(I wonder if I’m doing the best I could)*
Macbeth is my favourite Shakespearian play, possibly even my favourite play ever. It isn’t just that the play is filled with incredible lines (‘Life’s but a walking shadow…’), it’s that Macbeth’s (and Lady Macbeth’s) ‘tragic flaw’ is hubris and ambition; that makes it resonate so strongly. They’re familiar qualities, ones I’ve more than once been told I possess far more of than good sense decrees.
They’re called ‘tragic’ or ‘fatal’ flaws and it’s so Aristotelian in making redemption just out of reach. They’re meant to be flaws that one can relate to, find in oneself, and wonder if they too could be overwhelmed by it; if they too would lose all sense and perspective.
Oh, what an emotion; Empathy!
It must suck for the rest of the characters, having to put up with all the tragic/fatal flaws. It must be exhausting to have to deal with Lady Macbeth’s crushing remorse, the night-terrors and her shouting ‘Out, damned spot! out, I say!’ at odd hours as she wanders the castle, and ultimately her ‘tragic’ suicide. Her gentlewomen, handmaidens, and even her power-obsessed and torn-up-with-guilt husband have to work around her spiral into self-destruction. I never felt that there was empathy for her from them, only teeth-gritting forbearance.
Why is it only the ‘heroic’, central characters that are worthy of empathy and understanding from the audience? What of the everyday everybodies that must endure the Poetic dips and curves to catharsis?
Endurance isn’t nearly as vaunted a quality as ambition.
I wonder about everyone (see: parents) who (has to) puts up with my foul moods fuelled by my not wanting to be here, my i’ll never find a job again induced stress, and my there’s too much to do and no time to do it in panic. It must be exhausting. It must be disruptive. It (i.e. I) must be annoying as all hell. But, because they’re my parents and they love me; they have to endure it and they smile, and they say, ‘We understand’.
Oh, what an emotion: empathy.
–*Johnny Flynn: Brown Trout Blues