Macbeth: Visited on Friday, the 15th and Saturday the 16th of November, 2002.
This play awed me, and that was, because nothing had prepared me for the second astonishing moment, the one, that came after the big Thunder from the beginning.
Or how would you call it, when the curtain goes up - and here, zum Deifi! is a place, I seem to know? The ruin on the stage looked so much like the ruin of a Munitionsfabrik, that was destroyed in the war, in the little town in Germany, I grew up. And autsch! That did go somewhere deep. Germanys "today" is still underlayed from dark and fearful memories of the war.
And should there be real imaginery daggers, surely, one made marks on my heart on that nights. As I understood this production of the play, it was about warlords in wartimes and about the destruction they cause, simply said and simply done.
At first, there is Shakepeare's play: I read it as a preperation and was really astonished about the relative simplicity of this legendary play: Macbeth, a victorious General comes home, get's a few honors, a new title and get's seduced into believing, he will be the next King. When this don't happens in the "proper" way, he, with the help of his wife, kills the old King and get's what he wants. But, because he is an ordinary human being, he feels guilty about his deed, and starts to murder everyone, who might be in his way. His Lady, who feels also her conscience, starts to sleepwalk and dies from her own hands. The son of the former king comes back with an army from England, and Macbeth is finally killed in the following battle...
And this is all.
Also, what is said in the play, is so simple: Here we see Macbeth, together with Banquo on the Heath. A few old witches tell him, very directly, that he will become: - Thane of Glamis, - Thane of Cawdor, - King.
Now, it is a pleasure, to watch Sean Bean, with his no-nonsense down-to-earth appearance, hearing this. He knows, he is Thane of Glamis, because that was the title of his father and he died. Nothing miraculous about that! (Of course, he don't believe the rest - would you? <g>) But soon, he learns, that he is Thane of Cawdor, and ...more to come. And now, look at his face and stance! 2 out of 3 ... good odds... and why not then... King?
And isn't this old King a silly Man? Here comes his applauded - and the people on the stage really applaud - battle-hero, Macbeth. The man of the day, and wouldn't it be very logical to make him his designated prince? King Duncan: "...We will establish our estate upon...."
Yes? Upon??? Macbeth (Sean Bean) makes a confident step in his direction...
"...Our eldest, Malcom..."
Bl****y H**l - and the spotlight leaves the hero, and shines on a little grey young man... The people look in Malcom's direction, and Macbeth? He stands suddenly alone: "...the Prince of Cumberland: that is a step, On which I must fall down, or else o'erleap, For in my way it lies..." and there is a world of disappointment in Sean Bean's voice... And can there be anything simpler to say in such a moment?
Also, what follows, is simple: The old King wants to visit Macbeths home. Why, now Why, does he do this? Perhaps, because men are sometimes so inattentive? We don't see a Lady Duncan. She perhaps, could have given him a little hint, that it is not too healthy to trust a man, you just have disappointed and who can "...unseam... him from the nave to th' chops..."... Men...
And here waits Lady Macbeth, reading a letter from her husband. and that is a wonderful idea: Samantha Bond, behind her a bed, and sitting, during reading, on this bed. Yes! That is where you would be, in your bedroom, sitting on your bed, when you hear from your loved one. <g> And then, without decorations around it, here comes a straight, lucid and sharpe cut explanation about her husbands character:
"...Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be
What thou art promis'd: yet do I fear thy nature,
It is too full o'th' milk of humane kindness,
To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great,
Art not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend it. What thou wouldst highly,
That wouldst thou holily: wouldst not play false,
And yet wouldst wrongly win.
Thou 'ldst have, great Glamis, that which cries,
Thus thou must do, if thou have it;
And that which rather thou dost fear to do,
Than wishest should be undone..."
Wow! She knows him! And do you see Herr Bean? Do you see him? This role is made for him, isn't it?
And this Lady Macbeth: It is great, that Sean Bean has such a strong collegue-actress here, you can't take your eyes from her: A strong woman, who sees her husband with all his strong and weak sides, and loves him like he is. And isn't she doing then everything to help HIM? I do not remember, that she ever says, "I" "I want to become queen", no, it is:
"...Hie thee hither,
That I may pour my spirits in thine ear,
And chastise with the valour of my tongue
All that impedes thee from the golden round,
Which Fate and metaphysical aid doth seem
To have thee crown'd withal"
What a woman! And this is exactly what she does. When Macbeth comes home, he is still full of being wronged - and so, these two are of the same mind, and they are also very happy to see each other again - no wonder, they end up in bed together... and what another, great and simple idea, to let Sean Bean and Samantha Bond sink together on said bed, Lady Macbeth on top..... The only thing I cannot understand, is, why this should show a sexual dependence of Macbeth?? They look to me just like an ordinary married couple, that meet after one of them had to be away for a time...(so far, I thought sex is part of a marriage-bond? <g>)
When it comes, then, to the murdering of the old king, Macbeth reacts in the way, that Lady Macbeth foresaw: The King must die, so that Macbeth can become King. But, this Macbeth is a straight and clear-cut character. So he realises, he has to break not only one, but two very strong taboos: The one is, that he swore the King his allegiance, and the other, an archaic one, that even today has a meaning: The King is his guest... And so, in the last moment, he wants to stop it all. Sean Bean plays this with an uneasiness and uncomfortableness, that makes this sudden change of mind absolutely believeable.
But, of course, he did forget his formidable wife - and that he also had sworn something to her! (And don't we know, what wifes can be, when they has promised something to them?) And, like she said, she "helps" him in this critical moment and speaks to him in a powerful anger, that convinces him, that he has to go on. And that was something, I didn't realise before, only when I saw it: This whole speech of the Lady, when she speaks of the infant, she would... "...dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this." is just something, a mightily angry wife says to her husband. And he, all practical mind, answers: "And if we should fail?" But that of course, dear wifey doesn't take for an adequate answer! So, at long last, he does, what he has to do. Or what he thinks, he has to do. Or thinks, he does, what his wife thinks, he has to do. ...No wonder, he starts seeing imaginary daggers at this moment in his life.
But when he goes into the Kings chamber and comes out again, everything is as real, as it can be: Blood in all reality on his hands, his shirt, on the two daggers, he holds. All is nervousness now, Beans Macbeth is unsecure and already knows, that this deed was wrong. This is a strangely honest murderer. When you think about it: normally, now would come a lot of explanations and justifications, why it was right to do away with the old king... But here? Nothing of that sort! It is, as if this mans eyes are too sharpe, and no merciful unclearness will now forever come, his eyes have to stay forever open, to look in all clarity, at what he has done:
"Methought, I hear a voice cry, Sleep no more:
Macbeth does murther Sleep, the innocent Sleep..."
This is perhaps, why Sean Bean suits, in my eyes, so well for this role? I always thought, that he is an honest actor. He sees the men he has to portray, very clearly and plays them then, like he sees them. (Ehm, does this make any sense in English?) And that is perhaps, why his Macbeth speaks with Sean Beans own, warm, earthy accent? This is perhaps the most honest thing you can do with your speaking...
And his Lady? In this scene, it becomes so obvious, that Frau Macbeth isn't as honest, simple or straightforward as him. She can't understand what he is talking about, Samantha Bonds speaking is more far away and colder. She is in denial and still thinks, she helps her beloved man. He won't go back, to smear the two sleeping guards of the King with blood. So she does it for him. This is, methinks the moment, where these two start to drift apart. And isn't it sad?
A crucial moment... From then on, the way of the Macbeths is fixed. It will lead to more and more destruction.
As a German of my Generation, the Big question about the War was: Why and How could this happen? It seems, that this moment gives an answer to that: It can happen, just because of a simple, small cause, and when the first, terrible deed is done, the rest follows with an awful logic of its own...
So, the next logical thing to do for Macbeth is then, to "loose" Banquo, the man, that knows about the witches and there promises ... and then, the next thing, is, to reassure himself, he wants to know now from the sexy Triplet, what his future brings: Here, he sits alone, half dressed, in his bedroom, calling them, the next moment, they crawl out of his bed, and try to seduce him. One would wish, that he has a moment of relaxing now, but the poor murderous, conscience-stricken guy is still gloomy, even with three very attractive girl-witches all around him.
But at least, the three ladies give him some reassurance regarding his kingship: He will not loose, "...never till the wood of Birnam rise..." and no man shall harm him, "...for none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth". Now, that is helpful to know, when you have already started to kill not only your old soldier-friends but also the innocent wife and children of one of the Scottish Thanes, that didn't behave completely nice to the New King.... And still he isn't happy.
Now we are at Dunsinane Hill, and here sits this haunted Macbeth, crown on his head, estranged from his wife, who has started to sleepwalking because of her guilty conscience. But he won't be beaten! Suddenly, he hears a cry:
"...Wherefore was that cry?"
"The Queen, Mylord, is dead"
And now, you see, how Bean shrinks in his throne... His Macbeth, suddenly, is lost... and I love the way he says, with a broken, hopeless, petulant voice:
"...She should have died hereafter;
there would have been a time for such a word..."
Now, he also wants to come to an end: The fight, and wow, how this is choreographed! ends with his death from the hands of Macduff, whose family he had killed. For a last moment we see this honesty again: Even if he wants to die, there is still the final fear of death on his face, when the sword strikes... Ah Macbeth, Macbeth, Macbeth...
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