I went to a production of the Scottish play at the New Vic across from the Public Market on Sunday afternoon. They had placed the twisted Thane in what looked like Iraq or Kuwait. It didn’t work that well. It is, if anything, a cold play, as damp and peaty as Scotland itself. In this production there are warriors in “camo”, guys with guns. The witches seem too lightly dressed for their profession or mission. But Macbeth and Banquo do enter on that day so “foul and fair” and find the Weird Sisters shuffling around in sand with the lights on too bright. The soldiers, as they must be, are Pollacked with blood and speaking of gore. Macbeth, a loyal soldier when he awoke that morning, is transformed (that’s what magic does) into a blood drunkard, a killer of babies and a danger to all who were unfortunate to have loved or respected him. The witches ‘preview — that he will be Thane of Cawdor and Glamis and then King — completely unhinges whatever fragile sinews had heretofore kept his apparent monsters locked in some closet or stashed deep beneath his bed.
Donald Trump on his escalator ride into his own shameful debacle was, I think, as innocent as Macbeth. He thought he would try it out; his shot across the bow. And he, like Macbeth, was shocked when the future unfurled itself and he was forever after rife with the stench of ambition and the magnetism of a throne heretofore unthinkable and, suddenly, within reach. Macbeth lays waste to Scotland to prove the witches right. The Donald eviscerates the Republican Party and whatever nobility Americans have struggled so hard to achieve. The Scottish play is about the metastasis of greed into avarice, envy into desperation and daydreams into homicide or, in Macbeth’s case, regicide and infanticide and … is there a word for murdering your best friend ?
They both astound themselves with their success and the depths to which they sank to realize it. They revel (make wassail) in their new finery or bask in the warmth of their follower’s blind obeisance and fawning praise. They both think they deserve to be King or President because we let them think so. Neither man was not nearly strong enough to remain true to whatever values brought him to the battlefield or the rally. And they both go truly and irredeemably mad. Macbeth is crowned because everyone else was dead or in hiding. Trump pandered and lied his way into our thirsty hearts. In the meantime, Scotland becomes a failed state and American political discourse is degraded and mocked.
These are dangerous men, Macbeth and Trump. They are focused on thrones and a cool jet. Every fatality, moral lapse, retreat from the truth, is collateral damage, sad but necessary. Macbeth was not nearly clever enough to interpret the witch’s vision or the pathology of his own ambition. Trump is so besotted with himself that he doesn’t realize that he is little more than an empty suit that will hang in a closet everyone will soon forget or wish to find.
And you have to ask, who are the Peacock’s witches? What coven is he trying to impress?