Macbeth: Text and Performance by Gordon Williams (auth.)

By Gordon Williams (auth.)

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She neither nags nor goads her husband: the speech [I vii] about braining a suckling infant is cut, since this Lady Macbeth has neither the years nor experience to make it plausible. Her weapons are the child-bride's petulant, frustrated tears. She is extraordinarily matter-of-fact at 'We fail' or 'A little water clears us of this deed' [I vii 59; II ii 67]. Derek Malcolm noted that some people appreciated an implied hysteria behind the coolness (Guardian" 3 February 1972). Pauline Kael complained that this immature Lady Macbeth 'lacks the enigmatic drive that is the essence of the character' (Deeper into Movies, 1973).

MACD • • • • Macduff adopts the repetitious formula of the double act, as parodied in the interviewer scene of Orson Welles's film Citizen Kane (1941): INT. KANE How did you find business conditions in Europe? How did I find business conditions in Europe, Mr Bones? With great difficulty. 36 4 THE KNOCKING AT THE GATE But Macduffis the comic's feed here, and the Porter launches into his elaborate reply which mingles more anti-Jesuit quibbling with bawdy humour. The modern actor seldom has trouble in communicating this.

Shakespeare seems to have encountered Sophonisba before writing Macbeth; and he might even have found Erichtho's original in Lucan's Pharsalia who, like Shakespeare's creations, is a filthy, disgusting creature achieving the release of great power through the carnage of the battlefield. Shakespeare's Witches, at the outset, arrange to meet 'When the battle's lost and won'. It is clearly no accident that it should be Macbeth and Banquo, heroic manslayers still stained with victory, who stumble upon them.

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