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March 12th, 2009

Macbeth is the last of the Shakespeare plays that I know well. It really is a good one: actually rather tightly plotted, with both lead roles undergoing transitions of character, in Macbeth's case egged on by the witches (who are memorable but a bit superfluous). The pivotal moments are in Act 3, where Macbeth thinks he is securng his rule by Banquo's murder but in fact finds his ability to operate as a king destroyed by Banquo's ghost. It's as if Shakespeare is returning to the themes of the first quadrilogy, but fictionally this time, and perhaps with a perspective of the reign of King James rather than Queen Elizabeth.

Lots of good lines - the reason they stick in the mind is that they are actually memorable images or juxtapositions of words, like the seeds of time, the milk of human kindness, screwing one's courage to the sticking-place, Out, Damned Spot! and Lay On, Macduff!

Arkangel have done very well here, by taking the rare but very obvious course of setting the play in, er, Scotland, with appropriate accents and skirling of bagpipes; this gives the whole play an extra edge that I had never really considered properly before. Hugh Ross is OK in the title role, but Harriet Walter is absolutely superb as Lady Macbeth and really carries the rest; I was not surprised to discover that she had played the part memorably for the RSC a few years before.. (David Tennant looks in as the Porter.) It's not quite as stellar as some of the best Arkangel productions, but it's certainly good enough for me.

Henry VI, Part I | Henry VI, Part II | Henry VI, Part III | Richard III | Comedy of Errors | Titus Andronicus | Taming of the Shrew | Two Gentlemen of Verona | Love's Labour's Lost | Romeo and Juliet | Richard II | A Midsummer Night's Dream | King John | The Merchant of Venice | Henry IV, Part I | Henry IV, Part II | Henry V | Julius Caesar | Much Ado About Nothing | As You Like It | Merry Wives of Windsor | Hamlet | Twelfth Night | Troilus and Cressida | All's Well That Ends Well | Measure for Measure | Othello | King Lear | Macbeth | Antony and Cleopatra | Coriolanus | Timon of Athens | Pericles | Cymbeline | The Winter's Tale | The Tempest | Henry VIII | The Two Noble Kinsmen | Edward III | Sir Thomas More (fragment)

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