Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Power Play

Not only are characters or, if you will, partners in a relationship subject to individual bifurcations, they are, when they appear on stage together, subject to the play of power.

By individual bifurcations, I mean that each character is at the very least thinking he needs no one else, can do it all, whatever the all is; is independent, fully endowed with talents, resources, abilities, and none of this sentimental nonsense about partnering with another person or being a member of a gang or clan or moiety or bowling club. Same character recognizes the need for at least one sympathetic place to rest the head of ego, however briefly. This last is in direct opposition to I can make my own way.

The play of power--should be capitalized to The Play of Power--has it that often when two characters are on stage one holds some power, knowingly or not, over the other.

The trick of story is to pull the rug from under the one with the power, evening up the playing field as it were, without the power broker at first being aware of the shift. Then comes the discovery, coldly, often brutally. Position neutralized or, even better, reversed.

Having resolved to murder Malcolm, Macbeth momentarily loses his nerve, his power usurped when he witnesses a servant bearing a tray of food toward Malcolm, causing Macbeth to speculate that this will be Malcolm's Last Supper, and thus the association between Malcolm and JC. Macbeth posits that were he to follow through on his plan and murder Malcolm, "Trumpet-tongued angels will sing his praises..." and thus the apotheosis of Malcolm will begin. He cannot go through with it, ceding power to do so to, take your choice, the cosmos, God, Malcolm. A contrite Macbeth goes to his wife to confess his inability. She is furious, berates him to the point where he gets a second wind, goes into the dining hall, kills Malcolm, returns to his wife, hands bloodied with the deed.

The first thing Lady Macbeth says to him, having seen his bloodied hands and, thus, knowing he has followed through with the plan, is "My husband!"

Power, pure and simple.

Power back and forth, driving story.

And you thought the Asians had a way with ping pong.


R.L. Bourges said...

when it plays well, the power dances back and forth and adds: " look ma, no bloody hands either!"

Wild Iris said...

I have to agree with Lee on that, but an inbalance does make for good plots.