I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Oh, ambition! Here in North America, we like to see it as the sign of good things in a worker. MacBeth is an excellent reminder that ambition has its dark side.
I am left pondering after seeing this excellent play—would MacBeth have become king if he had just had a little patience? Or were the three witches also predicting that his lack of that virtue would drive him to murder?
The play also reminds me that killing another human being is not a light undertaking. Sure, we see simulated murders regularly on the telly and read about them often in literature, but it isn’t a casual occurrence for the average person. The army has to train and train its soldiers until their muscles react automatically, otherwise their brains and emotions will interfere with their appointed task—to kill the enemy. So MacBeth and his lady are setting themselves up against a difficult taboo and both of them suffer for it, MacBeth with sleeplessness, fear, and hallucinations; his wife with sleepwalking and anxiety. So much for thinking that they were mentally tough enough to murder lightly.
As to the performance that I attended, it was magnificent! Haysam Kadri, who played MacBeth, was absolutely spectacular. I never even noticed that he was speaking in iambic pentameter or Elizabethan English. He made it his own in the way that truly talented actors do. (I’ve also seen him inhabit Sherlock Holmes, which he does pretty much perfectly). It was an abridged version, but the cast managed to hit all the high spots and all the iconic lines were performed. The witches were suitably spooky, and refreshingly not all female. There was one tall, male spectre, one obviously female witch, plus one androgynous actor (does wearing trousers making this one male?).
When well-acted, this is a spectacular piece of theatre which still has things to tell the twenty first century audience.