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Roman Polanski's Macbeth

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Introduction

'Macbeth' is a classical tragedy which plots the fall and death of a once great man. Probably composed in late 1606 or early 1607, "Macbeth" is the last of Shakespeares four great tragedies, the others being "Hamlet", "King Lear" and "Othello". It is a relatively short play, and is considered by many to be Shakespeare's darkest work. Shakespeare's Scottish tragedy is about Macbeth's bloody rise to power, including the murder of the Scottish king, Duncan, and the guilt-ridden pathology of evil deeds leading to still more evil deeds. An interesting part to this thematic web is the play's most memorable character, Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth's ambition for power leads her into an unnatural, phantasmagoric realm of witchcraft, insomnia and madness. But while Macbeth responds to the prophecies of the play's famous trio of witches, Lady Macbeth goes even further by figuratively transforming herself into an unnatural, desexualized evil spirit. I found watching how each theatre company portrayed 'Macbeth' very interesting. We viewed the Polanski version, in which Lady Macbeth was played by Francesca Annis and Macbeth by Ian Finch, and the Royal Shakespeare Company's version with Macbeth played by Ian McKeller and Lady Macbeth by Judi Dench. I also read the set text of 'Macbeth' (New Clarendon Shakespeare) and watched 'Macbeth, Animated Tales,' an animated version of the play. Macbeth was King Duncan's blood relative, his cousin. Duncan held high regard for him. Macbeth was thought of as a hero after leading Duncan's army to victory against the resolute army. Examples of his status in society are confirmed by a wounded sergeant's report of the battle to Duncan, in which he called him 'Brave Macbeth - well he deserves that name.' ...read more.

Middle

To beguile the time look like the time, bear welcome in your eye.' Her purpose is clear; as she implores Macbeth to, 'put This night's great business into my despatch.' She shows no compunction as she endeavours to bring about what she now desires, urging him, 'Leave the rest to me.' As she feared, Macbeth's resolve begins to weaken as he protests; 'We will proceed no further in this business.' Lady Macbeth scolds her husband for his lack of conviction. She questions his love for her; she mocks him, saying that he is less than a man, accusing him of being drunk and a coward. She speaks of a smiling babe she once nursed and how she would have, 'dashed the brains out, had I so sworn.' Her loyalty to him is unfaltering as he procrastinates, 'If we should fail?' She replies, 'We fail? But screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we'll not fail.' Finally she wins him over! "I am settled." Lady Macbeth's planning was meticulous; she drugged Duncan's guards and laid out their daggers ready for Macbeth. She appears anxious as she waits for Macbeth to return. Only now does she begin to show the first signs of conscience, 'Had he not resembled My father as he slept, I had done't.' Macbeth returns having murdered Duncan. She is aware that he is disturbed by the events and ironically advises, 'These deeds must not be thought After these ways; so, it will make us mad.' Macbeth is reluctant to return the daggers; again, she chides him, 'Infirm of purpose!' ...read more.

Conclusion

The daggers in this version are made to appear very central. The blood covering Macbeth's hands stops at his wrists and looks too much as if he has just dipped his hands in a barrel of thin, watered down paint. Lady Macbeth comes across as a weaker person in this version compared to the Royal Shakespeare Company's. When she returns from leaving the daggers in Duncan's chamber her hair is untidy and she seems more stressed than the character of Lady Macbeth in the other version, which adds to the effect. I liked the Polanski version's realistic touch. The castle and the settings added a sense of illusion. The blood in the Royal Shakespeare Company's version was much better than the Polanski's and looked very real. I think the owls shriek at the start of the Royal Shakespeares version was better than that of the Polanski's and sounded human. The only thing I can think of that I would have tried differently had I been the producer, was the blood in the Polanski version. It was too thin and didn't look much like blood at all. In the Royal Shakespeare Company's version, the blood looked very real and was spread further up Macbeth's arms, not just concentrated on one area as Polanski showed. I believe that the Royal Shakespeare Company's version was more effective because the characters seemed real in the way they spoke and acted. I liked the way the atmosphere was set around the characters and felt that the whole scene was very well done. As there was nothing else to concentrate on apart from the characters and the words they spoke, it gave the actors a chance to show how well they could act the two tragic figures of "this dead butcher and his fiend like queen". ...read more.

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