There’s a play so powerful that an old superstition says
its name should never even be uttered in a theater,
a play that begins with witchcraft and ends with a bloody severed head,
充满谜团 预卜 梦魇幻象
a play filled with riddles, prophesies, nightmare visions,
and lots of brutal murder,
a play by William Shakespeare sometimes referred to as the “Scottish Play”
or the “Tragedy of Macbeth.”
First performed at the Globe Theater in London in 1606,
“Macbeth” is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy.
It is also one of his most action-packed.
In five acts, he recounts a story of a Scottish nobleman
who steals the throne,
presides over a reign of terror,
and then meets a bloody end.
Along the way, it asks important questions about ambition,
power, and violence
that spoke directly to the politics of Shakespeare’s time
and continue to echo in our own.
England in the early 17th century was politically precarious.
Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603 without producing an heir,
and in a surprise move,
her advisors passed the crown to James Stewart,
King of Scotland.
Two years later, James was subject to an assassination attempt
called the Gunpowder Plot.
Questions of what made for a legitimate king
were on everyone’s lips.
So Shakespeare must have known he had potent material
when he conflated and adapted the stories
of a murderous 11th century Scottish King named Macbeth
and those of several other Scottish nobles.
He found their annals in Hollinshed’s “Chronicles,”
a popular 16th century history of Britain and Ireland.
Shakespeare would also have known he needed to tell his story
in a way that would immediately grab the attention
of his diverse and rowdy audience.
The Globe welcomed all sections of society.
Wealthier patrons watched the stage from covered balconies
while poorer people paid a penny to take in the show
from an open-air section called the pit.
Talking, jeering, and cheering was common during performances.
There are even accounts of audiences throwing furniture when plays were flops.
So “Macbeth” opens with a literal bang.
Thunder cracks and three witches appear.
They announce they’re searching
for a Scottish nobleman and war hero named Macbeth,
then fly off while chanting a curse that predicts a world gone mad.
“美即丑 丑即美 翱翔毒雾妖云里”
“Fair is foul and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air.”
As seen later, they find Macbeth and his fellow nobleman Banquo.
“All hail Macbeth,” they prophesize, “that shalt be king hereafter!”
“King?” Macbeth wonders.
Just what would he have to do to gain the crown?
Macbeth and his wife Lady Macbeth
soon chart a course of murder, lies, and betrayal.
In the ensuing bloodbath,
Shakespeare provides viewers with some of the most memorable passages
in English literature.
“滚 这该死的血迹！” 麦克白夫人深信受害者
“Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” Lady Macbeth cries when she believes
she can’t wipe her victim’s blood off her hands.
Her obsession with guilt is one of many themes that runs through the play,
along with the universal tendency to abuse power,
the endless cycles of violence and betrayal,
the defying political conflict.
As is typical with Shakespeare’s language,
a number of phrases that got their start in the play
have been repeated so many times that they now feel commonplace.
They include “the milk of human kindness”,
“what’s done is done,”
and the famous witches’ spell,
“不惮辛劳不惮烦 釜中沸沫已成澜 ”
“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble.”
But Shakespeares saves the juiciest bit of all for Macbeth himself.
Towards the end of the play, Macbeth reflects on the universality of death
and the futility of life.
他恸哭说到 “熄灭吧 熄灭吧 瞬间的灯火 ”
“Out, out, brief candle!” he laments.
“Life’s but a walking shadow,
a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more.
It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Life may be a tale told my an idiot, but “Macbeth” is not.
Shakespeare’s language and characters have entered our cultural consciousness
to a rare extent.
Directors often use the story to shed light on abuses of power,
ranging from the American mafia
to dictators across the globe.
The play has been adapted to film many times,
including Akira Kurosawa’s “Throne of Blood,”
which takes place in feudal Japan,
and a modernized version called “Scotland, PA,”
in which Macbeth and his rivals
are managers of competing fast food restaurants.
No matter the presentation,
questions of morality, politics,
and power are still relevant today,
and so, it seems, is Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”
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