(Jewish Telegraphic Agency) The Jewish director, Joel Coen — who has candidly admitted that Hollywood is indeed controlled by Jews — just released his new film adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and shows us all what Jews do with all that power and control — like re-imaging the Scottish Thane as a black, paranoid Jew tortured by the self-destructive material ambitions of a domineering wife:
…A newly individuated director, known for his idiosyncratic approach to storytelling, looking to make a statement on his own: you’d hardly expect adapting one of history’s most frequently staged dramas to be Joel Coen’s next logical move. And in fact, in its close fidelity to the Shakespeare play’s text, “Macbeth” is a tonal departure from every other Coen Brothers entry. Even when the duo is adapting another’s source material, as in “No Country For Old Men” and “True Grit,” their films tend to emphasize their creators’ singular (and, until now, single) voice — a voice of relentless Americana, quirky dark humor and occasional off-kilter nods to Jewishness.
These signifiers — which in the past have included explicit Jewish philosophical musings about the nature of suffering in “A Serious Man,” as well as gags about Jewish rituals and beliefs in “The Big Lebowski” and “Hail, Caesar!” — have now been replaced by the Bard’s all-too-familiar iambic pentameter. The dense, macabre language is layered over an all-consuming atmospheric dread, as Denzel Washington’s gullible Scottish general and his scheming, seemingly ruthless wife (Coen’s actual wife Frances McDormand) execute their misbegotten plot to seize the throne by murdering those who occupy its line of succession.
Thus, a quirky, distinctly Jewish American sensibility (one that once allowed for a Vietnam War veteran to scream about being “Shomer f**king Shabbos” onscreen) has been exchanged for a classical one that echoes European cinematic traditions. This is true not only regarding the source material, but also in the visual allusions to the works of Scandinavian auteurs Ingmar Bergman and Carl Dreyer — both lapsed Christians whose works frequently invoked an absence of God.
At face value, there is no overt Jewishness coursing through “Macbeth” — neither Shakespeare’s original, nor Coen’s version, with the exception of the three witches’ curious spell recipe that calls for one “liver of blaspheming Jew” alongside “gall of goat and slips of yew.” (This brief moment is not, of course, Shakespeare’s most famous foray into depictions or discussions of antisemitism.) Yet the material is oddly appropriate for a storyteller known for spinning yarns about men who get caught up in their own doomed schemes.
As seen through Coen’s eyes, the ramping paranoia that seizes the title characters also echoes the watchful, calculating eye of our traditions. The inclination to celebrate success is nullified by the need to look over your shoulder, out the window, above your head — to always be on the lookout for who or what may spurn you. In this way, the creeping tension of Coen’s “Macbeth” is quintessentially Jewish, capturing the apprehensive need for validation at every turn — and the Torah, of course, has its share of power-mad kings consumed by fears that those around them may grow too powerful. The witches’ warnings, which alternatively edge Macbeth down his dark path and predict his own demise, become a substitute for our sages’ superstitions.
What is to be made of the most influential Jewish filmmakers of a generation parting ways, if brothers can ever truly do so? Some have posited that Joel Coen’s shift to a bleaker, more deliberate story with “Macbeth” represents a new journey, one that he was unable to undertake with his brother sharing the helm. Perhaps Ethan was responsible for more of the duo’s characteristic stylized zaniness, while Joel’s sensibility tilted more to traditional dramas.
Perhaps they really are a modern match for Esau and Jacob, respectively, with Joel now channeling his desire for the birthright of theater by laying claim to one of the most famous tragedies of the English language. (This metaphor sours when you remember that Joel is actually the older brother.) But evaluating “Macbeth” only by what it may have been with Ethan Coen onboard serves no artistic or critical purpose; it neglects the film in front of us…
…Will Coen’s singularity be the honor that he, like Jacob, loves beyond all other possessions? Or will his grasp for creative control liken him to Shakespeare’s tragic hero, dampening his achievements with the stain of what could have been?
Since Jews themselves are virtually incapable of creating high art or universally-loved or timeless literature of their own, they have a tiresome habit of searching for any traces of “Jewishness” in artistic achievements of white Europeans which they can narcissistically extol and amplify.
In reality, the “liver of a blaspheming Jew” in the witches’ caldron is the only “Jewish” thing about “Macbeth” — which isn’t surprising considering Jews had been permanently expelled from the realm almost 300 years before “Macbeth” was staged in 1606.
It’s hard to imagine a less Jewish writer than Shakespeare — but that hasn’t stopped Jews from making the astonishing claim that these classic works were actually written by a “brilliant” Sephardic Jewess named Amelia Bassano Lanier — yes, seriously.
Shakespeare wrote “Macbeth” specifically for the new king — James VI of Scotland — who no doubt would have had the entire theater company summarily executed for portraying his kinsman Macbeth — and others in his circle — as black Africans.
No doubt many English people at that time saw the Scots as sub-human — and many were none too pleased that a Scotsman had inherited the throne by default vacated by Elizabeth — but their condescension would not have dared to stoop so low as to put James on par with an African.
Ignoring all this historical context, it’s only natural that Coen’s Jewish lens would transform Macbeth into an inarticulate, grizzled black — as Jewish comedian Sarah Silverman has admitted, comparing themselves to actual White people makes Jews feel like “hairy monkeys.”
Perhaps that’s why Jews heavily promote the theory of evolution — to convince everyone else that they too are nothing more than “hairy monkeys.”
And casting a post-menopausal grandmother, Frances McDormand — the director’s own shiksa wife — as Lady Macbeth is another modernist snafu — which disregards the important fact that the young Lady Macbeth is childless — like the former “Virgin Queen” Elizabeth — who sublimates her barren womb into murderous ambition that she projects upon her ineffectual and ambivalent husband.
All of this is lost by casting the leads as a trendy, elderly inter-racial couple like the ones who appear in every television commercial promoting new drugs to treat every geriatric disorder from arthritis to irritable bowel syndrome.
In the end, this pretentious and subversive retelling of “Macbeth” is destined to be just another Jewish comedy of errors.