Macbeth: The Paper Vs The Stage

Wednesday afternoon, my class and I watched a production of Macbeth in London’s Globe Theatre. Not only was it a very engaging performance, but it also made me rethink the entire vision that Shakespeare had for his works of fiction. Earlier this year, I had read Macbeth for the very first time. I found it to be a very enjoyable play because I reveled in the action that took place and the exploration of Macbeth’s dark actions kept me engaged until the very last act. Therefore, I was very excited to watch the play yesterday. Though, little did I know just how different watching the play and reading was going to be.

I got a lot out of the reading of the play, but there were times when the dialogue and the action did not match up. For example, in the scene when Macbeth and Macduff are about to engage in their final fight, they execute long intense speeches that are meant to dramatically build up the battle that they are about to participate in. However, since Macbeth is a play and not a narrative, the specific actions of the characters are not described. Therefore, the opening speeches of both of these characters are only followed by quick stage directions before embarking on dialogue that takes place much later in the battle. Again, the story never stops becoming interesting, but it is a bit jarring when the plot of the play is moving faster than my mind can picture it.

This is why watching the play unfold onstage is so useful in illuminating Shakespeare’s vision for Macbeth. While I can’t create pictures of the characters in my head like I can while reading the play, a performance allows those scenes that move so fast on paper to be organically drawn out on the stage of the Globe. Using the example of Macbeth and Macduff’s duel once again, the two characters were able to fill in the gaps of their dialogue with several exciting minutes of fighting, and the sound effects created by the tech crew made the battle all the more engaging. Reading the play of Macbeth gave me the privilege of picturing the story however I wanted to in my own head, but watching the play on the stage of the Globe allowed Shakespeare’s vision to be presented in a natural and exhilarating manner.