Emphasizing the supernatural element in Shakspere's "Macbeth" as the keystone of the tragedy, Professor George Lyman Kittredge '82 last night treated the first of a series of five tragedies of Shakspere in his inimitably pleasant style before a large audience in Sanders Theatre. The series is under the auspices of the Dowse Institute. Compendious as the speech was, it included a dissertation on the general plot and characterization of the tragedy as, well as interesting sidelights acquired by the speaker's careful study.
Professor Kittredge dwelt first on the significance of the weird sisters and said, "It has often been observed that the word 'blood' runs through this tragedy like a scarlet thread. It is no less certain that fate and metaphysical powers are prominent in every line of the play. Thus the tragedy of Macbeth is unescapably fatalistic, although the author does not render the bloody deeds of his hero inexcusable.
Two Interpretations of Character
"Regarding the character of Macbeth, there are two diametrically opposite interpretations. In one, he may be regarded as an elemental savage, so destitute of feeling that it takes little urging to send him on his career of evil; while, on the other hand, he may be thought of as a grave and high minded nobleman, suddenly overthrown by ambition. In the very second scene, Shakespere gives us an elaborate laudatory exposition of Macbeth's character. In the third we see him crumble under the influence of the supernatural".
The speaker then sketched the relations of Macbeth and his wife, interlinked with the plot. Carrying them through the murder of Duncan, he showed the hero becoming more resolute as fate tightened its grip. "Lady Macbeth", went on Professor Kittredge, "is an indispensable support to her courageous, but none too steady, husband. Following the scene with Banquo's ghost, the heroine instills renewed vitality into Macbeth's flagging spirits".
The "sleep-walking" scene was described by Professor Kittredge as the most pathetic in all tragedy. "But the culmination", he concluded, "comes in Macbeth's reception of the news of his wife's death. His placid comment on the subject is in direct contrast to the passionate love for her evinced in earlier scenes. This--more than the murder of Duncan, more than the slaying of Banquo--this is the tragedy of Macbeth".