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The Pit Post | Shakespeare

    The Pit Post | Shakespeare

like any great writer, cannot be improved upon.  You don’t mess with William Shakespeare like you don’t mess with Dante or Victor Hugo.  By mess, I mean fiddle with, change, alter or replace words, phrases, or scenes.  In Winter-time, pre light-bulb, parts were sometimes excluded from 6-hour long plays like Hamlet as darkness, like drunks, fell early.  But to mess is to mangle.  It is to violate Will’s work.  It is arrogant, it is disrespectful.  It is literary rape.  It would be the equivalent of adding a few more stars to van Gogh’s The Starry Night, just to brighten it a bit.  Vincent was such a dark guy.  Or, to cut the 2nd movement, the andante, in Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, to keep it moving.  It only took Ludwig 4 years to write it.  But that is what Justin Kurzel did with his recent film, Macbeth.  The Australian director butchered Shakespeare’s play like his fellow countryman, Mel Gibson, butchered Jesus in The Passion of the Christ.  Both directors apparently love violence for the sake of violence.  The film begins with one of Curdsell’s many unnecessary additions to the action, with the burial of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s deceased child.  Hey, can someone tell me where the kid came from?  The Weird Women then show up and inform us they are going to meet “again, when the hurlyburly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won,” and here is where the scriptwriters have taken the liberty to drop “upon the heath, There to meet with Macbeth” for “upon the battlefield.”  Hey, Mr. Curswell, if Will wanted them to meet on the battlefield they would have met on the battlefield!  They meet on the heath, which makes a lot more sense.  If you are afraid that moviegoers won’t understand heath, they will as soon as Macbeth and Banquo encounter them upon that “blasted” wasteland. When Shakespeare’s Macbeth kills King Duncan, he does so with guilt and trepidation; When Cudgel’s Macbeth goes in for the kill, he murders with relish and vengeance and then hangs out a while by the bed having a chat with Donalbain, one of the King’s sons. Zurkell takes even more liberties.  Death in a Shakespeare play comes by any number of violent ways: dagger, sword, suffocation, and suicide, just to name a few.  Stabbing is the most popular method of killing, including oneself, as do his eponymous protagonists Juliet, Othello, and Antony.  There are a couple of hangings, a few beheadings, and poison is ingested on more than one occasion, at least once forcibly.  A couple of characters, grief-stricken, die of a broken heart.  A young girl drowns herself, a queen lays a venemous snake on her breast, and one old guy is mauled and eaten by a bear.  The Bard makes death entertaining, and does so when he kills off two bad brothers, bakes them in a pie and feeds them to their mother.  We nearly feel it, when Portia swallows hot coals.  But nowhere does William Shakespeare’s quill burn anyone at the stake.  Okay, he throws someone’s dismembered body on a pyre fire. Speaking of Macduff, Macbeth promises to “…give to the edge o’ the sword, his wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls that trace him in his line.” But he doesn’t burn them at the stake.  As the Friar said, in Romeo and Juliet, “What a change is here!”  Too much, Mr. Kurzel. Too much. If Shakespeare were alive today to see your film, he would borrow his very own words from Macbeth to tell you, “Confusion now hath made his masterpiece!”

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