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«A Thesis Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College In partial fulfillment of the ...»

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THE ROLE OF LADY MACBETH

IN SHAKESPEARE’S MACBETH:

A PRODUCTION THESIS IN ACTING

A Thesis

Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the

Louisiana State University and

Agricultural and Mechanical College

In partial fulfillment of the

Requirements for the degree of

Master of Fine Arts

in

The Department of Theatre

by

Taralyn Adele MacMullen

B.A., Greensboro College, 2002 May 2005 Acknowledgements The people who have helped me grow into the actor and person I am are too many to count. I know this acknowledgement will only scrape the surface, but these people deserve to have their names mentioned. Thank you everyone who has helped guide me these 25 years of life.

First, I must thank my family: Penny, David, Carla, Breann, and Eleanor Blanton, Hilary and Neal MacMullen, and Zane Gould. I know many times you didn’t quite understand my life or my choices, but you have always supported me. And you have always been proud of me. I am grateful that we, as a family, have always loved and been proud of each other, even when we didn’t really like each other. I love you all and I hope I can live up to the dreams you have for me.

I must thank John Dennis—JD, I hope you were right about whatever you thought you saw in me at SETC three years ago. Thank you for giving me the opportunities I never dreamed of having, under your guidance I have been able to step up to some wonderful, amazing, and damaged characters and then walk away feeling as if I had done them some justice. All of my love. Thank you.

Thank you to Leon Ingulsrud for being my teacher, my director, and most importantly my friend. Thank you for trusting me with Lady M. Thank you for teaching me how to work on my work and how far I can reach. I love you.

A million and one thank you’s to my classmates: Preston Davis, Shawn Halliday, Brace Harris, Eric J. Little, Sarah Jane Johnson, Michelle McCoy, and Chaney Tullos— for three years you have all been unapologetically you; and through the annoyance, frustration, laughs, and tears, I leave here with love and learning. The lessons I have ii learned from each of you individually and as a group about acting, human beings, and life will get me through this crazy world with a bit more confidence. I wish you all happiness as we go away. I love you all.

I need to pull from that group Michelle McCoy. Thank you, Michelle, for staying my friend through these long years of self-discovery. We have watched each other grow from dorky little girls with bowling bags and big ideas into fragile, insane women with lots of fears and big ideas. I look forward to being there for you as we grow into whatever comes next. I can’t wait for the day we are old and sitting on a porch teaching SJ’s grandkids to do bad things.

To Matt Cosper, Richard Newman, Anthony Cerrato, and Barney Baggett—thank you for helping me remember that being an artist is never easy, sometimes fun, and always so rewarding. Thank you for continuing to grow as artists and people; and for encouraging me to do the same, when it would have been just as easy to stay together and take over the world using theatre as our tool. I love you all and long for the day we all work together again.

Mark Jaynes, thank you for being my eyes in a process where I didn’t know where to look. And for doing your damnedest to keep me sane, you took on a big project.

Special thanks to David Schram for challenging me to open up my chest and put my heart on a platter every time I step onstage. You made me fight harder to work than anyone I know. You, and everyone at Greensboro College’s theatre department, forced me to learn that theatre is about so much more than actors on a stage. Thank you for instilling in me a level of work that I will not sink below. You helped shape me into an artist and for that I will be eternally thankful.

–  –  –

requires dedication, but that you come out the other side with a new family. Thank you for watching over me, even if from afar, for the last 10 years. I love you very much.

Thanks to the faculty and staff in Louisiana State University’s Department of Theatre, Greensboro College’s Theatre Department, and Children’s Theatre of Charlotte for all of the time, effort, and opportunity.

–  –  –

Acknowledgements.……………………………………………………………………... ii

Abstract

…………………………………………………………………………………. vi Chapters

1. Introduction………………………………………………………………...….. 1

2. Character Analysis……………………………………………...……………... 3

3. Actor’s Journal…………………………………………………………...…... 23

4. Physical Score…………………………………………………………...…… 59

5. Conclusion…………………………………………………………...……... 113 Bibliography…………………………………………………………………………... 114 Vita…………………………………………………………………………………..… 115

–  –  –





The role of Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s Macbeth was selected as a thesis project in the fall semester of 2004. The purpose of this thesis is to provide a written record of the actor’s interpretation and creation of the character through the rehearsal process. It contains five parts: an introduction, a character analysis, a daily actor’s journal, a physical score, and a conclusion.

–  –  –

I have selected my performance of Lady Macbeth in Swine Palace’s production of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth as my thesis topic.

This thesis contains a character analysis, an actor’s journal, a physical score, and a conclusion. In chapter two’s character analysis, I talk about approaching the role of Lady Macbeth using examples from famous past productions of Macbeth, including Sarah Siddons, Ellen Terry, and Dame Judi Dench; as well as critical and historical accounts of Lady Macbeth. The critical information used is from Harold Bloom’s The Invention of the Human, as well as Jan Kott’s Shakespeare Our Contemporary. Other resources I utilized were Holinshed’s Chronicles and information on the historical Macbeth. All references have been listed in the Bibliography of this thesis. I have also discussed my own approach to the role using specific questions about the character herself, as well as my relationship to the character.

The actor’s journal is a daily account of the process of creating a character. I have discussed my day-to-day discoveries and questions. I have also mentioned major events that affected my work within the process. These journal entries do not contain cast gossip or my complaints about the process, only information that shaped the final character presented to the audience.

The physical score is a breakdown of my moment to moment physicality as I performed it. I decided to include this element because as I worked on the role of Lady Macbeth it became apparent to me that the more precise I became with my physicality the clearer she became. I choreographed an extremely specific score that lasted the length of the show. No moment was accidental or changeable. The act of moving around the stage in a very specific path became as important to my Lady Macbeth as the words and actions, to leave the score out would be to ignore half of my work.

The conclusion is my final critique of my own work.

Macbeth was produced by Swine Palace in association with LSU Theatre, created and performed with SITI Company at the Reilly Theatre on Louisiana State University’s Baton Rouge campus. Directed by Leon Ingulsrud, the show ran October 21 through November 7, 2004.

The cast included members of the SITI Company, Louisiana State University graduate students, undergraduate students, and faculty. Some of the cast were Eric J.

Little (Duncan), Christopher Logan Healy (Malcolm), Susan Hightower (Macbeth), Donnie Mather (Banquo), Michael Severance (Macduff), and Aikiko Aizawa, Michelle McCoy, and Alaina Dunn (Three Witches).

The set and lights were designed by Brian Scott, the costumes were designed by Polly Boersig, the sound was designed by Darron L. West, choreography was created by Barney O’Hanlon, and the assistant director was Rachel Chavkin. The stage manager was Karli Henderson. The production manager was James L. Murphy.

–  –  –

The character of Lady Macbeth is one of the most confusing and intriguing in all of Shakespeare’s works. No definitive Lady “M” has been agreed upon. Directors and actors cannot even agree as to whether or not she is a prominent character, as she disappears after the banquet scene not to reappear until the infamous sleepwalking scene.

In this analysis of the role of Lady Macbeth, the focus is first on historical and critical views of Lady Macbeth.

Three versions of Lady Macbeth have been considered notable since John Rice originated the role opposite Richard Burbage in 1606. These actresses are Sarah Siddons, Ellen Terry, and Judi Dench. The interpretations and the possible textual basis for the choices follow.

In 1785 Sarah Siddons played Lady M to her brother John Kemble’s Macbeth.

Siddons was said to have been the only woman who could ever play this role. She was a strikingly beautiful woman, very tall and statuesque. The 18th century Shakespeare scholar William Hazlitt said of Siddons, “We can conceive of nothing grander. It seemed almost as if a being of superior order had been dropped from higher sphere to awe the world with the majesty of her appearance. Power was seated in her brow, passion emanated from her breast as from a shrine. She was tragedy personified.” Siddons choice made Lady Macbeth a ruthlessly ambitious woman who dominated her husband. Her brother’s Macbeth was said to have been in a constant state of blindly rushing towards and from his ambitions. Siddons countered this by being absolutely firm and even masculine in her desires. She became the strongest of the pair.

Hazlitt said, “She is a great bad woman, whom we hate, but whom we fear more than we hate.” This fear came from her utter steadiness.

Textual basis for this choice could come from any of the following pieces of text:

–  –  –

Lady Macbeth seems to know that she will need to coax him into performing the murder of Duncan; and she is right. The choice can be made that she has taken the position as leader of the clan. She decides what needs to be done and she “chastise[s] with the valor of her tongue” every fear and doubt Macbeth has about performing that deed. The choices made by Siddons of masculinity and steadiness seem to be found in Lady Macbeth’s famous “unsex me” speech. She demands the forces of evil to neuter her, to free her of gender, and the frailty of womanhood. Lady Macbeth, often, in the script, takes charge of the situation. Siddons read this to mean Lady Macbeth was in charge at all times. She chose to make Lady Macbeth the dominant figure in the relationship. More evidence for Lady M’s dominance may come from her constant questioning of Macbeth’s manhood. It is the strike she makes most often to push him into action. Macbeth falls for it every time. Again, it seems as though Siddons chose to believe that it is a constant part of their relationship.

I find the trouble with these choices to be many. If she is in fact the strength, the man, in the relationship, why does she ask spirits for resolve and strength? Why does she not perform the murder herself? And the biggest flaw I find is in the famous sleepwalking scene. She ends Act 3 scene 4 by sending Macbeth to bed. This action is clearly not the problem; she is still domineering, still the stronger partner. She then disappears for almost two full acts. We hear little of her and when she re-enters she has lost her mind. The audience can infer that she has been overcome by guilt or the need for secrecy, or that her relationship with the devil himself has become too much. This strong woman falls too far by Act V scene ii without any explanation. In my mind, Shakespeare would not have left us with a pillar of strength returning once more as a woman unloosed without taking the opportunity to tell us how. It seems as if we would need some show of weakness from the strong Lady for us to believe she could end up here.

The next famous incarnation of Lady Macbeth was performed by Ellen Terry in 1888, opposite Henry Irving. Ms. Terry is considered the first woman to break from the long standing interpretation of Lady Macbeth as set by Sarah Siddons, creating a very new and very controversial Lady M. Twentieth century film historian, Roger Manvell, author of Ellen Terry’s biography called her Lady M “humane and penetrating.” He said, “Love blinds her to all else but the fulfillment of her wishes and thus she allies herself to the spirits of evil ‘to prick the sides’ of his intent and help him to happiness.” And Garry Wills in Witches and Jesuits calls Terry a “pre-Raphaelite spectre who dooms [Macbeth] with her beauty.” As a Victorian sex symbol, Ms. Terry inspired John Singer Sargent to paint his version of Lady Macbeth with long plaits of floor length red hair holding a crown high above her head as if she were crowning herself.

Terry sought to understand Lady Macbeth more fully and wrote William Winter, an important American critic and friend, asking for assistance. She said, “Everyone seems to think MrsMcB is a monstrosity—and I can only see that she’s a woman—A mistaken woman-& weak- not a Dove- of course not- but first of all a wife.” (The emphases are Ms. Terry’s.) Not just a wife, but a good wife who struggles with and for her husband. She sees not only her own weaknesses, but she believes to see his as well.



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