This year, and in particular, this fall, a lot of theater companies are producing Macbeth. Northern Stage, in White River Junction, is doing it, and my former company, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival is doing it, among many others.
Why this particular play? Well for one thing, it's the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare's death, and many theaters are celebrating by doing his plays. For another, it's a political season, and Macbeth is about an ambitious, ruthless man who seizes political power by the worst possible means.
Sound uncomfortably familiar? We should at least be thankful we have a choice in the matter; Presidents are not Kings, not yet, anyway. In Macbeth's time the game of thrones was entirely out of the public's hands.
But for me, Macbeth is not primarily a political play. It is a psychological study of a man who is at war with himself. Macbeth embodies the ideals of the pagan hero. He is brave, ruthless and strong. But he also has a moral nature, he is aware of what is right and what is wrong. There is a christian overlay in his psyche, eroding the conviction of the pagan notions that guide him on the battlefield. Scotland is a borderland, between Christian England, and the barbaric Norse. It's a borderland fraught with peril, inside and out.