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Two Versions of “Macbeth” Act 5 Scene 1 (Sleepwalking Scene).

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Introduction

I have studied two versions of "Macbeth" act 5 scene 1, otherwise known as the sleepwalking scene. They are the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the BBC productions. I have watched several productions but I am going to focus on these two versions in particular. I want to examine the significance of the scene and analyse how it has been produced and directed. This scene is extremely important because it occurs just after Macduff has swore to avenge the killing of his family and just before we see Malcolm's army getting ready to fight against Macbeth. The scene is situated in an important part of the play also, because Shakespeare traditionally places the finale of the play in act 5. It is the first time we have seen Lady Macbeth since the banquet and the scene is used to tell us what has been happening to her in the meantime. It is there to allow the viewer to enter the mind of Lady Macbeth and to realise the nightmare she is living in. It is there to show how she is coping with recent events and it will be the last time we ever see her. She is not alone in this scene; a doctor and a gentlewoman are also there. Their roles are to observe Lady Macbeth discreetly and to comment on what she is saying and doing. ...read more.

Middle

The mist and darkness reminds us of Banquo and Macbeth before they met the witches on the moor. It also brings back memories of the witches (act 1 scene 1) when they talked about "the fog and filthy air". Lady Macbeth is seen to be rubbing her hands frantically and talks about the blood on them. She mentions a spot that she cannot remove; this could be the mark of the devil or maybe it is symbolising the guilt within her. She cannot wash away her murderous deeds. She goes through a roller coaster of emotions as she receives flashbacks from when she and her husband were plotting to kill Duncan. She says "one; two: why, then 'tis time to do't." This is her remembering the ringing of the bell when Duncan was about to be murdered. She continues, " Hell is murky!" She has said this because she knows what her fate will be and understands the consequences of her actions. She is in complete despair at this stage. She also reveals that she knows about Macduff's family when she says "the thane of fife had a wife: where is she now?" She is no longer innocent of this knowledge. She constantly rubs her hands and states "will these hands ne'er be clean?" and "here's the smell of blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand." ...read more.

Conclusion

Judi Dench does not move very much and opts to sit down at the table instead. The camera remains focused on Lady Macbeth's face. The candle/lighting helps the audience to see her facial expressions more clearly. She is very convincing and her tears seem to be genuine. When the death of Banquo is mentioned the camera looks at the Doctor to show his shock. Neither the Doctor nor the Gentlewoman are dressed in clothing from that period. Judi Dench lets out a huge cry, this cry is heavily exaggerated but I think it helps to convey the pent up emotion that she has been feeling. The light of the candle can be seen fading away as Lady Macbeth leaves, this is the last time we will see her. All in all, I preferred the RSC production I thought Judi Dench's performance was excellent. Jean Lapotaire was sometimes slightly comical because of her over exaggeration but this may be more appealing to people who are not familiar with "Macbeth". Jean Lapotaire's delivery was interesting. She almost sang the line " the thane of fife had a wife: where is she now?" like a nursery rhyme, this is somewhat ironic considering that it was tragic. I think the RSC caught the real significance and emotion of the scene well. I think an older Doctor could improve it and I believe the Gentlewoman's delivery could be more passionate. ...read more.

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