Whether it's killing a king or a baby, these are Unnatural Choices
Years ago, when I learned I would teach Macbeth as part of my high school English class, I got comfortable and started reading. Since I was already a fan of Shakespeare, I looked forward to the encounter. Oddly, I did not like it after my first pass. The play's darkness felt overwhelming, but it also felt creepily familiar.
If I were to write a book or study guide about Macbeth, I might call it Unnatural Choices and Consequences. Macbeth was film noir before film noir was cool. The play's protagonist starts out as a hero but takes a traitorous turn and ends up with his head on a spike. Madness and suicide await his loving wife.
It doesn't feel honest to say I now love this tragedy, but it remains fascinating and thought-provoking. Years ago, I went to a movie theater to see Sophie's Choice. As the reason for the film's title unfolded before us, I was enraged. I recall wanting to stand up, rip my movie seat from the floor, and heave it at the screen. Like Sophie's Choice, you can't put Macbeth back in the bottle after experiencing it. It haunts you.
Lady Macbeth haunts me more than Macbeth himself. Male tyrants like Macbeth are a dime a dozen in world history, but Lady Macbeth is tough to categorize. When we first meet her, she sounds as ruthless as Jezebel of Old Testament fame. After convincing her husband to murder their guest, King Duncan, Lady Macbeth's pesky conscience begins to reassert itself. As her husband embraces the dark side after stabbing King Duncan to death, she feels remorse and witnesses her husband's transformation with growing alarm.
Growing up as a young boy, I learned that "girls were made of sugar and spice and everything nice." Lady Macbeth does not fit that mold. She is a complex woman. She is already rich, but she wants more. When she learns from her husband of an opportunity for advancement, she develops it into a diabolical scheme. Once formulated, she tempts her husband with the scheme that will make them king and queen of Scotland. Only regicide, argues Lady Macbeth, stands between them and their crowns.
Image: Lady Macbeth by George Cattermole. Public domain.
Regicide, the killing of a king, is an unnatural act that shocked Shakespeare's audiences in the early 17th century. Abortion, the killing of a human fetus, is also unnatural. In our coarser and greedier 21st century, however, many want it to be accessible, safe, and acceptable.
Ending a life inside or outside the womb should never be done lightly. Many, myself included, believe that life is a gift from God and that ending a life is a sin against God. It was greed that led Lady Macbeth to scheme King Duncan's death. She thought being queen of Scotland would make her very happy, but this unnatural act brought her ruin and self-reproach.
Years ago, I dated a woman who had obtained an abortion. I was with her on a Mother's Day. She was sad, and I asked her what was making her unhappy. She confessed to me feelings of remorse and regret. She told me that her child would have been a teenager on that day. She was missing her aborted child. Her choice to end her child's life was haunting her.
At the beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth vocalizes a dark prayer asking for strength to act against King Duncan and for the ability to subdue her conscience. She is selling her soul for more power. She gets the crown she desires, but misery is the reward for her unnatural act.
The voices for abortion on demand are loud in our land. Abortion is an unnatural act that diminishes all of us. Judgmentally, we point at Hitler's Third Reich for the 12 million killed from 1939 to 1945. We say little to nothing about the 64 million babies aborted in the USA since 1973. Abortion is an unnatural act, and our hypocrisy compounds it. I suspect there will be consequences.
Ned Cosby's new novel is OUTCRY, exposing the refusal of Christian leaders to discipline clergy who sexually abuse our young people. This work of fiction addresses crimes that are all too real. For more info, visit www.nedcosby.com.