Unless you are an English teacher or student, you’ve likely forgotten the complexity of Macbeth. Should you again wish to torture yourself with the memories of Will Shakespeare, I recommend The Tragedy of Macbeth on AppleTV+. Witches and murder, ambition and guilt, madness and death come from the mind of Shakespeare some 500 years ago. Apparently, our author took liberties from a publication in 1587 and The Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Whatever the case, certain phrases from Macbeth remain firmly planted in our brains, decades later. “Double, double toil and trouble,” “To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day . . . ,” “Out! Damned Spot!” and “What’s done cannot be undone,” are but a few.
The Tragedy of Macbeth is as easy to watch as it is to read, that is, not very. You may wish to turn on the subtitles as our ear is not attuned to 1600’s Scotland. You will find a starkness to Macbeth, consistent with the tone of the story. Done in black-and-white, with very sparse sets and fog, director Joel Coen keeps it somber, from beginning to end. As a work of art, the film is very good. As a pleasant evening trying to relax on the couch with little mental effort, Macbeth fails. Shakespeare makes you work lest you miss so much. Thankfully, it’s one of Shakespeare’s shortest works. Some suggest the witches steal the show. They are a spooky lot. I give Macbeth 3.5 Gavels and it receives a 93% Rotten Tomatoes rating with a 7.4/10 IMDb score.
Returning home after the defeat of the traitorous Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth and Banquo receive the prognostication of a witch. Macbeth shall become king, but Banquo shall father the line of many kings. King Duncan rewards Macbeth’s service, but makes his son Prince of Cumberland. Lady Macbeth convinces her husband that he must kill the King in order to secure the throne. But, one death leads to another and another. “Macbeth has murdered sleep.” “Scorpions are in my mind.” “The disease is beyond my practice.”
Two of the best are on full display. Not since Fences has Denzel Washington explored this depth of his talent. As Macbeth, it’s as if he stepped off the London stage. Married to Joel Coen, one would expect Frances McDormand (Nomadland) to be his Lady Macbeth. Certainly, there is no nepotism here. Both will receive awards for their performances.
Do the witches “speak in riddles?” Will you need to “screw your courage” to watch The Tragedy of Macbeth?
“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,
You won’t get dialogue like that watching reality TV.
“Joel Coen’s triumphant film of Shakespeare’s tragedy astounds on every level, with Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, two acting titans, playing an aging couple taking their last shot at murderous ambition. You can’t take your eyes off them.” ABC News
“The leads are terrific, but Coen’s vision stands apart because of its unsettling atmosphere, which is spellbinding and seductive.” San Jose Mercury News
Are you ready for some Shakespeare?