Greetings, fair countrymen. It is I, William Shakespeare, sending word from beyond the grave. I have seen the influence of my canon, and I’ve relished watching many fine actors and theaters put on productions of my plays that have stirred hearts and minds alike. But I come to you from the afterlife with one humble request.
Please stop letting high schoolers put on Macbeth.
Macbeth is about status, it’s about ambition, it’s about the corruption of the human soul once it gives in to the spoils of evil. Nothing a bunch of pimply teens living in suburban Westchester have ever come in contact with. I mean, seriously, do you think a seventeen-year-old can realistically go from eating a pack of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to being one of the fiercest protagonists in literary history? Are you kidding me? The poor kid is probably wearing Calvin Klein underwear from Target, and he’s supposed to portray a tyrant? A murderous tyrant? I’ve seen these kids—they freak out if they see a cockroach. They come to rehearsal in basketball shorts, and then recite my immortal “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech. God, it makes me want to cry.
Furthermore, I didn’t write the role of Lady Macbeth, one of the most iconic in the history of the theater, so that it could be played by a high school senior who sees this as her big chance to show the school her acting chops. I simply can’t watch another performance of my esteemed work where my villainous queen is clearly half thinking about getting high with the three witches at the cast party. I refuse to be witness to another “unsex me here” speech performed by a young waif who unironically reads Cosmopolitan for advice.
Also, no offense, but my play isn’t exactly light fare, okay? Lady Macbeth goes insane with guilt and then dies by suicide. Multiple people are murdered, including children. My show is heavy with the weight of gore and bloodlust. And yet some of these schools go from putting on a production of my somber tragedy in the fall to putting on Grease in the spring. Grease! A musical that has the lyrics “Shoo-bop sha wadda wadda yippity boom de boom.” Do you know how hard I worked on the pacing and structure of every line of Macbeth? Every word was intentional! And then to see it replaced on a marquee by a show that made its lyrics by putting a bunch of letters in a blender and then simply using that word pulp… Frankly, it’s embarrassing for everyone involved.
So please, I’m begging you, stop letting high schools put on my iconic play about the dark and wicked impulses of humanity. Please.
Do keep letting them put on productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, though. I find that play works much better, as high schoolers are a bunch of horny freaks anyway.