Why should you read "Macbeth"? - Brendan Pelsue

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Why should you read "Macbeth"? - Brendan Pelsue

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Check out our Patreon page- https-//www.patreon.com/teded View full lesson- https-//ed.ted.com/lessons/why-should-you-read-macbeth-brendan-pelsue There's a play so powerful that an old superstition says its name should never be uttered in a theater. A play that begins with witchcraft and ends with a bloody, severed head. A play filled with riddles, prophecies, nightmare visions, and lots of brutal murder. But is it really all that good? Brendan Pelsue explains why you should read (or revisit) "Macbeth." Lesson by Brendan Pelsue, directed by Silvia Prietov. Thank you so much to our patrons for your support! Without you this video would not be possible. Delene McCoy, Sammie Goh, Kathryn J Hammond, Ded Rabit, Sid, Jonathan Reshef, Tracey Tobkin, Jack Ta, Megan Whiteleather, Paul Coupe, Grant Albert, David Douglass, Ricardo Paredes, Bill Feaver, Eduardo Briceno, Arturo De Leon, Christophe Dessalles, Jeff Hanevich, Janie Jackson, Dr. Luca Carpinelli, Muhamad Saiful Hakimi bin Daud, Heather Slater, Patrick leaming, Martin Lohmus, Joris Debonnet.

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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 Shakespeare 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.”

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