Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Ask Philippa": MACKERS edition

Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg for Cal Shakes, shares her thoughts on our 2010 productions.

It's not about evil, but about what evil feels like; it's not about a sociopath, but about a character who is appalled at the thought of himself as a sociopath. This is Shakespeare's Macbeth, brought into stunning focus through Joel Sass's adaptation for our Cal Shakes stage. Through their actions, Macbeth and his wife experience a horrifying diminishment, as Macbeth feels the clawing of scorpions in his mind and his wife labors to wash the blood from her hands. In this stunning show, a pared-down cast of characters follows the arc of the couple's decline.

Have you seen our production of
Macbeth yet? Do you have questions or comments about the production's themes, creative choices, or anything else? Please leave them in the comments, and I'll be sure to respond.


Richard Olsen said...

Missed having you do the intro to "Macbeth" on Sunday, Sept. 12th. (Had to change our usual Sunday.) Looking forward to hearing you at "Much Ado" on Sunday, Sept. 26th.

Much enjoyed the "bloody," haunted-mental hospital "Macbeth."

One question: Upon reading the play, my third life-time read, and seeing it on Sept. 12th, it appears to me that there is a plot inconsistency.

Macbeth slays Duncan and his chamberlains between II.i. and II.ii. In II.iii. Macbeth leads Macduff and Lennox to Duncan's chamber. Macbeth acts as if he does not know the king and his chamberlains are dead, saying "I'll bring you to him," and "This is the door." Then Macduff discovers the murder and Macbeth says, "What's the matter?" Later in that scene, Macbeth confesses to having killed the chamberlains in a fit of fury.

So the question is: Why doesn't one of the other characters wonder about Macbeth's not explaining earlier that he (Macbeth) had seen the king was murdered and that he (Macbeth) had killed the "culprits" in a vengeful rage?

Is this an inconsistency or am I missing something?

--Dick Olsen (rlolsen@ymail.com)

Philippa said...

Dear Dick,

I've just returned from Australia, actually - so you didn't miss me by coming on a different date. I was gone from the 28th to the 18th. But anyway, I'll be giving the Much Ado talk when you come on the 26th.

Your question is a fantastic one. How does no one suspect Macbeth since he doesn't let on that he's killed the grooms? We can assume that when he goes out to see the body (after Macduff's 'Horror! Horror! Horror!) he has the chance to kill the grooms then. Alternatively, there is always the possibility that he does it earlier when one cries 'God bless us!' and 'Amen' the other, but Macbeth doesn't specifically say he kills them then - he says they go back to sleep. (And after this, Lady M says she will go and smear the sleeping grooms with blood.) But it is possible that 'sleeping' here actually means 'death', since sleep was known then as a 'little death'.

One thing that is important to the interpretation of this plot development is the fact that Shakespeare knew deeply the nature of trust. I once read a paper by Tori McGeer about the nature of trust - the fact that trust is something so intrinsically important to those wedged within its structures, that it is not in the interests of those at the top, or of those at the bottom, to break it by speaking counter-truth.

So, for instance, we might think of a war premised on weapons of mass destruction. If the government wants to go to war with that country, it is not in their interests to question the veracity of information that attests to the existence of these weapons. This chain of trust manifests itself again and again, everywhere – within governments, within companies, between people. Trusts serves the interests of order. At this point in the play, it is not in the interests of anyone to question Macbeth's trustworthiness.

Richard Olsen said...

Thank you, Philippa.

I see now that Macbeth could have killed the grooms AFTER Macduff makes the discovery of Duncan's murder. In II.ii. Lady Macbeth takes the grooms daggers back to the murder scene to smear them with Duncan's blood after Macbeth refuses to follow Lady Macbeth's directive: "…smear/The SLEEPY [my emphasis] grooms with blood." It was hard for me to conceive that the grooms slept through it all.

Philippa said...

Hello Dick,

Remember that Lady M says she will drug the grooms with 'wine and wassail'