Lady Macbeth alone with a letter

Dear Lynne:

The climax of Macbeth, for me, is act 1, scene V with Lady Macbeth "alone with a letter"--that cursed letter that will cause her ruin. It's still quite early on in the play. Some may feel that the climax doesn't come until later, when the murders are actually being committed. But for me, I feel the climax occurs right in this room in Macbeth's castle, in this cozy, intimate scene of Lady Macbeth reading this damning letter. This is the decisive moment. How she reacts to this will determine her fate. It seems that broad sweeping changes often occur in little quiet decisions, whose consequences become vast. Thus I see this letter as decisive, as it was for Bathsheba (whom you will recognize in these paintings, dear art historian sister-in-law Lynne.)

I think these Bathsheba paintings could easily have been of Lady Macbeth. The lack of clothing simply magnifies the starkness of her situation: she is completely denuded, detached form time and place, a human being in all her rawness exerting her force on the universe.

Rembrandt captures to perfection the look of forboding in Bathsheba's face: this small moment, this simple gesture will have monumental consequences and make her one of the femmes fatales par excellence. It's those hinge moments, upon which history turns, which are so monumental. The reading of the letter from Macbeth is one such hinge moment in this play.

Don't you find the second Bathsheba painting particularly stunning? We saw both of these paintings in our recent trip to Paris at the Louvre. The Willem Drost Bathsheba was hanging a few feet to the left of Rembrandt's painting. I think my husband (your brother) certainly liked it. I think that's what he's staring at so admiringly...

I look forward to hearing your insights on Macbeth.



lynne said...

Melissa -

!. I love how you put all of that. It makes me feel so glad we are doing this; the analytical part of my little brain has been asleep for a long time and it feels good to stretch.

I must admit that I had been reading the play on a more surface level, and had not thought about that letter being the climactic moment. But I think I agree with you. And Lady Macbeth does seems to be the pivotal character in the play - Macbeth is so easily led by her (he's such an idiot). She must have been very beguiling to be such a closet sociopath.

I'm going to go finish. I have one more act to go.

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