Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Rehearsal Notes 4

In his fourth blog post, Chu discusses rehearsing two different scene's: the England scene (IV. III) and the discovery of Duncan's murder (II.III).

Transcript of Podcast

The England scene

This morning we did the England scene. It was quite rusty. Then after doing it, we sat down and spoke about it, having not rehearsed it for a while. Lots of things came out about our characters and how we perceived Malcolm and Macduff. We talked about their journeys, which we’d never talked about consistently before.

We talked about examples of manhood. Tim asked about the lists that Malcolm has; the negative list – ‘I grant him bloody, / Luxurious…’ (IV.III.58-59) and the positive list ‘The king-becoming graces’ (91). Why do I say them? As Malcolm, I’m saying in the first list that Macbeth represents all these things. I think I’m all these things or at least am about to pretend to be. In this scene, Malcolm has to believe in that moment that he is evil or otherwise he's never going to convince Macduff. While Malcolm doesn’t think he's evil incarnate, he does have doubts about himself and his ability to lead, to be king. I’m trying to heighten his insecurity.

People talk about changing and metamorphosing into someone else as an actor, but you never really do. You highlight things that you have in common with a character and hide things you don’t. Perhaps you over-emphasise things that you have and conceal things that you don’t. That's what Malcolm is doing in this scene, really cranking things up to a ridiculous extreme. He's using Macbeth as an example of something that is good and has been corrupted. He thinks to himself if Macbeth who was a hero and the saviour of Scotland in many ways can transform into this monster, what will happen when I, a deeply insecure and vice-filled fellow, become king?

I think the positive list is a list of all the things Malcolm thought true of his father, Duncan. The most important thing for Malcolm is that although he really does believe that Duncan embodied those qualities, they still weren’t enough. Duncan was too trusting and lacked foresight. Malcolm knows that he can’t afford to be that way. This realisation is what every child does. He/she looks at the examples around him/her and learns from them. The real reason Malcolm pushes Macduff to the nth degree in this scene is because he really does trust Macduff deep down. Malcolm wants Macduff to be honest, because he sees something in Macduff.

I was talking this morning about how many times the scene could have ended. What's happening is that Macduff is setting up a scenario. He asks Macduff questions and Macduff keeps giving him the wrong answer. Malcolm's saying, ‘Now, I’m a lustful prince. Do you think somebody with all these vices can rule the country?’ Macduff says, ‘Yes, I do.’ Malcolm keeps on pushing it. The reason he's says what he does is because he doesn’t necessarily trust Macduff, but he wants to trust him. Malcolm doesn’t want to be stuck in England; he wants to be fighting the good fight. He needs Macduff to have the right motivation for following him, to support him because he believes that Malcolm has the ability to be a good king. Otherwise, it's only the difference between a legitimate monster and an illegitimate one. The cycle of distress can only be broken by a good, just leader who's legitimate and has the support of the good Thanes around him.

Duncan's murder

We looked at the scene when I find out that Duncan's been murdered. This scene is more difficult because there is so much going on, but there has to be some sort of focus. You can have any ideas you want, but unless they help the scene along, they’re useless. I’ve got quite a strong idea of what I want to do for the journey of Malcolm, but that doesn’t necessarily marry with the structure of the scene as it came out today. So it's about improvising and being flexible.

Malcolm and Donalbain seem to be quite clinical at the end of II.III. They come in after Duncan has been found dead by Macduff and neither of them really reacts. What do you do when you have cataclysmic news? I think people usually do nothing. People who fake it tend to act, tend to react. In that scene Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are doing big reactions, lots of crying. It's all false. Malcolm is told his father's dead and all he says is, ‘O, by whom?’ It's a hard line, but it's only hard if you try and put too much into it. Sometimes we make it too hard for ourselves, and until I do know what, if anything, to do with it, I was planning to do it very neutrally.

I have many thoughts, as a character in this scene, running through my head. I feel as if I should show them, but ‘showing’ how you feel rather than just feeling it isn’t right. I do have a responsibility to be clear about my journey, but just because I speak there, it doesn’t mean that I have to show it there. It's an odd thing to say, ‘O, by whom?’ But I suppose you say odd things when under stress. I think it's shock. I think the coldness comes from the shock and not knowing what to do. ‘O, by whom?’ isn’t a case of accusing or fear for my own safety because there isn’t enough time for that. It's just natural. It just spews out. We’ve all said stupid things that come from nowhere.

Shock also permeates the scene when the Thanes gather round to discuss what's going on. Malcolm and Donalbain both know that one of the murderers is in that group. Somebody in that group killed their father or had him killed. Someone that was close to them has committed the crime. What's running through that scene is mostly a sense of shock and the objective is to find safety and space in order to react and then later to act.

These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as s/he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his/her own interpretations and change frequently as the rehearsal process progresses.

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