Friday, September 17, 2010

Greatest Soliloquy, Greatest Play

For Melissa's 38th birthday tonight we went out with a couple of friends to one of our favorite activities: an outdoor show by the Wichita Shakespeare Company. The play they put on was Macbeth, the greatest of Shakespeare's plays, so I definitely didn't want to miss it. They aren't a professional theater, and being shown outdoors, the sound was far from perfect. But I got to hear the greatest lines Shakespeare ever wrote, expressed pretty darn well, and for me, that's about all that matters. (Well, that and the banquet scene with Banquo's ghost; that's some devastating writing there.)

The queen, my lord, is dead.

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
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.

(Enter a Messenger)

Thou comest to use thy tongue; thy story quickly.

Gracious my lord,
I should report that which I say I saw,
But know not how to do it.

Well, say, sir.

As I did stand my watch upon the hill,
I look'd toward Birnam, and anon, methought,
The wood began to move.

Liar and slave!

Let me endure your wrath, if't be not so:
Within this three mile may you see it coming;
I say, a moving grove.

If thou speak'st false,
Upon the next tree shalt thou hang alive,
Till famine cling thee: if thy speech be sooth,
I care not if thou dost for me as much.
I pull in resolution, and begin
To doubt the equivocation of the fiend
That lies like truth: 'Fear not, till Birnam wood
Do come to Dunsinane:' and now a wood
Comes toward Dunsinane. Arm, arm, and out!
If this which he avouches does appear,
There is nor flying hence nor tarrying here.
I gin to be aweary of the sun,
And wish the estate o' the world were now undone.
Ring the alarum-bell! Blow, wind! come, wrack!
At least we'll die with harness on our back.

I had this whole speech memorized at one time. Tried to recite it along with the performance, but failed. Need to get back to the classics more often, I guess.


SEK said...

I'm normally not a fan of o-ver e-nunc-ia-ted British deliveries of Shakespeare, but that one actually works. (I know, praising a great actor for rising to the occasion of the lines he's reciting is a bit gauche, but McKellen's performance there requires I stick my toes in gauche waters.)

Russell Arben Fox said...

If you haven't seen the Trevor Nunn adaptation of Macbeth, from which this scene is taken, with Ian McKellen and Judi Dench as Lady Macbeth, you really need to. It indulges mercilessly in close-up British over-enunciations, but it presents the play in such a cloistered, stark, propless environment that it really works, turning the whole into an almost existential, psychological drama for which such in-your-face, cold readings are perfectly appropriate. It's haunting.