Explore the relationship between Shakespeares Macbeth and the version produced in the BBCs Shakespeare Retold series. How successfully does it relate to a modern audience?

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Alice Balk

Analytical Essay

Explore the relationship between Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the version produced in the BBC’s Shakespeare Retold’ series. How successfully does it relate to a modern audience?

        Macbeth is a play, one of the many written by William Shakespeare and it was first written in between 1611-1612. The play itself tells the story of how three witches foretell the soldier, Macbeth, that he will become king and so he and his wife Lady Macbeth, plot and scheme in order to make this prophecy come true without realizing what dire consequences are yet to come with their actions.  The BBC version follows a similar plot but has been adapted to more modern settings in order to be more fitting with the current and contemporary times. In this instance, the BBC adaptation is a short film showing how the chef of high class restaurant, Joe, plots to murder his boss in order to take ownership which he does along-side his wife and restaurant hostess, Ella. Both versions contain parallel themes and are akin to each other in genre and yet there are subtle differences in both concerning matters like purpose, context and language. And so, in this essay, I will be exploring the relationship between Shakespeare’s original story of Macbeth and comparing it in relation to the BBC’s Shakespeare’s retold series, looking particularly at how successfully the latter relates to a modern audience.


The tale of Macbeth includes many and various themes which make the play what it is, the more apparent ones occurring frequently and shown throughout the play such as ambition, prophecy; how power corrupts and guilt leads the key characters to their ominous demise. The BBC version keep a high maintenance on these themes as expected, otherwise the film would lose the critical essence of the story. With the original audience, horror was a great factor to the play, especially with the aspect of the three witches as back in Shakespeare’s time, they were feared to a great extent, even to go as far as executing ‘witches’ for concern they would end up casting evil spells on them. However, the horror outlook is lost among audiences of a more modern era as witches tend not to be taken seriously and are disregarded as a joke, not actually seen as being scary figures. Therefore, having real witches portrayed in the film would mean the film would appear less realistic and be looked upon skeptically and less significantly. Having replaced the witches with bin men was suitable and a modern audience can relate more to the idea as bin men are seen as outcasts, not fit to be around more civilized

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 people, very lower class; exactly how witches were seen back in Shakespeare’s period of time. So although the bin men are not viewed as particularly frightening, they are never quite fully understood. Indeed, they can even be seen as humorous as I believe the producers knew they were not going to achieve ‘scary’ with modern day witches so they changed the entire aspect of the witches by replacing them with bin men as witches would not be fully understood or have a giant impact on a more modern day audience.

When the play was originally written it was ...

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