Being someone

Macbeth, thane of Glamis, heroically won the battle over an army of rebels, loyally comforting the power of King Duncan. But horrid ghosts always haunt the soul of men. In this case represented by three witches, who predict to our hero that he will become thane of Cawdor and king of Scotland. Macbeth is first surprised, and doubtful, but soon after, learning he just acquired the first title, he is stunned. No more is needed, he decides to become king, and proceeds to murder Duncan, in spite of the horror such an idea provokes in him. His last doubts are anyhow overridden by his wife, Lady Macbeth, who confronts his quandaries by challenging his manhood, his own worth. She despises her husband moral dilemma, which indicates a lack of courage. She calls on the powers of evil to help her accomplish what « must » be done. As a cunning heiress of Eve, she plots, telling her husband he must treacherously pretend to be a loyal host when poor Duncan blindly comes to the castle.

Macbeth, fearing his own nothingness, needs to prove himself, he needs to make his mark upon the world. To be someone, to be honored, to have power, at any cost. He has to crush in himself the admittance of anything that stands beyond his measly self. Truth, good or beauty, are internal necessities he pretends to ignore, in his mad personal quest. The whole play dramatizes the damaging physical and psychological effects of ambition on those who seek power for its own sake. As the plot unfolds, Macbeth is forced to commit more and more murders. In order to protect himself from enmity and suspicion, he becomes a tyrannical ruler. Wracked with guilt, engulfed in a streak of violence, he suffers from an increasingly acute form of delirious paranoia. For example, after killing his old friend Banquo, he watches his ghost barging in during a banquet. He responds with a senseless diatribe, shocking the assembly with his growing insanity. Inevitably, a bloodbath and consequent civil war swiftly throw Macbeth and his wife into the realms of madness and death. One can then conclude as Shakespeare that life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, which signifies nothing.



Rigoletto is a court jester. Hunchbacked, ugly, a deformed body. He is a widow, after many years still mourning the loss of his cherished wife, irreplaceable. And when his daughter Gilda, the only beloved one, questions him about his origin, family or old friends, he remains silent, probably ashamed or resentful. His life is sad, he despises himself. Thus is described the character in the Verdi  opera, Rigoletto.


To compensate his own dejection, the man has developped sarcasm as an art, he is cynical. He uses his talents to please the duke of Mantua, his Lord, a depraved man who only thinks of seducing women and having fun, without any scruples nor limits. When the Duke openly tries to seduce the Countess Ceprano in front of her husband, Rigoletto taunts the cuckhold, ridiculing his impotence. And when the Duke is angry because Ceprano hangs around and prevents his intrigue with his wife, Rigoletto suggests abducting the lady and eliminating the count. He overdoes the mocking, so much that even the Duke advises him to be less impertinent, and the courtiers promise Ceprano to avenge him. But Rigoletto brags that no one would ever dare laying hands on his person. Protected by his armor of cynism, he feels above everyone. Laughing protects him from his own misery, it makes him feel powerful, he can make others suffer, especially those in a state of weakness.

Shortly after this incident, an old man burst into the hall, angry with the duke who seduced his daughter, publicly denouncing him. Rigoletto of course jeers, the man is arrested, and he responds by cursing the Duke and the jester for mocking his righteous anger. The curse terrifies Rigoletto, who believes the popular superstition that an old man’s curse has real power. From then on starts the tragedy for the mean buffoon, the malediction, forcefully underlined by the music. The drama unfolds with a series of events leading to the Duke seducing Gilda and Rigoletto murdering by mistake his own daughter. Proud and blinded, he ended up forgetting the weight of reality, and the moral implications of it. “Live by the sword, die by the sword”, says the proverb. Laughter is liquor than can easily turn bitter.


When the water reflects the image of our own visage, it is not at all because it is there for us, but contrary to the appearances, precisely because it is there for us.