Signifying Nothing

MacbethI spent the day—the whole day—doing things I will write about tomorrow. But I know how depressed you all get if I don’t provide something here to gnaw on. I was just thinking that Orson Welles and Shakespeare are very similar in that they burn so brightly at times but overall are disappointing (although one not nearly as so much as the other—regular readers will know which is which).

Macbeth is my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays, perhaps largely because I am rather conservative and Macbeth is the closest Shakespeare ever came to writing a classical tragedy. In addition to being the most watchable of his plays, Macbeth also has great moments.

Here is one of the best from the middle of Act 5. Macbeth’s world is falling apart and he has just been told of Lady Macbeth’s death. He speaks more truth than is heard in all the rest of Shakespeare:

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

Here is Ian McKellen doing his thang the only way he can do it:

The bitterness of it! Yea team!

Update (Right Away)

I’m no Patrick Stewart fan, but his version of this speech is really worth checking out. It is light on the bitterness and heavy on the sadness. It is always interesting to see how great actors do the same text.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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