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Armchair Theories: A MacBeth Wrestling Adaptation

by on June 15, 2011

By Ian Williams

I assume most of us know the name William Shakespeare. Widely regarded as the greatest poet and playwright in the English language, his plays have stood the test of time. Hamlet. King Lear. Romeo & Juliet. Classics that have been studied, performed and reinterpreted all over the world, in a thousand different ways… So what about in wrestling? It is, after all, a form of live theatre. A raw, masculine, awesomely ass-kicking form, but theatre nonetheless. So why not take the plots, characters and themes of one of Shakespeare’s classic theatrical plays, and adapt them into the form of a wrestling show? Could it help produce a greater emotional response from the audience? Or do The Bard’s works simply not mesh with the brash brutality of professional wrestling?

I’ve been fascinated by this potential marriage for quite some time, especially when it comes to independent wrestling. Without the benefit of weekly television, indy shows can have a hard time truly engaging their audience on an emotional level. Shakespeare’s plays don’t have that problem. Like most plays they give the audience a complete story in one sitting. Beginning. Middle. End. Even if it‘s your first time seeing a show, you can fully understand what‘s going on and feel the emotional weight of every scene. Conversely, I’ve see a good number of beatdowns and run-ins on indy show met with pure apathy from casual fans who have no idea about the backstory. Perhaps wrestling can learn from that.

MACBETH

One of Shakespeare’s most famous works, ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ is the story of an Scottish nobleman who murders the King, usurps the throne, and becomes trapped in a cycle of increasing evil. It’s essentially the story of a heel turn. A hungry babyface crosses a line in his quest to win the big belt, only to become universally reviled and ultimately punished. Given the themes of ambition, betrayal and violence, and how it culminates in a fight scene, I think it lends itself well to adaptation.

THE SHOW

MATCH: Babyfaces Macbeth & Banquo win the Tag Team Titles from the heel champions. Macbeth particularly shines. Throughout the match, 3 female fans (plants) hold up signs. “Macbeth is awesome” “Macbeth: Tag Team Champion” and “Macbeth: Future Heavyweight Champion” Macbeth takes particular notice of the last one. As does his valet, Lady Macbeth.
ANGLE: Scheduled to fight in the main event, Duncan, the promotion’s babyface champion, has been brutally attacked. Discovered by Macbeth and fellow babyface; Macduff, all signs point to the heel number one contender as the culprit. Macbeth kicks his ass before he can defend himself and heroically sends him packing.
INTERVIEW: Macbeth and Banquo are interviewed about the new main event; an open challenge match for the now-vacant Heavyweight Championship. Macbeth is considered the favourite, and seems really excited. Banquo is suspicious, and mentions his intention to win the belt. This doesn’t sit well with Macbeth.
MATCH: Banquo is in the corner of his other friend; Fleance, as the youngest does battle with a heel. Fleance wins.
ANGLE: After the match, Macbeth comes to ringside to help celebrate. At the urging of Lady Macbeth, he attacks Banquo, injuring him in the same way as Duncan. Remorseful, with more than a hint of crazy, Macbeth yells for the 3 female fans to tell him who else could keep him from the belt. They show him a new sign. ”No [insert promotion here] wrestler can harm Macbeth”. Macbeth is reassured.
INTERVIEW: Macduff states his intention to win the belt, comments on Macbeth’s change of heart, and asks for everyone on the roster to stand together against him.
ANGLE: Before the main event, Macbeth cuts a promo in the ring. Half cocky, half crazed, certain of his impending victory. Noticing
Macduff’s family in the crowd, he heckles and assaults them. Macduff storms out to confront him, leading the babyface side of the roster to ringside. Macduff reveals his contract ran out yesterday, so he’s not technically on the roster. Lady Macbeth flees the building, abandoning Macbeth.
MATCH: Fiery babyface Macduff against crazy, desperate heel Macbeth. A hard-fought kick-ass battle which ends with Macduff getting the win and the title.

Obviously, with only 3 matches in that outline, there is plenty of room for other matches on the undercard, to pad out the show and give the story room to breathe.

This is just one way to do it. History has seen this play adapted a million different ways; sometimes faithfully, keeping the original setting, time-period and dialogue, sometimes with great creative license taken. I can’t quite see wrestling fans accepting their favourites wearing traditional Shakespearean attire and reciting ye olde dialogue, so I think subtle is the best bet. The narrative of Macbeth nestled quietly underneath the typical mise-en-scene of an indy show, wrestlers using their real names and gimmicks and not wearing gaudy tights… unless that’s how they usually roll, of course.

Personally, I dig this idea. I think it’s a story arc that audiences could find emotionally rewarding and deeply satisfying when experienced in one sitting. Also, considering the title-change and heel turn, the show would have an importance beyond the typical collection of matches. I also think that while it’s a self-contained story, there are plenty of unresolved issues. Banquo getting revenge on his former tag team partner. Duncan getting revenge on the man who cost him the belt. Duncan trying to reclaim the belt he never truly lost. There might even be some crossover appeal; theatre goers who turn up their noses at wrestling could be curious to see an adaptation of one of the Shakespeare’s  works. While obviously the end quality will be down to the wrestlers themselves and their performances in and out of the ring, I personally think it has the potential to be one hell of a wrestling show.

What do you think? Can wrestling and Shakespeare co-exist? . Mike & Tom Present… encourage passionate discussion and the spirited exchange of ideas. So post a comment below. Drop me an email. Hit me up on Twitter. I’d love to know what people think.

Ian Williams
twitter.com/aosist
aosist@uk6.net

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