I had a wonderful opportunity last night to experience Shakespeare’s darkest play “Macbeth” at the Texas Tech student theater. Here are some memorable lines and a few thoughts. 

I don’t think I had ever had the opportunity to see a full Shakespearian play until last night, which some (who are likely to be high school English teachers) may find shocking and deplorable. I do remember reading and studying “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as a senior in high school, primarily because of a musical rap a friend and I did (Eric DeDonder) as a final project. I can even recite lines from that fine poetic masterpiece to this day, but although I could record it here with my computer’s microphone, I will not do so for fear you would cease all further reading of my blog postings, thinking me a sad pretender for a musician and a poet. (But you would likely be right!)

I found the overall experience of watching Macbeth to be both intellectually taxing but rewarding as well. It was very similar to listening to others speak quickly in Spanish, and having to translate in my mind at a rapid pace. I did enjoy the language, but also was (at many points I am sure) not quite certain exactly what some of the characters had said.

Still, never having read the play “Macbeth” and only being vaguely familiar with some of its details from summaries provided to me by others, I was pleased I was able to follow the dialog quite well. The following two lines stood out particularly in my mind during the play, and I will write a few reflective words after each explaining why.

Act 1, Scene 8 (Macbeth addressing Lady Macbeth at the close of Act I, anticipating a dinner charade before their bloody plot commences)

I am settled, and bend up
Each corporal agent to this terrible feat.
Away, and mock the time with fairest show:
False face must hide what the false heart doth know.

My thoughts: How often do we encounter people in our daily lives who put forward false faces, to hide false hearts? I despise dishonesty, and believe that people should walk their talk. I like how Paulo Freire describes these types of people, who have a “great distance” between what they say and what they do.

Let us aspire to have, rather than “false face” and “false heart,” faces and hearts that are both honest and true.

Act 5, Scene 8 (Macduff speaks to Macbeth before their mortal combat):

I have no words,?
My voice is in my sword: thou bloodier villain
Than terms can give thee out!

My thoughts: Macduff seems to me to be the real hero in this play, both as a tragic hero who lost his entire family because of his decision to find Malcom and bring him back to claim the throne from Macbeth which is rightly his, and in his final combat of revenge against Macbeth. My heart was wrenched by the dialog at the end of Act 3, when Macduff learns that Macbeth has had his entire family slaughtered;

Act 4, Scene 3 (Macduff speaking to Malcom and Ross, the bearer of ill tidings about Macduff’s entire family)

MALCOLM:
Be comforted:
Let’s make us medicines of our great revenge,
To cure this deadly grief.

MACDUFF:
He has no children.?All my pretty ones?
Did you say all??O hell-kite!?All?
What, all my pretty chickens and their dam
At one fell swoop?

MALCOLM:
Dispute it like a man.

MACDUFF:
I shall do so;
But I must also feel it as a man:
I cannot but remember such things were,
That were most precious to me.?Did heaven look on,
And would not take their part? Sinful Macduff,
They were all struck for thee! naught that I am,
Not for their own demerits, but for mine,
Fell slaughter on their souls: heaven rest them now!

MALCOLM:
Be this the whetstone of your sword. Let grief
Convert to anger; blunt not the heart, enrage it.

MACDUFF:
O, I could play the woman with mine eye,
And braggart with my tongue!?But, gentle heavens,
Cut short all intermission; front to front
Bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself;
Within my sword’s length set him; if he ‘scape,
Heaven forgive him too!

MALCOLM:
This tune goes manly.
Come, go we to the king; our power is ready;
Our lack is nothing but our leave: Macbeth
Is ripe for shaking, and the powers above
Put on their instruments. Receive what cheer you may;
The night is long that never finds the day.

I can barely imagine the sorrow and the anger which would have filled the heart and very soul of Macduff at this moment. To lose all those whom one holds most dear and close in life, all in “one fell swoop,” as Macduff laments.

And yet this tragedy has present-day parallel, which seems almost unfathomable yet true. Last year a man living on the south plains lost his entire family to a drunk driving accident, where a man driving a truck ran a stop sign and hit a car carrying the man’s wife and children– I think he had three. All were killed.

In an incident like that, there is not a Macbeth against whom one can rail and seek revenge. Amidst such tragedy and loss, anger and a desire for retributive violence would be natural emotions and desires, yet not the path upon which we would be called as Christian followers.

Although I have certainly lived through great tragedy in my own life, now that I am a father, how I pray I never encounter the the suffering and pain which Macduff endured– which strikes as so senseless and wasteful.

Living as I do in the early twentieth century, I realize I have little appreciation or regard on a daily basis for the incredible blessings in my life. Seeing a play like Macbeth and reflecting upon it provides pause for this need: To be thankful for the plentiful blessings, both large and small, which God has blessed me in this season of my life. 

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