1. Belcher, David


A tangle of tyranny and trust in Shakespeare's tragedy.


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Your standard-issue hags mumbling over a steaming cauldron aren't what you'll find in the current Broadway production of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Rather, the three witches are nurses, who from time to time slither onto the stage to torment the power-mad Scottish king played by Patrick Stewart.

Figure. Three nurse ... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Three nurse witches in the opening scene of a new production of

This production, which debuted in London and traveled to the Brooklyn Academy of Music before beginning its brief Broadway run, is set in a modern fascist state. In the opening scene the trio are wartime nurses aiding a dying soldier. But their demeanor soon turns menacing: hiding knives behind their backs, they slyly serve food and pour wine at a dinner party where Macbeth sees the ghost of a rival he has murdered. And in the second half of the new version, the nurse witches chant a rap version of Shakespeare's famous "Double, double, toil and trouble" as they manipulate three twitching body bags on morgue slabs.


Macbeth both fears and trusts these prophetic nurses; what they say "cannot be ill, cannot be good." As these three go from nurturing to nasty in three brutal hours, it grows clear why director Rupert Goold has appropriated nursing's trustworthy image for his witches: for Shakespeare's murderous king, the lines between good and evil have become hopelessly blurred. (Macbeth is at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway in New York City through May 24 and may be extended; for tickets go to or call [800] 432-7250.)


David Belcher