2017/18 Tour

By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.

From the first words of the play until the title character loses his head, Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy is also his most unrelenting examination of the dark side of humanity. Driven to bloody deeds by their lust for power and supernatural predictions, Macbeth and his Lady fight to hold on to their ill-gotten throne, their sanity, and each other by any means necessary.

2.5 hours

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From the Director

Hamlet has his Horatio.  Antony has his Cleopatra.  Even Lear has Kent and Edgar at his bitter end.  However, when Malcolm and his English counterparts come to batter down the doors of Dunsinane, Macbeth is utterly alone.  This is the tragedy.

Perhaps the real tragedy is that the play is called Macbeth and not The Macbeths:  the loss and degradation I find so appalling in this play is not the fall of Macbeth, but the corruption of what is sometimes referred to as the strongest marriage in all of Shakespeare.

I do not mean to excuse the actions of Macbeth or his Lady.  Their crimes are undeniably despicable, but can they honestly be compared to Tamora (Titus Andronicus) or Richard III?  Those characters delight both in their crimes and sharing them with the audience.  The Macbeths seem to feel little in the way of delight and instead share with us their agony, their worry, their fear, and their anguish.  They mistakenly believe that committing a murder will fuel their ambition, bring them closer, and make them happier.  

Conspicuously childless in a play where so many characters are parents, the Macbeths see the crown as their baby.  The moment they put the throne in front of each other, their marriage begins to dissolve.  In Act I, they innately know each other’s thoughts and nearly finish each other’s sentences.  By the end of Act III, they can barely speak to each other.  Like a kind of desperate junkie, Macbeth withdraws from his wife, keeps secrets from her, and ultimately replaces her by engaging in a kind of macabre affair/addiction with the Weird Sisters.  His absence not only breaks her heart, it destroys her mind.

While Macbeth features witchcraft, swordfights, storms, hallucinations, and even the walking dead, I still maintain that this is a love story.  Perhaps if they made better choices they could be Beatrice and Benedick, but instead they will, in the words of Helen Gardener:

“…enter a world of appalling loneliness, of meaningless activity, unloved…and…unable to love…”

I can’t imagine anything more tragic.

Guest director
Stuff That Happens in the Play
  • The King of Scotland (Duncan) and his sons (Malcolm and Donalbain) learn Macbeth and Banquo won a battle against the Scottish rebels, including the Thane of Cawdor. Duncan orders the execution of Cawdor.
  • Macbeth and Banquo encounter three witches who predict that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor, then King; and Banquo’s children will be kings.
  • Almost immediately, King Duncan declares Macbeth the new Thane of Cawdor.
  • Duncan names his son Malcolm the Prince of Cumberland, declaring that Malcolm will succeed him on the throne. Duncan then invites himself to Macbeth’s castle.
  • Lady Macbeth reads a letter from Macbeth describing the witches’ prophecies. When Macbeth arrives, she urges him to kill Duncan.
  • Macbeth agrees to the deed and, after changing his mind several times, kills the sleeping King on the night he arrives at the castle. Lady Macbeth frames the King’s guards by putting the bloody daggers in their hands while they sleep.
  • Macduff discovers the murdered King in the morning, and Macbeth kills the guards out of “violent love” for the dead King.
  • Malcolm and Donalbain flee to England and Ireland, fearing they will be blamed for Duncan’s murder.
  • Macbeth is crowned King and, fearing the the third prophecy (Banquo’s sons will be kings), orders the murders of Banquo and his son, Fleance. Banquo is killed, but Fleance escapes.
  • Banquo’s ghost appears to Macbeth at a royal banquet. After Lady Macbeth dismisses the guests, Macbeth resolves to revisit the witches.
  • The witches conjure apparitions who assure Macbeth he cannot be defeated by anyone “of woman born” or vanquished until the Birnam Forest itself attacks him at his castle.
  • Lennox reveals that Macduff has fled to England. In response to this perceived treason, Macbeth orders the death of Macduff’s family.
  • Macduff joins Malcolm’s army in England. After Malcolm tests Macduff’s loyalty to Macbeth, Ross reports the savage murder of Macduff’s family, and Macduff swears to kill Macbeth.
  • Swordfights, moving trees, and revenge ensue.