Don’t be fooled by its many luminous quotations and rich characterizations; Shakespeare’s Macbeth is actually a pretty straightforward play. This exciting morality tale about a Scottish Thane and his determined wife offers a compelling case study into the impact of sin upon the human heart. We may admire the Macbeths as fierce poets of ambition, but nobody—nobody—wants to be them late in the play. After living a short time with the ramifications of their craven murders, Macbeth puts it best:
Better be with the dead,
Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace,
Than on the torture of the mind to lie
In restless ecstasy.
Tonight’s bloody production therefore does not aspire to teach us that murder is wrong, that reckless ambition leads to destruction, or that messing with witchcraft may not be such a wise idea. We mostly know these inherent truths of decent humanity, even if our brutally violent, politically dysfunctional, and broken culture of idolatry often says otherwise. No. Ensconced in transcendent poetry, Macbeth clearly teaches a more profound and ironically hopeful truth: doing wrong brings no joy. Despite the alluring tug of worldly promises, wickedness only begets anguish.
And just say no to witches.