Top positive review
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It can be tough at the top...
on April 13, 2015
Lies, deceit, treachery, poison, knives in the night, justified paranoia, guilt, revenge... it is all there, and more, in this classic story of how the lust for power can literally drive people crazy. It can also kill them. I first read this play of William Shakespeare as a high school reading assignment, the way the vast majority of people do. Lo’ these many years later, I’ve undertaken a project of re-reading a lot of those H.S. reading assignments, including the plays of Shakespeare, in part to determine how much I missed the first time around, which, in two short words is normally: a lot.
The play is set in Scotland. The king is Duncan. His not faithful lord, called “thane” in Scotland at the time, is Macbeth. And he has a wife who has become a symbol of all wives who relentlessly push their husbands to be “successful,” and who is normally addressed with the misnomer of “Lady.” (“That’s no lady, that’s my wife”...but I digress). As Cliff Notes will tell you, Duncan is murdered in his sleep, with those proverbial “long knives.” Macbeth skillfully diverts the blame to his body guards, who are conveniently also killed (a death man tells no tales) while also casting suspicion on Duncan’s sons, who have fled for their lives to further shores. How many times, throughout all the cultures and civilizations of the world, has this scenario basically unfolded?
Throughout many of his plays Shakespeare utilizes elements from the ancient Greek plays, such as prophecy and a “chorus” that predicts future events, often esoterically. In this play, Shakespeare uses three witches around a cauldron, stirring, and if there is one line that most people remember from the play, it is the first line of their chorus: “Double, double, toil and trouble.”
A fellow Amazon reviewer noted a quip that Shakespeare’s plays are simply quotes strung together, a humorous way of noting that many portions of the play have entered the popular, albeit intellectual portion, of our culture. For example, after the first Iraq War (yeah, I know, it is hard to say which one was the first one now), the cover to the “The Economist” featured the line: “When the hurlyburly’s done.” My first high school reading failed me, and I had no idea this was a reference to a line in Macbeth’s opening scene, with the second line being: “When the battle’s lost and won.” And is that battle lost or won? Proving the enduring relevance of Shakespeare in so many settings, later in the same scene he writes: “Her husband’s to Aleppo gone, master o’ the Tiger.” I haven’t seen “The Economist” use that line to refer to its British citizens going to fight for ISIS.
Another quote that I remembered, and life experience has proven to be so true: “Sleep that knits up the ravel’d sleeve of care.” Hum. Another quote that life experience proves true: “Lechery, sir, it provokes and unprovokes: it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance. Therefore much drink may be said to be an equivocator with lechery: it makes him, and it mars him... makes him stand to and not stand to...” Finally, so that I literally don’t quote the entire play, another classic scene that personally resonated, due to my travels, was Lady Macbeth’s efforts to wash the blood off her hands, and she proclaims: “All the perfume of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”
Another excellent, still so relevant play of Shakespeare, that needs to read more than twice. 5-stars, plus.