One of the pencil notes in the margins of my tattered Yr 11 copy of Macbeth, says – ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’ is theme for Macbeth. Another note says ‘Macbeth is easily manipulated by Lady Macbeth.’ Miss 12 says my 16-year-old handwriting is exactly the same today. Hopefully my understanding of Macbeth has matured, even if my handwriting hasn’t!
My husband and I took a group of Mr 15’s mates to see Macbeth performed in the Melbourne Botanical Gardens this week by the talented Australian Shakespeare Company. It was the coldest night of the week – as Macbeth said to one of the thanes, ‘t’was a rough night’ – but we huddled on picnic blankets and low-rise chairs in coats and watched the performance.
Mr 15 and his mates are studying Macbeth at school this year – such synchronicity that the play was also performed this year! The boys have studied Shakespeare before but hadn’t seen a play performed. They hadn’t started the play at school yet and I did offer to give them a brief synopsis but they decided they’d wait to watch the play unfold. (Who’d want to listen to a mate’s mum discuss literature when you could discuss so many other interesting topics!)
We all enjoyed the play, and the boys had lots of questions at the interval. I was impressed by the way they engaged with the story and could predict what might happen in the second half of the play. It’s certainly easier to understand Shakespeare when either reading it aloud in class or seeing it performed – too hard to read it by yourself.
One of the themes is that of prophecy – the three witches share their prophecy with Macbeth that he will become Thane of Cawdor, then King of Scotland. From that point on, Macbeth acts to fulfil the prophecy, even though at one stage he decides to let chance have his way – ‘If chance will have me king, why chance may crown me/ Without my stir’.
Perhaps this is why I don’t like reading – or believe – the horoscopes in the papers. How can I possibly fit into one of 12 types? And if I’m told I’m going to have a bad day, will I believe it because it rains on the day I’m going to an outdoor theatre performance? But if I’m told I’ll meet with opportunity, will I be grateful I had the chance to introduce teenage boys to a Shakespeare play performance?
The boys were all very grateful they saw the play – or so they told me! We’ll see how well they ‘screw their courage to the sticking place’ when it comes to writing an essay on Macbeth next semester.