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Compare the written text of act 1 scenes 1 and 3 of Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' with Roman Polanski's film version. Analyse and comment on the effect of the film techniques used, and their impact on audience, in the portrayal of the witches.

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Introduction

Adam Bowen Compare the written text of act 1 scenes 1 and 3 of Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' with Roman Polanski's film version. Analyse and comment on the effect of the film techniques used, and their impact on audience, in the portrayal of the witches. The witches are the first characters the audience meet at the beginning of 'Macbeth' in Act 1 scene 1 and they set the mood for the rest of the play. Today witches are seen as bizarre but when Shakespeare was writing his plays people were fascinated and frightened by them. During the reign of Elizabeth 1, hundreds of women, and some men, were convicted of witchcraft and executed. People were frightened of witches because they were believed to have amazing powers. They could curse entire communities, bringing disease and misfortune. They used evil spells and black magic. In 'Macbeth' the witches talk about their familiars: "1 Witch: I come Greymalkin! 2 Witch: Paddock calls." In Elizabethan times familiars were believed to be demons obeying a witch. Yet people were intrigued by witches as well. They performed strange rituals and spells. The powers they possessed were also alluring: "Fair is foul, and foul is fair; Hover through the fog and filthy air." ...read more.

Middle

Banquo's personality, in contrast, is much more stable. In Polanski's film version of Macbeth, the references to familiars in act 1 scene 1 is omitted, and the whole section in act 1 scene 3 about making the wind blow in the wrong directions to prevent the ships reaching port is omitted. Some of this language in act 1 scene 3 is obscure and difficult to understand, and it could be that Polkanski does this to make the film more accessible to a modern audience. However, he could have left some of this language in if he thought that witchcraft was important in Macbeth. The witches in Polanski's Macbeth are not dressed in stereotypical witches clothing; they are dressed in rags. Their meeting place is not the heath as referred to in the text, but a bleak beach. All these things distance Polanski's witches from Shakespeare's witches. In Polanski's version of 'Macbeth' the witches seem to be sealing Macbeth's fate from the start of the film. In act one scene one, the three witches appear on the beach and bury a knife, a severed arm, and a hangman's noose in the sand. They then pour blood from a small bottle on to the sand where the items are buried. ...read more.

Conclusion

This suggests very subtly to the audience early on that he is going to be the main character. The music that is at the beginning of act 1 scene 3 is discordant. This prepares the audience for the predictions that the witches make. The music consists of a pedal base note that is often in musical terms called a drone. This creates an unsettled feeling for the scene that is effective. The clash of closely grouped notes that are mingled in with this drone is also effective and creates tension and unease. The weather in act 1 scene 3 is dark, dank and miserable. This helps in creating the mood for what is about to happen. The expression on Macbeth's face when the witches make the prediction is one of shock; by filming a Big Close Up the audience's attention is focused on Macbeth's reaction to the witches. The symbolic items buried on the beach seem to suggest that the witches are controlling Macbeth's future. However, act 1 scene 3 in the film is a more literal interpretation of Shakespeare's work in that it focuses the audience's attention on how Macbeth is influenced by the witches because of the flaws that exist in his personality. Polanski lets the audience decide whether the witches are there to tempt Macbeth, or whether they are in fact causing his personality to change. ...read more.

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