The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1765  Wednesday, 20 September 2000.

From:           Don Bloom <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 19 Sep 2000 12:44:51 -0500
Subject: 11.1744 Re: Doubling in Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1744 Re: Doubling in Macbeth

>The are many possibilities in Macbeth for doubling, ranging from the
>straight forward (and often used) Duncan/Siward, and
>Seyton/Witch/Murderer, to the more adventurous and experimental.  The
>question would be: what type of production are you doing?  Here are some
>thoughts: Lady Macbeth/Malcolm--stresses Malcolm's youth and troublesome
>sexuality, and LM's strength and political cunning.  Or how about
>Duncan/Banquo/Macduff--clearly needs strong editing of some scenes, but
>offers a line of leaders, each one rising from the ashes of the previous
>to stand in Macbeth's path.  I have performed a version with seven
>actors--and have adapted the play for three! Doubling, Doubling, Toil,
>and Troubling!

Mr. Pullin's suggestions are troubling indeed, since what he calls
"strong editing" strikes me as significant revision. Doubling Duncan,
Banquo and Macduff requires eliminating Banquo from the scene (I, iv)
wherein Duncan greets and rewards Macbeth and Banquo for their victory,
from I, vi where Duncan arrives at the Macbeth's castle, from II, iii
where the murdered king is discovered, and finally from III, i his last
encounter with his Macbeth (or else cutting out the queen). God knows,
the play is strong enough to stand such excisions, but the philosophy of
this bothers me.  Presumably the author wanted Banquo in all those
scenes. Presumably he felt the character of Macbeth's friend, and the
one privy to the startling predictions of the witches, contributed
something important to these scenes.

My inclination is all the other way. Rather than looking for ways to
rearrange the text for curiosity's sake, I want to know what happens
with the dynamic of those personalities in contact. Eliminating Banquo
from those episodes strikes me as a serious loss to this dynamic. I
don't see what benefit is gained to compensate for it.

I view this as more a dramatic than literary matter. The mere presence
of a personality on stage colors what happens in significant ways, even
if that personality has few, or no, lines to speak. The actor who is
creating that personality should be able to add that color to what
happens just by his or her presence -- reaction to lines -- body
language -- all of it. The other actors should convey their awareness of
these people, whether by checking their reactions or studiously ignoring
them. But they're all acting, whether speaking or not, and if the author
wrote their characters into the scene, they belong there.

don bloom

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