbeth. Several years ago in Ashland, Oregon, Hecate
was played by a man. He was often seen just at the edge of the action.
At the end he was in the top floor of the outdoor theater watching the
action. Several times he was in the midst of a crowd of soldiers. It was
very effective-added sort of a brooding evil overtone.

[7]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mary Jane Miller <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 16:26:23 -0400
Subject: 8.0981  Re: Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0981  Re: Macbeth

The Polanski does indeed suggest a cycling back to civil war with
witches.  My memory of a not all that successful Robin Phillips/ Maggie
Smith/Douglas Rain  Macbeth at Stratford Ont. is that  the witches were
always unnoticed servants of the court or camp or army  until their
scenes started - and then they would take focus and get on with it.
Startling  at first but more and more persuasive as the play went on. My
memory is  that, as the triumphant army left the stage to go to the
crowning  of the new king, they were now visibly part of Malcolm's train
- more subtle than Polanski  and to different purpose. The premise that
'witches' are always among us, working evil if we cooperate, seemed to
me at the time to address the skepticism of  a contemporary audience .

That was in the 70s. Perhaps audiences are less skeptical in the run up
to the millennium??

Mary Jane

[8]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Louis C Swilley <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 17:01:13 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 8.0981  Re: Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0981  Re: Macbeth

> My mind wanders and I was wondering what would happen if Macbeth's
> adversaries were played as more evil and less heroic.  If Duncan, Banquo
> and Malcolm were loud noisy oafish soldiers and Macbeth was the
> slightly ambitious hero.
>
> What if at Duncan first appearance he marches on to a field of bleeding
> dying men, kicks one, grabs him by the hair and says :
>
> DUNCAN
>     What bloody man is that? He can report,
>      As seemeth by his plight, of the revolt
>      The newest state.
>
> Would it ruin the play?
>
> Has it ever been performed that way?

I have never seen it so, but the good character of Macbeth - whatever
there is of that - certainly needs the help that such a contrast would
give.  And I can see no reason why such a savage context would be
disallowed by the rest of the play.

I have had similar thoughts about Shylock and Polonius.  Once I was able
to influence a director to present Shylock as solemn 19th century
gentleman, aloof from the simian so-called Christians barking about
him.  His dignity was a welcome relief from the usual bowing,
hand-wringing Uriah Heep that we usually see (even Olivier, of all
people, used this insulting presentation!), and it was a revelation!

Again, Polonius is the first minister of state;  he is no doddering fool
(What would that say of the efficient Claudius to listen to such a
man?!!). When Polonius says "What was I saying?" to his secretary, it is
not the plea of a doddering victim of Alzheimer's (again, as in
Olivier's Hamlet), but the command of a minister who has others standing
by to take care of such mundane matters as remembering.  (Branagh's film
got close to this with its Polonius, but the character was still not
strong enough for my taste.

In general, I think it at least an excellent exercise to read the
character absolutely against the grain of the usual interpretation.  One
never knows what wonderful new dimension may turn up.

        [L. Swilley]

[9]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Peschko <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 17:19:21 -0600 (MDT)
Subject: 8.0981  Re: Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0981  Re: Macbeth

> Has it ever been performed that way?

Well.. this was the way (somewhat) that Roman Polanski played it in his
very, very bloody Macbeth(1971) with Jon Finch as Macbeth and Francesca
Annis as Lady Macbeth.

*Duncan was all smiles on top, and cruelty underneath (much in the way
you described).

*The thane of Cawdor yells 'Long live the king!' before executed.

*Malcolm shows exactly how he is going to treat Macbeth when he succeeds
Duncan (he thrusts out a cup, expecting Macbeth to pour wine into it)

*The ending hints at circularity (like this isn't the only time would-be
kings are going to be seduced by witches.)

It got ripped apart by critics, but I thought it was very well done,
just for the attention to detail and the interesting way that Polanski
chose to stage the play.

One thing that I thought was quite clever was that Polanski had Macbeth
stand on a stone at Scone to be coronated - and the stone was warn deep
by the feet's imprints of presumably hundreds of kings that went through
the same coronation before him.

Ed

[10]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 20:07:44 -0400
Subject: 8.0981  Re: Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0981  Re: Macbeth

Donalbain did, briefly, overthrow Malcolm and his English bride, the
future Saint Margaret. His rebellion was billed as a "Celtic reaction."
Note how, after Duncan's murder, Malcolm heads for England while
Donalbain hightails it to a Celtic stronghold. Margaret got her
sainthood for "cleansing" the Scottish Church of its remnant Celtic,
pagan rituals.

Though it certainly wouldn't be Shakespeare's play, there is good reason
to look at Duncan, Malcolm and their supporters as the bad guys: they
anglicized Scotland. One of the worst things was the destruction of the
aethling system, in which Macbeth was as entitled as Duncan to be king,
by appointing Malcolm Prince of Cumberland, a Scottish equivalent to
Prince of Wales: a designated heir established by the English, Christian
system of primogeniture.

But for the witches to rejoice at Macbeth's fall? His fall is theirs. He
is the defender of the old system. They are its relicts. They see the
future, but they aren't in it. If you had a choice, would you choose
salubrious air, like the temple martlet, or "filthy air," such as
surrounds the witches. If you feared and respected them, and one asked
you for some of your food, would you say, "Aroint thee, witch!" or would
you hand it over?  Even the revenge for this petty slight is pathetic,
the Weird Sister can't sink the ship the slighter's husband sails, just
toss it around till he's seasick. Even with the others helping. Their
day is over. They appear to Macbeth because he is the last man who will
listen to them.

[11]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph "Chepe" Lockett <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Sep 1997 21:48:28 -2900 (CDT)
Subject: 8.0981  Re: Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0981  Re: Macbeth

Jimmy Jung wonders "what would happen if Macbeth's adversaries were
played as more evil and less heroic."  I played Banquo several years ago
in a production not as cinematic as he posits (blood-drenched
corpse-heaps are hard to set up and take down in the round), but aiming
to be as dark.  The director had read some of Shakespeare's source
material and noted how he blackens Macbeth and lightens his
adversaries.  For example, since the Scottish kingship is determined by
election, Duncan _shouldn't_ be able to anoint his son as heir, as he
does at the top of the play: that's a naked power-grab in a play full of
same.  Halliwell (is that right?  It's been too long) also makes Banquo
far more a colluder and co-plotter than he's usually played in
Shakespeare's adaptation.  In history, or what we have of it, Macbeth
had years of good rule before succumbing to tyrannous impulses, glossed
over in Shakespeare's usual compression of events.  So the material is
there-though some of our audiences strongly resisted the attempt to
darken the play's world as a whole rather than simply its anti-hero.
 

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