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Macbeth

In book review on June 5, 2009 at 3:55 pm

Why read Macbeth, or why read Shakespeare at all? To magnify the horrific event which is the murder of King Duncan, the bard doesn’t say how Macbeth’s hand is full of blood; rather, he toys with the hyperbolic possibility that the bloody hand can stain the entire ocean:

…this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red

During the murder scene, there is a knock on the door of the castle, and the porter, who is unaware of the crime, proceeds to open the door, saying, “Who’s there, i’ the name of Beelzebub?” I don’t know about other readers, but when I reached this passage where the porter of Inverness is mischievously pretending to be the porter of hell, I literally experienced goose bumps. Here you have a couple who just murdered the king inside their own castle, and then suddenly the porter, who doesn’t know anything, starts role-playing as the devil in a rather lighthearted way. The humor becomes very dark, and the irony turns Inverness at the night of the murder all too real.

The events in Macbeth are still an enigma. One cannot locate a central and singular cause to Macbeth’s deeds. Is it simply because of “vaulting ambition”, the work of fate, or just some evil operation men do not know (e.g. Macbeth seeing a dark vision where the handle of a dagger seems to provoke him into executing the crime)? Nevertheless, we know that Macbeth has freedom to act, based from his soliloquies, where he confirms his own resolve to kill Duncan and everyone who becomes an obstacle to his ambition. What makes the ambivalence so appealing is that, on the one hand, you have the working of destiny, and on the other, Macbeth’s self-determination.

When I reached the following lines, I could not move on to the next passage because I was compelled by their remarkable beauty to have them memorized. Spoken by Macbeth after the death of Lady Macbeth:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

The negative wisdom here competes with Ecclesiastes.

I’ve read Macbeth more than a year ago, and rereading it now gives an entirely different level of wonder. When I was in first year, I watched a Filipino and comic adaptation of Macbeth in the College of St. Benilde. It was a bad production, but it worked! I left the play admiring lines such as “Stars, hide your fires” in Filipino, and I realize now that Shakespeare as Shakespeare had burst through, transcending the failed spectacle of the performance.