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Love and Macbeth: Into the Gaping Mouth of Doom

Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot.

Take thou what course thou wilt!

— Marc Antony, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

Hidden within the horror of murder and madness, the Tragedy of Macbeth is a story of love. Lady Macbeth’s passion for her husband is intertwined with her ruthless ambition, as inextricable as the sea is from being salty. Through the valor of her tongue, she seamlessly expresses her burning desire for the man she loves, along with clear instructions regarding the grim mechanisms required for their rise. This couple’s shared psychosis — both of them manic and sleepless — leads to their grisly ends, but their love is the key to the lock of the Scottish kingdom’s door, never mind the vacuum of morality. Such a ruthless duo must have shared in mischief long before the opening scene of the play, questionable deeds in the gray of ethics, a lover’s lingering twilight before even the stars went out. Perhaps some youthful kind of mischief acted as a catalyst for their undeniable passion for each other, ever-growing into fever dreams of the crown, like mushrooms in the dark. The Weird Sisters spoke of the future, but Macbeth’s dark desires were already somewhere between latency and eruption. The witches never told him to kill a king, since the somebody who was the two-headed force of nature, The Macbeths, must have entertained such actions for some time: over dinner, or in each other’s seething embrace, just before sleep and into their dreams. Mischief was afoot the moment their distinct ambitions found a metaphysical crown to share: Love. Not a doomed love. Rather, a love into the gaping mouth of Doom.

Your face, my thane, is as a book where men
May read strange matters.

— Lady Macbeth

Through these words, it’s difficult not to see Lady Macbeth with her receiving palm on her husband’s face, her lips, a hair’s breadth away from his own, a leitmotif of love and mischief brewing into something far more nefarious. One does not plot to murder a king and play the humble host without practice and certainly not without a trust in her partner. The moment has presented itself and all the imagined deeds this couple have rehearsed together, time and again, have found their moment, opening night of the rise of the new king and queen, through blood and lies in the face of any threats, love and loyalty through each other. Both are guilty, but neither would be capable of anything of this magnitude without the other, a galvanized power and the sacrificial element is the doomed King Duncan. The Macbeths are a love-match made in a Scottish nightmare, the kind of dream that only presents itself as horrifying the moment it wakes up the sleeper. Then it’s already too late and the will of the Macbeths has already spread across the moors like a crippling fog.

Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck,
Till thou applaud the deed.

— Macbeth

Dearest chuck’, that term of endearment, is spoken in the same breath as ‘the deed’, the planned assassination of Banquo and his young son. Such moments are wickedly poignant, a stark reminder that love is like beauty, since neither is necessarily good. Love is love, undeniably. The Macbeths are like the parable of the Band of Thieves: The thief doesn’t follow the leader because he believes in the leader. He believes the thief next to him believes in the leader. In this case, the Macbeths are both the leader and the thief, believing the other believes in their united-Self. Where Macbeth falls short in intention, Lady Macbeth charms him through the valor of her tongue. Her charms are not deceitful, but a call to arms, a mellifluous reminder of what they desire, what only they can do. These two possess negative forces that paradoxically attract each other, like an abysmal magnet hellbent on spiting the laws of physics. In their case, love conquers…but not for long. And yet, the power of the Macbeths is undeniable, this singular force of nature, so clearly distinct beyond gender and still One, with a love that runs like a verdant river through the pits of Hell.

Hayden Moore

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