Shakespeare’s witches haven’t always terrified audiences. For a century and more – from the late 17th to the early 19th centuries – actors played these parts for laughs. During the period in which Shakespeare became “the Bard”, the witches in fact brought a large dose of comedy to Shakespeare’s bloody tragedy. The origins of this surprising, but long-lasting, stage interpretation go back to 1664.
Posts Tagged: Macbeth
As the play’s climactic battle approaches, Macbeth is told of his wife’s death. He responds, “She should have died hereafter. There would have been a time for such a word.” And then he launches into one of Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquies, about the fleeting and fragile nature of life. Can you correctly order these lines from Act 5, Scene 5?
American actress Charlotte Cushman was a 19th-century theatrical icon, known for playing traditionally male roles like Romeo and Hamlet. She was not the only actress of her time to play these parts, but her style was uniquely assertive and athletic. However, her breakout acting role was Lady Macbeth.
“Our premise is that Macbeth is Shakespeare’s supernatural horror thriller, and should be done as violently and amazingly as a modern supernatural horror movie,” wrote magician Teller (of Penn & Teller) about the memorable 2008 production of Macbeth at Folger Theatre that he and Helen Hayes Award-winning director Aaron Posner co-conceived and directed. The production… Continue Reading »
While the global population of European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) is stable, their numbers have been rapidly declining in the UK for decades, especially in rural areas. This has led to a huge upswell of conservation efforts as people try to protect the UK’s only spiny mammal, and one of these efforts is centered in Shakespeare’s… Continue Reading »
Shakespeare’s plays are full of references to food and cookery, but they’re not always very appetizing. In Hamlet, the ghost of elder Hamlet describes the effect of the poison that Claudius pours into his ears, how it winds its way through the veins of his body and suddenly “doth posset / And curd, like eager… Continue Reading »
“L’opera senza amore!” That was the Italians’ reaction to Verdi’s Macbeth when it premiered in Florence in 1847. Despite its immediate success and subsequent popularity, an opera that involved no great love affair struck audiences as an oddity. It was not as if Verdi was known for any blatantly amorous scenes in his operas—quite the… Continue Reading »
Artist Paul Glenshaw describes drawing John Gregory’s bas-relief of Macbeth, the three witches, and their cauldron, with a focus on the vast cloud of smoke made from stone. “I realized as I drew it that the smoke was as much a character in this setting as the witches and Macbeth himself,” he writes.
Shakespeare’s witches, like nearly all witches of Shakespeare’s time, have their roots in the kitchen more than in the study.
Take this quiz to see if you can identify lines from Shakespeare’s Macbeth or the Restoration-era version as adapted and amended by Sir William Davenant.