Saturday, April 23, 2016

Inch One Hundred Fourteen: That Shakespeare

Google would remind us today that it is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. It may or may not also be his birthday; we are uncertain of what day in April Shakespeare was born, knowing only that he was baptized on April 26 and that in his era baptisms closely followed births given the high infant mortality rate.

In any event, I did not need Google to remind me. As I have often stated before in this forum, I am an ardent admirer of the Bard.

April is National Poetry Month and I have been celebrating it by posting a poem a day on my Facebook page. I did this last year as well. It gives me pleasure to come up with 30 poems and throw them out there in the vast social media world. Today's Facebook post was easy. Who else but Shakespeare? I posted my all-time favorite soliloquy, the one from Macbeth (my all-time favorite work by Shakespeare) when Macbeth learns that the queen, his wife, is dead:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
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,
Signifying nothing.

There are many interpretations of this soliloquy, which comes late in the play. Macbeth's kingdom, gained through murder and intrigue, is collapsing around him. His wife, the queen, has gone mad from her participation in the bloodshed. While Macbeth is fighting to remain king, the queen kills herself offstage. Macbeth asks "Wherefore was that cry?"and is told the queen is dead.

Here are two very different interpretations by two great Shakespearean actors. The first is a 1979 production with Ian McKellen. His Macbeth is numb, exhausted, and beyond caring:

And here is Patrick Stewart, giving an equally powerful performance, as a Macbeth grieving the loss of his beloved queen while realizing the futility of life:

1 comment:

Linda P. said...

Although I'm late discovering this post, I wanted to thank you for including these two clips. What a wondrous world in which I, less mobile than I would like to be these days, can ponder such differing performances sitting in my own study, gifted such a moment by someone somewhere else across the world.