Out of the Wings

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La señora Macbeth (2002), Griselda Gambaro

English title: Señora Macbeth
Date written: 2002
First publication date: 2003
First production date: April 2004
Keywords: morality > honour, morality > crime, morality > punishment, art > theatre > metatheatre, violence > revenge, identity > hierarchy, family > marriage, power > inter-personal/game play, love > desire, family > parents and children

He’s no butcher, my Macbeth!  He’s just a man with ambitions.  If anyone is to blame, it is I, who never knew how to stop him.

On a set with a slide and a swing, a selective cast from Shakespeare’s Macbeth act scenes from the play while adding new ones and coming out of character to feed back on each other’s performances.  Macbeth is absent but he haunts the stage in Gambaro’s revisiting of his infamously power-hungry wife.  But we see new sides to this leading lady, forced to operate in the murky political world of the man she loves.


Gambaro’s Señora Macbeth opens with the principal characters who will dominate the stage in this reformulation of Macbeth:  the three witches and Lady Macbeth.  The audience begins to recognise the original play, although it is constantly interrupted and subverted by the characters’ own commentaries and comic asides.  One witch attempts to deliver the well-known line ‘When shall we three meet again?’ only to be rebuffed by another witch in this new context who reminds her that the ‘meeting’s already started’.

While Lady Macbeth calms her nerves by taking tranquilisers, the witches behave like children in a playground: ‘today we fancy playing’ and they cavort around on the slide and the swings, trying to persuade Lady Macbeth to join in.  But when Banquo’s ghost appears, Lady Macbeth is faced with serious matters, although the witches do not treat them as such.  Banquo refers to Macbeth’s many crimes to which the witches exclaim:   ‘Not just one but lots!  Like fruits!’

Lady Macbeth reflects on whether the love for a man who has committed these crimes makes her an accomplice.  She attempts to defend her support of her husband.  ‘I do not forgive’, she says, ‘I only understand’.  The murder of Lady Macduff and her child is then enacted by the witches, which Lady Macbeth at first finds unconvincing.  She describes her conscience as being behind an iron gate and says that her love for Macbeth prevents it from breaking out.

However, having been unmoved, gradually the performance Lady Macbeth has witnessed begins to affect her, and profoundly so.  She asks herself ‘Who am I?’, ‘What is my nature?’.  ‘Weird behaviour from our lady’, say the witches.  Lady Macbeth then urgently wants to know that the witch who played Lady Macduff’s son is in heaven.

Lady Macbeth’s suicide which takes place offstage in the Elizabethan play, takes places on stage in Gambaro’s play, assisted by the three witches.  Cruelly, after Lady Macbeth has drunk the poison to relieve herself of her misery, the witches reveal that Macbeth will live on.  Lady Macbeth dies knowing this, not wanting to die.


The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)

  • Gambaro, Griselda. 2003. La señora Macbeth. Buenos Aires, Norma

Useful readings and websites
  • Magnarelli, Sharon. 2008. ‘Staging Shadows/Seeing ghosts: Ambiguity, Theatre, Gender, and History in Griselda Gambaro’s La señora Macbeth’, Theatre Journal, 60, 3, 365-82

  • Rea Boorman, Joan. 1978. ‘Contemporary Latin American Woman Dramatists’, Rice University Studies, 64.1, 69-80

Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 5 October 2010.

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