We had yet another Macbeth on the Delhi stage in recent weeks. The latest one is a re-working of Shakespeare's Macbeth in the context of socio-economic forces at work which heralded the Renaissance. Titled “Macbeth-Macbeth” staged by Sansaptak, it is translated to Hindi from Bengali by Sreemoyee Dasgupta and Abhishek Biswas and was staged at LTG auditorium.
Structurally, the play is based on the alternation of two different time levels. On one level, a lawyer cross-examines Shakespeare's Macbeth for his perfidy and brutality on route to achieving his pathological ambition to become the king. On the other level, Macbeth re-enacts what he did in Shakespeare's play through flashback.
It is probably the first work on the Hindi stage which analyses Shakespeare's Macbeth against the historical backdrop in which Shakespeare worked. It was an epoch in which feudalism was dying and a powerful merchant class was emerging which finally gave way to capitalism. Shakespeare was against the inhuman face of feudalism and the merchant class. He upheld the ideals of Renaissance humanism.
Shakespeare's Macbeth kills Duncan and all those whom he suspects to be his enemies. After usurping the throne, he realises that human life is ultimately nothing but absurd – “.... it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” But in the play under review Macbeth claims killing Duncan is a historical act which symbolises the end of monarchy, feudalism and hereditary aristocracy. Similarly, in this play, Lady Macbeth does not feel any moral qualms for her role in getting the king killed by her husband.
Throughout, she remains convinced that Duncan should be killed not only for historical reasons but as she also wants her revenge because Duncan exploited her sexually when she was young. For Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, the killing of Duncan is an act of celebration.
Written and directed by Torit Mitra, the witches in “Macbeth-Macbeth” do not merely make prophecy about the fate of Macbeth and Banquo but are transformed into a chorus speaking about the inevitability of radical changes in human society. The refrain of the rhyme “Ba ba black sheep have you any wool? Yes Sir! Yes Sir! Three bags full!” is used to symbolise the emergence of merchant class in search of markets and the end of feudal economy.
Playwright-director Torit has treated different time levels in different styles. The scene where the lawyer questions old Macbeth is treated realistically. The young Macbeth who commits heinous deeds and his encounter with Duncan, Banquo and other Shakespearean dramatis personae are depicted in a stylised form with elements drawn from folk theatre, mainly from Jatra. Different lighting techniques are used to project these two time levels.
The suggestive sets heighten the dominant atmosphere of terror and mystery. The Macbeth trial scenes serve as comic relief. The play ends with the murder of Duncan who remains sitting throughout in a wheel chair. As he is killed his chair turns upside down and this has a deep symbolic meaning. However, at a few places the complex ideas referring to historical materialism makes viewing tedious.
This is a serious play which raises dialectical debate about the development of human society and highlights the need to study classics in the context of socio-economic situations of the period in which they were written.
Aptly cast, it is a well-rehearsed production. Ruma Bose as Lady Macbeth gives a brilliant performance. Her Lady Macbeth is proud, commanding and endowed with a strong will. She remains a staunch collaborator to her husband's bloody deed in the killing of the king. Shubhayan Ganguli's Old Macbeth has a grudge against Shakespeare for projecting him as a villain while he was only fulfilling his historical role. Anjon Bose as the young Macbeth gives a powerful performance. Dipankar Khan as King Duncan and Shishu Chandam as Banquo give an admirable account of themselves.