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11 March 2018 @ 11:14 am
From an interview with Christopher Eccleston, on playing Macbeth:

There’s no doubt that [director] Polly Findlay wanted me in this role because of what I bring, the things we’re talking about. And without jemmying it in, there are definitely things I can access – about being very capable, but being overlooked. Macbeth is fantastic at his job. He lays his life on the line, and then he sees a chinless, milky blue-blood become King of Scotland. So of course I’m going to use that.


I mean...

This is one of those modern things that always feels a bit off to me: the idea that you can map the modern idea of jobs and promotion onto early modern ideas of kingship and hierarchy, and not lose something in the translation. (This is, in fact, what made the early parts of Polly Findlay's recent As You Like It at the National Theatre feel nonsensical to me when I saw it via NT Live: the court doesn't really make sense as a trading floor, and being banished is manifestly not the same thing as losing your job - and the loyalty one is expected to have for one's duke or king doesn't really have an analogue in today's job market. It doesn't really make sense to suggest that Macbeth is somehow being passed over for being king, when that's not how kingship works. (I suppose that doesn't mean that Macbeth might not feel aggrieved, but it's not like Duncan was going to announce that Macbeth was his heir and then didn't, or something. And Duncan has already given Macbeth what is in his power to give; he makes Macbeth thane of Cawdor as an explicit reward for his services in battle.)

That said, I thought that BBC adaptation of Macbeth starring James McAvoy (you know the one: "Pigs are landing on my head!") did manage to make this idea work, precisely because the stakes of the adaptation weren't about kingship or rule, but about Joe Macbeth giving his heart and soul to the restaurant he worked in, fully expecting for it to come to him when the owner retired - and then being passed over for the owner's son, who barely knew anything about the place. That made sense, in a way that "Macbeth being fantastic at his job" never quite does, if Duncan is still king, and not some kind of military dictator (though that guts the fact that Duncan, even by Macbeth's own admission, is supposed to be a leader who "hath borne his faculties so meek" and been "so clear in his great office" that his "virtues will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued" against his murder...).

It's just weird to me, is all. Macbeth himself tells us point-blank that he has no reason save "vaulting ambition" to contemplate murdering Duncan; why is everyone so unwilling to believe him? Why is it so hard to believe that Macbeth could want power without his thinking that he is entitled to it - without his thinking that someone should already have given it to him, and he's just taking what he deserves?