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Nothing is fixed and certain when dealing with Shakespeare. Nothing. Keep that in mind as you read. Discovery is the key and although you would think all has been discovered, you might want to think again. Passion in Practice is re-thinking. Ben Crystal runs the Passion in Practice group and he will be bringing OP to the Globe this summer on 3 occasions in July 2014. Race to chase down a ticket the events are selling out.

The OP read not dead Macbeth is the last of the events, although this is not the first OP Macbeth since the 17thC. Bernard Miles did an OP production of Macbeth on 19th September, 1952. It wasn’t a critical success. Interesting but not enough, the review concluded. Obviously paid too much attention to the leading couple and not the play’s true protagonist, Banquo.

Like the anecdote about the actor from Streetcar named Desire who played the tiny doctor role, when asked what the play was about replied, a doctor called out to an emergency. Well Macbeth is about a man who should have been King but was murdered by his noble partner and supposed best friend. Or simply put: AMBITION. Or rather ambition thwarted. We know it is a tragedy and that means the title character will inevitably die.

In fact depending on how you date the plays, Makkers is the next to last tragedy Shakespeare wrote. Coriolanus is next up and he dies for lack of ambition and an Oedipal conflict if anything. Anthony and Cleo are also dated around the time and their deaths are very grown-up, middle-aged, star-crossed lovers.

Macbeth is also the shortest of the tragedies. It is said too that Middleton helped out with the Hecate scene. And so much said amounts to nothing when you find yourself having to learn a role. If you don’t know the story of Macbeth the following video will give you a good insight: here is Mitch Benn, who does a rap Macbeth in the style of Eminem. All the links open in new windows so you won’t lose your place here while you watch.

The plays also follow a structure and that is good to know something about if you are learning a character. Where and how do you fit into the narrative? Our friend Banquo who we will delve deeper into later is, as we saw from the first post, involved in Acts 1-4.

5 act structure:
Act I: Exposition or Introduction
Act II: Rising Action
Act III: Climax
Act IV: Falling Action
Act V: Dénoument or Resolution

The number of acts is fixed at five but the number of scenes in each act varies from play to play. And from quarto to Folio to subsequent editors. But we’re going meta, when we should be focusing inwards on the words. The actual words that Shakespeare wrote, or at least were published as Macbeth under that name, despite any potential collaborative bits.

Macbeth appeared in print in the First Folio 1623, almost 20 years after it was written, usually dated 1606. Written one supposes, due to the subject matter, for the coronation of King James 1st of England and 6th of Scotland. The parallels between James lineage as a member of the Stuart dynasty and his interests as a King are scattered throughout the play. And although Macbeth is a historical figure the play is a fiction. Nonetheless:

James was supposedly a descendant of Banquo the 8th in the STUART line.
James loved hunting.
James wrote a book about Witchcraft.
James believed in the Divine Right of Kings.
James survived many attempts on his life,
such as the Gunpowder Plot with Guy Fawkes.

First official record: by Simon Forman, who records seeing the play in April 1611.
First published: First Folio (1623) as The Tragedie of Macbeth
First recorded performance: possibly in April 1611, recorded by Simon Forman
Evidence: A reference to ‘dire combustion’ seems to allude to the Gunpowder Plot of 1606.
A palpable hit in Will’s Time! Or was it?
James was crowned in 1604. By 1606 his brother in law Christian, King of Denmark
visited his sister and her husband the new King of England.
They drink, they party, they see plays. Was this one of them?

Which is all very interesting but still not dealing with the words. A Jacobean actor (an actor in the time of James) would have gotten a roll of paper (his role), which contained all his cues and his speeches as well as his exits and entrances. It would have looked something like this, except it would have been handwritten in an italic or secretary hand.
Study this and the next post will pick up where we now leave off.

BANQUO’s cue script for Act 1, scene 3:
____________________________________ the Charme’s wound up.

Enter Macbeth and Banquo.
____________________________________ I have not seene.
How farre is’t call’d to Soris? What are these,
So wither’d, and so wilde in their attyre,
That looke not like th’Inhabitants o’th’Earth,
And yet are on’t? Live you, or are you aught
That man may question? you seeme to understand me,
By each at once her choppie finger laying
Upon her skinnie Lips: you should be Women,
And yet your Beards forbid me to interprete
That you are so.

____________________________________ be King hereafter.
Good Sir, why doe you start, and seeme to feare
Things that doe sound so faire? i’th’name of truth
Are ye fantasticall, or that indeed
Which outwardly ye shew? My Noble Partner
You greet with present Grace, and great prediction
Of Noble having, and of Royall hope,
That he seemes wrapt withall: to me you speake not.
If you can looke into the Seedes of Time,
And say, which Graine will grow, and which will not,
Speake then to me, who neyther begge, nor feare
Your favors, nor your hate.

____________________________________ Speake, I charge you.
Witches vanish.
The Earth hath bubbles, as the Water ha’s,
And these are of them: whither are they vanish’d?

____________________________________ Would they had stay’d.
Were such things here, as we doe speake about?
Or have we eaten on the insane Root,
That takes the Reason Prisoner?

____________________________________ Children shall be Kings.
You shall be King.

____________________________________ went it not so?
To th’selfe-same tune, and words: who’s here?

Enter Rosse and Angus.
____________________________________ For it is thine.
What, can the Devill speake true?

____________________________________ no lesse to them.
That trusted home,
Might yet enkindle you unto the Crowne,
Besides the Thane of Cawdor. But ’tis strange:
And oftentimes, to winne us to our harme,
The Instruments of Darknesse tell us Truths,
Winne us with honest Trifles, to betray’s
In deepest consequence.
Cousins, a word, I pray you.

____________________________________ but what is not.
Looke how our Partner’s rapt.

____________________________________ Without my stirre.
New Honors come upon him
Like our strange Garments, cleave not to their mould,
But with the aid of use.

____________________________________ the roughest Day.
Worthy Macbeth, wee stay upon your leysure.

____________________________________ each to other.
Very gladly.

Next post will take us into the world of Jacobethan acting and the memorisation and rehearsal narratives we are fed.

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