Goethe said somewhere that this was Shakespeare’s best work for the stage. Not his most profound or poetic, but the cleverest, most exciting theatrical contrivance. It could be true.
Think of Macbeth and his wife after the murder. This scene could have played in Athens, before an audience accustomed to Euripides. He is already raving (“The multitudinous seas incarnadine”) while she preserves a placid front (“A little water clears us of this deed. / How easy is it then! …”)
Every exchange is contrast and paradox.
For once even the passages of silly banter (The Porter) revive the discourse of paradoxes in a minor, bawdy key.
And yet, for such an action-packed spectacle, the action is interrupted by an interlude with the Witches and Hecate. This is usually cut. It follows Macbeth’s ghastly banquet, and preceedes some political speech by Lennox. It is a masque, a pagent, rather than a hard-boiled account of political assasination, like Julius Caesar. “Show” the witches cry, like good stage directors.