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The Film Versions of Macbeth

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Introduction

Shakespeare's play 'Macbeth' was written sometime between 1603 and 1606 at a time when people were fascinated with the idea of the supernatural and witchcraft. People were burned at the stake if they were thought to possess evil powers. The King had even written a book on 'Demonology' such was the interest in the subject of evil. The King reigned supreme and did not bow down to any human power. 'The Divine Right of Kings' meant that because God appointed the King, the King was not answerable to the people or parliament. England was not the advanced, industrial and sophisticated society it is today. Witchcraft practice was punishable by death because it attempted to subvert God's natural order. Their evil ways were shown to lead only to death. As soon as the witches influence is felt in Macbeth we see a brave and courageous soldier immediately change to an ambitious ruthless and evil man prepared to murder many to achieve what has been shown could be his. The cost in human terms however is too great. Shakespeare portrays the destruction in ways supernatural as well as psychological. We are never quite sure how much control of events the witches have and how much Macbeth and his wife are influenced psychologically. Both certainly seem insane the further the drama progresses. ...read more.

Middle

His witches are obscured with cloaks, they look exactly the same whereas Polanski characterise him. He dresses them in rags, one is young, one mature and one horribly disfigured. Both productions favour eerie supernatural type music. It is hard to recognise a tune or an instrument. The high-pitched instruments jangle our senses. Polanski uses more natural sounds though, with sea gulls crying and drums in the background. Where Polanski places his menacing three on a lonely beach Orson Wells has them chanting round a cauldron on a jagged cliff-face rock. In both productions the weather is a signal of the horrors to come. With Orson Wells the 1st scene is played in very thick mist. Polanski begins with a bright red glowing sky, which mists over to a foreboding grey. I found Act I Scene I of Polanski's film most effective because the witches seemed more real yet frightening. What they could do seemed 'possible and believable'. Although Banquo has predictions made for him they do not gain the same psychological hold over him as they do Macbeth. Polanski's productions show clearly the effect on the mind of the weaker man. There is more emphasis on the psychological effect of the events than the supernatural. Macbeth tries in vain to ensure that he gains and keeps the crown. ...read more.

Conclusion

'Liver of blaspheming Jew' or 'Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips'. They all chant 'Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble'. When Macbeth is getting his information from the witches he seems to be like one of them, not someone out of place. All the prophecies however turn against him. Polanski's film spares us none of the violence, bloody murder is everywhere. Macbeth has many spies and lives in fear. His reign is not for a moment a contented and happy one. News of his wife's suicide does not even move him emotionally. His spirit is possessed of only evil. Shakespeare, Polanski and Orson Wells all aim to show the triumph eventually of good over evil. The victory however is only until the next time because the witches are not defeated, only the people they have infected. The witches disappear "Into the air, and what seem'd corporal metled. As breath into the wind". (Act I Scene III) We know evil can appear in many disguises and corrupt the weak minded at anytime. Human nature does not change, people come and go but Shakespeare knew that there are those more prone to influences than others. Duncan was portrayed as a good strong and fair King. Even the Thane of Cawdor met his death honourably. Banquo, although told of greatness die not actively go about trying to gain it. Those seeking undeserved rewards will always carry out evil deeds. The story is as relevant today as it was years ago. ...read more.

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