Archive for the Theater Category

Welles’ Macbeth

Posted in Theater on May 4, 2007 by ephisus

macbeth_welles.jpg Having recently finished a run of Twelfth Night as Sir Toby, and the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company gearing soon to do a production of ‘Macbeth’ in the Fall, I have ordered a number of Film Renditions of ‘Macbeth’. There are a couple of reasons.

I’m not sure if I’m going to be auditioning for Macbeth at CSC, but I’m absolutely positive that I would *like* to. Macbeth is not my favorite Shakespeare, then again, neither was Twelfth Night… it was still the highlight of my schedule for 3 months. CSC is fairly prolific though, and there will be a lot of talent at the audition– a lot more than I was tested against for Twelfth Night, and if I do go– I would like to get the role I want.

Which begs the question– Which role do I want?

So I ordered 3 renditions of Macbeth on film- one by Welles from the , one by Polanski… and one by some other british guy that no one has ever heard of. Macbeth left a bad taste in my mouth back in high school, before I dropped out, so I haven’t put a lot of study into it until now. The objective is to get intimately familiar with a variety of interpretations of the Characters, so as to be well prepared to have a fun audition, and possibly an enjoyable role.

I watched the first subject of this study yesternight; the legendary, often elitist, teh aw3$om3: Orson Welles. His Macbeth was released in 1948 by Mercury, casting himself in the title role, a very young and shrill Roddy Mcdowall as Prince Malcolm, and, fascinately: Dan O’Herlihy as Macduff, Well Known for portraying one of the most annoying Characters of science fiction film, the spiritual ancestor of Jar Jar Binks himself: Grig from The Last Starfighter. Raspy laughs abound.

So, like all Shakespeare, the plot is simple: the exposition is the art:

Macbeth is told he will be King by some witches, He kills people and becomes King after his wife insists that he pursue this prophecy, he is plagued by guilt, his wife kills herself, drunken of guilt from her own part. The rightful heir comes with an Army, and his general cuts off Macbeth’s head. The end.

I should note here for folks who don’t know: Acting is often described thus, in the school of thought that I adhere to: You are acting like yourself, in an infinite number of situations. You’re a murderer? You have to build yourself a world where you yourself would actually do such a thing, even if it’s only emotionally.

Part of the reason that Shakespeare is so enduring is that it is so open for a variety of interpretations.

Watching Welles’ Macbeth… he does not really believe himself when he is loyal to the King. When he says, “If fortunes make me King”, he is already rather broken on this statement.

I’m thinking that my Macbeth would be resolute on this: The reason for the fall is not internal conflict on what the witches said, but something else; Love.

Lady Macbeth is a flawed, flawed character, and I see Lord Macbeth realizing this fairly well. But there is a large amount of text devoted to their relationship. Most performances, including, to a degree, Welles’ seem to focus on the duality of Macbeth’s love for his wife.

For me: Macbeth’s masculinity is easy. He is a warrior of good fortune at the beginning: and he and his wife have been elevated in position very quickly. And Macbeth loves his manliness, his loyalty to the King is part of his outward manifestation of this, on top of that, people are telling him that he will be the King, eventually. High times of affirmation.

He swoops to his wife, but instead of being the loving jewel on his good fortune, she wants the crown. And she attacks his masculinity when the the idea is foul to him.

My Macbeth would be ripped to shreds, not for his own pride in his fortune, but because of utter devotion to the love of his woman. Even the prophecy would cease to be a serious concern or incentive: and the tragedy, the humanity, that would, hopefully, be observed in him, after the crown was taken for the sake of his wife, would be the main thrust of the character.

He doesn’t let his wife know about the continuing treachery in holding the crown; because he sees her as his last dying link to the life that he wanted; and when she becomes overwrought with guilt and grief, there is a brief moment when they are together in that; and she abandons him again by taking her own life; leaving him to deal with the consequences.

My Macbeth would loose the hold on his sanity. That would be the course of his woe.

We’ll see if any of the other famous performances take this kind of harsh depiction of Macbeth’s motivations; where instead of a– rosencrantz and gildenstern are dead sort of inevitability– Macbeth is plagued by his own desires, his own pursuits, and they don’t have even remotely to do with attaining the kingship.

I was thinking earlier in this process that I would like to take the role on Banquo, or Macduff, or one of these lesser, though possibly very emotional roles, because, so far as I knew it, Macbeth was a little flat– he staggers around in a guilty stupor, just facing the inevitable crash.

But now that I examine the character for myself, I think that he can be much more dynamic, much more expressive, and I want him. I want to show the audience a man of passion, loyalty, and love that has his aspirations and virtue ripped from him, and his life loosed of all meaning at the instant he attains what everyone desires, because of his unwise inclination to place his happiness above truth and good.

So maybe I will read for Macbeth. Still, Macduff is quite the bad-ass, and would be no less fun to play.