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  • 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,

  • 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.

  • "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.

  • "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,

  • "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.

  • "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

  • signifying nothing."

  • 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."

There's a play so powerful that an old superstition says

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B2 US TED-Ed macbeth shakespeare scottish play king

【TED-Ed】Why should you read "Macbeth"? - Brendan Pelsue

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    詹士緯 posted on 2017/11/02
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