Understanding Macbeth: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

By Faith Nostbakken | Go to book overview

4
Contemporary Applications

Because Macbeth is an intense drama realized within a living art form, it is open to continual reinterpretation. Like all drama, it exists in the eternal present tense of each performance. Many modern productions of Shakespeare's play demonstrate this capacity for freshness and immediacy by using settings other than medieval Scotland. Producers and directors adapt costumes and scenery to illustrate the connections they see between Macbeth and other tragic and political experiences in other times and places.

Beyond the stage, however, the play also shares themes and conflicts with other stories, with historic and current events, and with individual, personal experiences with which some of us can identify. We can hope to direct the discussion from the issue of relevance--why study Shakespeare?--to an appreciation of the poetic language, the dramatic craft, and the representation of values and beliefs in another age and culture. We can also point to the thematic, political, and moral connections that contribute to the appeal of Shakespeare's drama century after century. What, we might ask, makes Macbeth seem like such a modern play?

This last chapter of the book selectively traces several of Macbeth's themes as they appear in other examples, both in fact and in fiction. The first part, "Crime and Punishment," looks at the issue of corruption in national politics, in sports, and in a terrorist

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