“Will these hands ne’er be clean?”
In this one question, Lady Macbeth phrases our desperate concern about the state of the world. As our land daily soaks in the blood of innocents, we sometimes cover our ears and shut our eyes and turn our backs. Sometimes we’re overwhelmed, but mostly we’re just desensitized. Are our lives too bombarded with violence to see it for what it is? Do we use fictional and historical violence as an outlet for our inward fear, frustration, and fascination with the real thing? Is this blood on the collective hands of humanity our fault, and can we ever wash it off?
While I watched Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, I couldn’t help but notice a strange phenomenon toward the end of the play. As Macbeth and Macduff fought their final battle and the audience knew only one of them would make it out alive, everyone sat up straighter, leaned in closer to the stage, opened their eyes wider, and focused. I did the same. I felt thrilled by an animalistic sense of anticipation for revenge in the form of bloodshed. While we cringe and turn away from real life massacres, we revel in the ability to openly devour carefully choreographed killing.