According to the Yellowstone star, Beth Dutton is “more active” and “more American” than the “bitterness” that Shakespeare’s infamous lady embodies.
Kevin Costner may have given Yellowstone the star power it needed to launch in 2018, but ask any fan and they’ll tell you: It’s all about Beth. Kelly Reilly has been in Hollywood for decades, starring in high-profile films like Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes series, yet it’s been her collaboration with Taylor Sheridan that’s catapulted her to a household name.
Beth is inseparable from Yellowstone; the sweeping Neo-Western that’s become television’s most-watched show. And the deeper we delve into the legacy and lives of the Duttons, the more Shakespearian it becomes. There’s a timeless, tragic feel about the entire affair, leading many to compare the show to the bard’s signature tragedy: Macbeth.
Specifically, thru-lines are drawn from Beth to Lady Macbeth; two vengeful, rage-filled women who know a thing or two about revenge. Reilly herself sees the symmetry. But only to a point.
“I talk about Beth as a powerful, dangerous woman,” she begins in her latest expose for Vulture. “And Lady Macbeth is that, but Lady Macbeth has a bitterness in her. I’m not sure Beth has that bitterness.”
Instead, Beth is “so alive,” Reilly offers. “I don’t think it’s necessarily about vengeance, but more, ‘If you come up against me or anything that I care about and love, I will destroy you,'” she retorts of her Dutton daughter. “It’s more active – it’s more American. It’s less sitting in her room, manipulating, thinking of ways she could f*** someone over. And Beth only does that to people she believes deserve it,” another distinction from the murderous lady for the actor.
Lady Macbeth? There’ll Be No Regicide for Beth Dutton on ‘Yellowstone’ While John Dutton is King
If you’re even passingly familiar with Macbeth, then you know two things: Never say the work’s actual title out loud (especially in a theatre for us thespians), and Lady Macbeth maliciously goads her husband, the titular Macbeth, into committing regicide. Or, more bluntly, the act of killing a king. Once he achieves her will and kills King Duncan, Macbeth is crowned king and the Lady becomes Queen of Scotland.
By their lust for power, both Macbeths become consumed by madness. A steady willfulness for murder consumes them, as does the guilt of these many crimes against king and country. In the end, Lady Macbeth commits suicide off stage.
Even through such an oversimplification, it’s easy to see where the hefty comparisons come from. The Duttons are no strangers to murder – or kingdoms. “There is keep the kingdom or lose the kingdom,” Beth even tells her father, Kevin Costner’s John Dutton, in a powerful Season 4 scene.
“My kingdom, my rules,” John replies. “We fight with dignity. You aren’t,” he continues, adding another key distinction between the Duttons and the Macbeths for Reilly.
“Family is everything to her,” she emphasizes. “That’s why she has a really hard time with the dining table earlier in the season.”
There will never be regicide for Beth while her father is king. And patricide isn’t even in her vocabulary. Her Dutton isn’t willing to sacrifice her father in any way, let alone his sanity. Instead, as Beth’s also said, her father’s dream is her Alamo and she’ll die defending it.
‘Everything she does is for him’
This was “one of the hardest scenes I’ve played… When John and Beth are having that fight and they’re talking about Summer and he says, ‘We kill wolves, Beth. Not sheep.’ She’s learned from him how to kill. She’s learned from him how to destroy people and protect. She only knows how to fight and she doesn’t know the difference. She thinks of Summer as an enemy and he doesn’t.”
And when John goes as far as to say, In Reilly’s words, “‘I never thought I’d ever say this, but I feel disappointed in you,’ That is a dagger to her heart,” she continues. “Everything she does is for him. She already lives with a feeling that she’s taken from him the thing he loves the most, which was his wife.”
To Reilly, Beth feels “wholly responsible” for the death of Evelyn Dutton (Gretchen Mol), her mother. “Not only did she lose her mother from her own fear of horses, but she took away her father’s happiness.”
‘She doesn’t play by the rules we expect women to play by’
Yet through it all, as an actor, Reilly says she’s “trying to balance” Beth. “She is who she is. If I try to intellectualize about her too much, I lose the essence of her because she is not up for psychoanalyzing, even though she’s ripe for it.”
Audiences learned this for themselves during the opening episodes of Yellowstone Season 4, in which Beth tells orphan Carter (Finn Little) “I am the rock therapists break themselves against.” Which is, admittedly, the equivalent of a modern Shakespearian line.
But in the end, Reilly “doesn’t want to judge” Beth, “or pigeonhole her. She’s just a force of f***ing nature. And I think that’s where people have gone, What is that? Because she doesn’t play by the rules we expect women to play by. Sorry.”
Kelly Reilly returns as Beth Dutton this November 13 for Yellowstone Season 5.