Saturday, December 28, 2013

Review: Macbeth by William Shakespeare

MacbethMacbeth by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read Macbeth way back in high school, and the plot's fairly well-known in popular culture. But, when I saw there was a performance by LA Theatre Works, with James Marsters in the title role, I had to pick it up. Once, not so long ago, I was at a convention, and an audience member asked Mr. Marsters for some Shakespeare dialogue. And he recited, word for word, the "Is this a dagger?" speech from this play. It was amazing.

Macbeth is about a Scottish general who's told a prophecy that he'll first get a title he thinks is well out of reach, then he'll be king. But his friend's bloodline is the one that'll stay on the throne. When the first part comes true, his wife connives to have him murder the king to speed up the prophecy. He then has his friend murdered, and tries to have his kids killed, too. He becomes paranoid, and goes to find the witches again. They tell him a series of impossible events that'll come to pass before he's deposed, and his confidence grows. But then the events start happening, and he refuses to back down, even when fighting a man who seems to fit the witches' description.

It's a story about greed, power, guilt, and ghosts, and contains a lot of elements of the histories and other tragedies. Thanks to the great emotional anguish required of the actors, it has some vied-after roles, though it's also rumored to be cursed. (My English teacher's theory was that people would usually put on "The Scottish Play" as a revenue-boosting move, and, if a theatre needed money badly, they'd've let the sets deteriorate significantly until that point.)

Luckily, this audiobook troupe is well up to the challenge, and they employed a number of sound effects to make up for the lack of visuals.

Shakespeare wrote his plays to be acted on a stage. If one must read them, I feel an audio performance is the closest one can get to the intended experience. It's certainly more dynamic than words on a page. And, I think, hearing the words spoken aloud, with the right inflection, makes up for a lot of the shift in language since the Elizabathan era.

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