Lady and Lord Macbeth on trial: guilty or bewitched?

Shakespeare's play tells us how Lord and Lady Macbeth plotted the killing of King Duncan. The Bard seems pretty clear it was murder. But was the killing of Duncan actually, legally, murder? We might say yeah, guilty as heck, but a lawyer might say — not so fast, maybe they were ... bewitched! The Macbeths on trial, from the Stratford Festival.
1040, Macbeth murdering King Duncan I of Scotland at Pitgaveny, near Elgin. A drawing by Robert Dudley. (Hulton Archive/Getty Image)

Shakespeare's play tells us all about how Lord and Lady Macbeth plotted the killing of their king, Duncan. They killed him, that's for sure, but was it murder?

Shakespeare certainly thought it was murder, and he's terribly interested in the psychology of it all — why people commit murder, and how they deal with it afterwards. Lady Macbeth of course goes mad and kills herself; Macbeth clings onto his own sanity, looking desperately for solid ground. But did the killing of Duncan constitute murder? You and I might say yeah, guilty as heck, but a lawyer might say — not so fast: they were bewitched!

"The witches know that Macbeth will be king; they tell him so, and they direct him to pursue his destiny. Now what does that mean? Simply put: Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are bewitched." — Lawyer Marlys Edwardh

What in fact might happen in a modern Canadian courtroom if the Macbeths were put on trial? Let's assume there's already been a trial, and they've been found guilty. Now of course, in the great legal tradition, there has to be an appeal.

Onstage from the Stratford Festival for this momentous event, some of the great names in Canadian law: the prosecutor is Donald Bayne, perhaps most famous as the lawyer who successfully defended Senator Mike Duffy in his recent troubles; defence counsel is Marlys Edwardh, who represented Maher Arar in his case against the government and also helped overturn the wrongful convictions of Donald Marshall, Guy-Paul Morin and Stephen Truscott.

On the bench, three Supreme Court justices —  Russell Brown, Andromache Karakatsanis, and the chief justice- Beverley McLachlin.  And the star witness, former leader of the Liberal Party of Canada Bob Rae.

**This episode was produced by Philip Coulter. It was recorded the Stratford Festival. Thanks to David Campbell. Special thanks to  Ann Swerdfager and Antoni Cimolino.


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