Compare and contrast Roman Polanski's and Orson Welles' film adaptation of the opening scene of Macbeth, saying how effective you find the two versions

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Compare and contrast Roman Polanski’s and Orson Welles’ film adaptation of the opening scene of Macbeth, saying how effective you find the two versions

There have been many film adaptations of Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth. These are widely varied, from the Japanese version ‘the Throne of Blood’ to the gangster version ‘Joe Macbeth’. Two of the best-known adaptations are, Orson Welles (1947) and Roman Polanski’s (1971). This essay will seek to compare and contrast the two films’ very different but effective opening scenes. Both directors have been drawn to the work of Shakespeare in very different ways. Welles most likely gained an interest in Macbeth through his earlier career as a Shakespearian actor where as, Polanski may have wanted to portray the workings of evil by using Macbeth. This is possibly the result of the tragic murder of Polanski’s pregnant wife by Charles Manson and his followers. Using the first scene of both films, I intend to make a comparison as to the effectiveness of how both directors adapted Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

There are certain similarities and differences between the two versions. While both directors have adopted Shakespeare’s text effectively to the screen, they both use very different methods to convey Shakespeare’s intentions. For example, Orson Welles uses text from act four of the play, beginning ‘Double double toil and trouble’. This is the first line in the film and Welles uses it to suggest that the witches are agents of evil and perhaps to give the impression of forthcoming trouble. However, Welles leaves out the lines about Greymalkin and paddock perhaps due to the twentieth century audience not being familiar with witches spirits and the their names.

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On the other hand, Roman Polanski uses Shakespeare’s text vividly throughout the first scene of his version of Macbeth. Polanski moves the line ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’ from the end of the scene to the beginning. This shows how important he believes this line is in emphasising the appearance of the witches and the two-sided nature of some of the characters in the play.

By omitting certain lines both directors are able to build up the suspense before the name Macbeth is spoken or displayed in the critical first scene. Also, the use of ...

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