October 09, 2003
Echoes of Macbeth

I like this piece by Friedrich Blowhard about Macbeth.

Friedrich's Macbeth reminds me of Shaka Zulu, whom I've just been reading about. He too was one weird guy, whose motivations don't seem to have been purely "political". He too seemed to be spoiling for a fight all the time, rather than merely a man who had to fight to achieve mere worldy ends. On one occasion, he banned sex for an entire year throughout his realm. Couples where the wife got pregnant were executed. How weird is that? Also, in Africa in those days and I daresay in these days too, the political atmosphere is altered somewhat by the tendency of sons to murder their fathers to get the top job, and the consequent tendency of fathers to murder their sons in order to prevent their sons from getting the top job.

Another possible Macbeth reference caught my ear recently. Apparently the recently deceased Alec Guinness wasn't much of a dad. No touching or hugging or affection, etc. One day, however, he did try to give his son a cuddle, and he called him his "chicken". "I'm not your chicken!" said the son indignantly, running away. Was that a reference, I wonder, to that appalling moment in Macbeth when Macduff learns that "all my pretty chickens and their dam" have been murdered by Macbeth's people "at one fell swoop"? I bet it was. And I bet Guinness identified with Macbeth like crazy. He must certainly have played him a few times. And how about this? (see paragraph one) – a small part in Macbeth seems to have played a big part in getting Guinness started as a pro actor.

Now I have to go looking for where I read that bit about his son the chicken (not).

Can't find it. I think it may have been in the paper Sunday Times, in one of the cultural appandages, a week or two ago. The episode is in a new biography of Guinness, I think, and I read a review of that.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:18 PM
Category: HistoryTheatre