With Macbeth, “Shakespeare virtually invented the horror movie,” the Shakespearean scholar Stephen Greenblatt has written. That horror is perpetrated by the doomed Scottish king, but so much of the play’s damage—and its ambition, and energy, and drive—comes from his wife. Lady Macbeth, who isn’t even granted an individual name, is one of Shakespeare’s most fascinating female characters: She manages to be both ruthless and vulnerable in a way that’s often far more captivating than the trajectory of her husband.
As Krystin Pellerin takes on Lady M. at this year’s festival, we’ve compiled a list of ten of Stratford’s most memorable actresses who have stepped into the iconic role of Lady Macbeth.
1962 | Kate Reid
Kate Reid starred opposite Christopher Plummer in Stratford’s 1962 production.
Photo by Peter Smith
1971 | Pat Galloway
“Miss Pat Galloway did remarkable things with the role of Lady Macbeth, subduing it to the unheroic demands of the production without losing the quality of the original,” wrote one hard-to-impress reviewer of the 1971 production.
Photo by Douglas Spillane
1978 | Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith was already a film star with credits like Murder by Death and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie under her belt when she took on the role at Stratford in 1978.
Photo by Zoe Dominic
1983 | Roberta Maxwell
Roberta Maxwell started her career at Stratford when she was only fourteen, in the late 1950s. By 1983, she had worked her way up to Lady Macbeth.
Photo by David Street
1986 | Marcia Kash
“As Lady Macbeth, Marcia Kash gains in strength as the play progresses,” theatre critic Barbara Crook wrote in the Ottawa Citizen of the 1986 production. Crook also noted Kash’s “rich, melodious voice.”
Photo by Robert C. Ragsdale
1990 | Goldie Semple
“Goldie Semple has an abrupt and haughty sensuality—temperament would be the old Hollywood word,” The Globe and Mail’s Ray Conlogue wrote of the 1990 performance.
Photo by David Cooper
1995 | Seana McKenna
Longtime Stratford actress Seana McKenna was a memorable Lady M. in 1995. This year she’ll become Stratford’s first woman to play Jacques in As You Like It.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
1999 | Martha Henry
Martha Henry, another Stratford star, was Lady Macbeth in the festival’s 1999 production. She later served as director of the festival’s Conservatory for Classical Theatre, and still acts and directs at Stratford.
Photo by Tony Hauser
2004 | Lucy Peacock
Lucy Peacock got rave reviews for her 2004 portrayal. The sleepwalking scene was especially powerful, according to Stage Door, who wrote that “Peacock captures the horror of someone who finds herself sinking alive into hell.”
Photo by Michael Cooper
2009 | Yanna McIntosh
Yanna McIntosh told the Star that Lady Macbeth was “a part I wanted to play even before I knew I wanted to be an actor.” She dazzled in the 2009 adaptation set in 1960s colonial Africa.
Photo by David Hou
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