Content Group

The Macbeths: Edwin Forrest and Charlotte Cushman

Probably because of being heavily cut, Macbeth is one of Shakespeare's shortest plays, and even so the Hecate scenes may have been re-extended possibly by Middleton, since the interpolated songs at 3.5.13 and 4.1.43 are his. The play is almost uniformly gloomy and without humor: even the sardonic Porter scene may add to its horror more than providing comic relief as De Quincey argues. The evocation of evil is as strong as in any play, including its analogues in Henry VI and Richard III. The role of Lady Macbeth is held to be one of Shakespeare's most vivid evocations of a powerful but misguided woman who pays for her misjudgment of her own resilience: many famous actresses (including Mrs. David P. BowersAdelaide Ristori, Ellen Terry, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, Lily Langtree, Judith Anderson, and Janet Suzman) have excelled in the part. Ironically, the historical originals of the Macbeths were among Scotland's better rulers but the affiliation of Scottish King James I with Banquo invited Shakespeare to demonize his rival (as depicted on this Edwardian postcard). All too often the play is staged in semidarkness (compare RSC 1983 and National Theatre 1993) and the Scottish setting and accents can be a challenge. However, its brevity and sinister effects have made the play popular. (For sinister effects, compare Orson Welles's 1935-6 Negro Theater of NYC production, Margaret Webster's 1942 production and Cal Shakes's 2002 production.)

Macbeth, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1983
Macbeth, National Theatre, London, 1993
Macbeth, National Theatre, London, 1993
Macbeth, California Shakespeare Theatre, 2002
Macbeth, Beerbohm Tree as Macbeth
Macbeth, Forbes Robertson as Macbeth, 1898
Macbeth, Mrs. Patrick Campbell as Lady Macbeth, 1898
Macbeth, Herbert Beerbohm Tree as Macbeth, 20th Century
Macbeth, 20th Century
Macbeth, Lily Langtree as Lady Macbeth, 19th Century
Macbeth, Negro Theatre Unit of New York City, 1936
Macbeth, Negro Theatre Unit of New York City, 1936
Macbeth, Negro Theatre Unit of New York City, 1936
Macbeth, Negro Theatre Unit of New York City, 1936
Macbeth, Judith Anderson as Lady Macbeth, 1942
Macbeth, Janet Suzman as Lady Macbeth, 1975


Essay Title Author
"Macbeth" as 'a Tragedy with a Happy Ending' Hugh Richmond

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Macbeth at Talkin' Broadway.

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