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Macbeth -An Introduction- By: J. C. Reynolds & Associates.

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1 Macbeth -An Introduction- By: J. C. Reynolds & Associates

2 Macbeth: An Introduction  Macbeth is among the best-known of William Shakespeare’s plays.  Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy.  Believed to have been written between 1603 and 1606.

3 Macbeth: An Introduction  It is frequently performed at both amateur and professional levels, and has been adapted for opera, film, books, stage and screen.  Often regarded as archetypal, the play tells of the dangers of the lust for power and the betrayal of friends.

4 The Real Macbeth  king of Scotland (1040–57).  He succeeded his father as governor of the province of Moray c.1031  was a military commander for Duncan I. (Right: portrait of Macbeth)

5 The Real Macbeth  In 1040, Macbeth killed Duncan in battle and seized the throne.  Possibly of royal descent himself, he acquired a direct claim to the throne through his wife, Gruoch; she was a granddaughter of Kenneth III, who had been overthrown by Duncan's ancestor Malcolm II. (Right: portrait of Duncan I)

6 The Real Macbeth  Macbeth represented northern elements in the population who were opposed to the ties with the Saxons advocated by Duncan.  Macbeth was defeated in 1054 by Siward, earl of Northumbria, who regained the southern part of Scotland on behalf of Malcolm Canmore, Duncan's son.  Malcolm himself regained the rest of the kingdom after defeating and killing Macbeth in the battle of Lumphanan. He then succeeded to the throne as Malcolm III.

7 The Real Macbeth William Shakespeare's version of the story comes from the accounts of Raphael Holinshed and Hector Boece.

8 Holinshed’s Chronicles  Raphael Holinshed (d. 1580) was an English chronicler.  He was given the ambitious project of chronicling British history from the time of the Great Flood (approx. 4000-3000BC) to Queen Elizabeth (reigning 1558-1603).

9 Holinshed’s Chronicles Raphael Holinshed. The first and second volumes of the Chronicles, comprising 1 The description and historie of England, 2 The description and historie of Ireland, 3 The description and historie of Scotland: first collected and published by Raphaell C, William Harrison and others: now newlie augmented and continued (with manifold matters of singular note and worthie memorie) to the yeare 1586 by John Hooker alias Vowell Gent and others. London: printed [by Henry Denham] in Aldersgate street at the signe of the Starre, 1587.

10 Holinshed’s Chronicles “‘We care about Holinshed's Chronicles because Shakespeare read them’ was the 1968 verdict of Stephen Booth, who, along with his academic contemporaries and predecessors, felt this great work was of little intellectual value, a vestige of erratic medieval historiography. Its importance for several of Shakespeare's plays - it underpins all the conventional English history plays, as well as King Lear, Macbeth and Cymbeline - has long been understood, but until late in the twentieth century it was overlooked as an object of serious study”. -Jenny Alder, Information Assistant, Foyle Special Collections Library, King’s College London

11 Hector Boece  Lived 1465-1536  A Scottish philosopher  Wrote Historia Gentis Scotorum (1527)  Shakespeare used this text as a basis for the character of Macbeth

12 “The Scottish Play” There are many superstitions centred on the belief that the play is somehow “cursed”.

13 “The Scottish Play” Explanation #1  Shakespeare is said to have used the spells of real witches in his text, purportedly angering the witches and causing them to curse the play.

14 “The Scottish Play” Explanation #2  S truggling theatres or companies would often put on this popular 'blockbuster' in an effort to save their flagging fortunes.  However, it is a tall order for any single production to reverse a long-running trend of poor business.  Therefore, the last play performed before a theatre shut down was often Macbeth, and thus the growth of the idea that it was an 'unlucky' play.

15 “The Scottish Play” Explanation #3  Theatre companies may have used Macbeth as a back-up play if they were to lose an actor and were not able to perform the production originally planned for the performance.  Macbeth requires fewer actors (when doubling of characters for actors occurs) and has the least amount of text for the actors to memorize.  Macbeth may have been the play kept in theatre companies' back pockets, just in case some bad luck were to occur prior to any planning of a performance.

16 “The Scottish Play”  A large mythology has built up surrounding this superstition, with countless stories of accidents, misfortunes and even deaths, all mysteriously taking place during runs of Macbeth (or by actors who had uttered the name).  Many actors will not mention the name of the play aloud, referring to it instead as "The Scottish play".

17 “The Scottish Play”: A Chronology of Misfortunes Here are some of the gory particulars: Beginning with its first performance, in 1606, Dear Will himself was forced to play Lady Macbeth when Hal Berridge, the boy designated to play the lady with a peculiar notion of hospitality, became inexplicably feverish and died. Moreover, the bloody play so displeased King James I that he banned it for five years.

18 “The Scottish Play”: A Chronology of Misfortunes When performed in Amsterdam in 1672, the actor playing Macbeth substituted a real dagger for the blunted stage one and with it killed Duncan in full view of the entranced audience.

19 “The Scottish Play”: A Chronology of Misfortunes As Lady Macbeth, Sarah Siddons was nearly ravaged by a disapproving audience in 1775; Sybil Thorndike was almost strangled by a burly actor in 1926; Diana Wynyard sleepwalked off the rostrum in 1948, falling down 15 feet.

20 “The Scottish Play”: A Chronology of Misfortunes During its 1849 performance at New York's Astor Place, a riot broke out in which 31 people were trampled to death.

21 “The Scottish Play”: A Chronology of Misfortunes In 1937, when Laurence Olivier took on the role of Macbeth, a 25 pound stage weight crashed within an inch of him, and his sword which broke onstage flew into the audience and hit a man who later suffered a heart attack.

22 “The Scottish Play”: A Chronology of Misfortunes In 1934, British actor Malcolm Keen turned mute onstage, and his replacement, Alister Sim, like Hal Berridge before him, developed a high fever and had to be hospitalized.

23 “The Scottish Play”: A Chronology of Misfortunes In the 1942 Macbeth production headed by John Gielgud, three actors -- Duncan and two witches -- died, and the costume and set designer committed suicide amidst his devilish Macbeth creations.

24 “The Scottish Play”: A Chronology of Misfortunes The indestructible Charlton Heston, in an outdoor production in Bermuda in 1953, suffered severe burns in his groin and leg area from tights that were accidentally soaked in kerosene.

25 “The Scottish Play”: A Chronology of Misfortunes An actor's strike felled Rip Torn's 1970 production in New York City; two fires and seven robberies plagued the 1971 version starring David Leary; in the 1981 production at Lincoln Center, J. Kenneth Campbell, who played Macduff, was mugged soon after the play's opening.

26 “The Scottish Play”: A Chronology of Misfortunes Even brave and talented actors like Glenda Jackson to Ian McKellen don’t refer to this haunted play by name, but instead call it “That Scottish Play” or simply “That Play”; everyone, it seems, will get the message, in a flash.

27 “The Scottish Play”  Several methods exist to dispel the curse, depending on the actor.  One is to immediately leave the building the stage is in with the person who uttered the name, walk around it three times, spit over their left shoulders, say an obscenity then wait to be invited back into the building.  Another popular "ritual" is to leave the room, knock three times, be invited in, and then quote a line from Hamlet.  Yet another is to recite one of Shylock's monologues from The Merchant of Venice.

28 “The Scottish Play” Superstition of Characters’ Names  MacBee  Macker’s  Mr. and Mrs. M.  The Scottish King  MacWhat’s-his-face

29 The Witches AKA the Weird Sisters Painting by William Rimmer depicting the witches’ conjuration of an apparition (Act IV, scene i) Macbeth and Banquo meet the witches (Act I, scene iii) by Johann Heinrich Fussli Portrayal in the 2006 film version of Macbeth

30 The Witches  They tell Macbeth that he is destined to be king, and urge him to do bloody things.

31 The Witches  Their character is modeled after Norse mythology- the Norns (three Fates)  the name Urðr (Wyrd, Weird) means "fate" or simply "future", The norns- by Arthur Rackham

32 The Witches The witches were also modeled after the Three Fates of Greek and Roman mythology  They controlled the metaphorical thread of life of every mortal and immortal from birth to death.  The names of the three Parcae (Roman Fates) were:  Nona - spun the thread of life from her distaff onto her spindle. Her Greek equivalent was Clotho;  Decima - measured the thread of life with her rod. Her Greek equivalent was Lachesis;  Morta - was the cutter of the thread of life. She chose the manner of a person's death. When she cut the thread with "her abhorrèd shears", someone on Earth died. Her Greek equivalent was Atropos.

33 The Witches  Represent darkness, chaos and confusion.  “Fair is foul and foul is fair”- a contradiction.  Evil is good, while good is evil.

34 The Witches  “Double, double toil and trouble” – they cause more grief for the mortals around them.  The witches never actually tell Macbeth to kill Duncan, but merely tempt him with the idea of becoming king. What theme of temptation might Shakespeare be representing here?

35 Images of Macbeth

36 Creation Theatre Company- Summer 2006 production, Oxford, England

37 Roman Polanski’s 1971 film

38 Poster advertising a performance at The University of Texas at Austin What are your thoughts on the mood of this poster? What techniques are used to evoke this mood?

39 Works Cited  Fact Monster Encyclopedia html The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2007, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. html  Tritsch, Dina. “The Curse of 'Macbeth’ Is there an evil spell on this ill-starred play?” Showbill (April 1984)  Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia

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