During the second season of Slings & Arrows, they perform Macbeth. The conversation is almost entirely around words like "evil" and "psychopaths." I get that they're going over the top with it. I understand that in producing this particular play, people really like to go nuts with the curse and the blood and the smoke and mirrors and all that good stuff.
But I'm left wondering if I've fundamentally misunderstood the ending to Macbeth all this time. Is Macbeth a fundamentally good guy who has been corrupted by ambition this whole time, who realizes too late the error of his ways? Or is he, right to the very end, just a demented psychopath who is too insane to realize that he's already dead and just doesn't know it yet?
I've always thought it the former. After all, we've gotten a glimpse into his character (and his descent) through the whole play, it's not like we have another good guy to play off of where we get to say at the end "Hooray, the good guy won!" I mean yeah, we do, but he just sort of shows up at the end, it's not like the play was one big chase where the good guy is always one step behind. Most of the play is about Macbeth going nuts, and only at the end do the good guys appear and win the day.
I guess I'm pondering the essence of the tragedy in this one. If Macbeth is indeed a psychotic monster (every time I say it like that I imagine an action movie ending where he keeps getting butchered and just keeps getting up and charging the hero, until finally his head is chopped off), then where is the tragedy exactly? Doesn't there have to be that moment of "Oh good, everything's going to be ok....too late, too late!" for it to be tragic? Doesn't Macbeth have to have some awareness of his situation? I've always preferred to think of the ending as Macbeth's realization that he has not been his own man throughout this whole experience, and that even though Fate has been right so far, he's going to take control and go down fighting. He doesn't expect to win but he doesn't plan to roll over and let Fate have it's way with him, either. Or, that could also be the ravings of a lunatic who is beaten and refuses to realize it, too.
Now I want to go see a Macbeth. :)