The Film Versions of Macbeth

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Compare and contrast the ways in which Roman Polanski, Orson Welles and Akira Kurosawa dramatise the first witches scene in Macbeth. Which Director do you consider interprets the key ideas in Shakespeare’s text most effectively.

Roman Polanski, Orson Welles and Akira Kurosawa have all directed their own versions of Macbeth the play. This demonstrates the plays timeless appeal to so many different cultures. The reason for this timeless appeal is that it is relevant to so many cultures. The theme of ambition is one of the key themes of the play; it is relevant to all cultures even now as everyone holds the ambition to succeed in life, it is a part of human nature. Another major theme of the play that is relevant to all cultures is violence. Violence has been rampant throughout all times and all cultures. All people understand violence and are interested in one way or another in it. That is why Macbeth has such an appeal to all cultures. Both of these themes are still relevant today and are still seen today.

        At the time when the original play was created and performed the topic of witches was a big topic of discussion. Courtroom cases were held for accused witches and many innocent women were killed for allegedly being witches. This meant that the audience would have believed in witches making the scene more effective to them and it could have scared them also. Also James I would have been interested in this topic of witches so the play would have attracted him.

        Act 1, scene 1 automatically raises tension, this tension is caused by the witches as they are seen as evil and grab the audience’s attention. They talk about their familiars, this heightens the view that they are evil by linking them to the underworld. Also when the name Macbeth is mentioned it connects him to evil also. It reflects the major themes of the play using references to the future, it mentions the power that Macbeth will have in the future which links to ambition and also mentions a bloody battle linking to the theme of violence. The witches use language such as ‘hurly burly’ this links to the violence theme and anticipates the dreadful deeds to come .The flowing rhyming speech of the witches’ keeps the audience’s attention fixed on the witches and gives the audience the impression that they are chanting a spell. The witches use oxymoron’s to make the audience have to think e.g. “ when the battles lost and won” and “fair is foul, and foul is fair”.

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        The interpretation of Shakespeare’s plays on film as opposed to at a theatre holds many advantages as well as disadvantages. Some of the main disadvantages are it depersonalises the characters making the contact with the audience less direct. Another major disadvantage is that the director must strip down the play to the bare minimum in doing so some words are cut which loses the complexity of some themes and characters. The main advantages are special effects can be added to make the scenes more realistic. Also editing is a major advantage of converting the play to film as scenes can ...

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