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Facharbeit: Does it make any difference?A comparison of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, first act, of the BBC’s productio

Alles zu William Shakespeare  - Macbeth

Abgabe: 11. März 2002

THEMA: Does it make any difference?
A comparison of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, first act, of the BBC’s production and the film version by Roman Polanski
List of contents
1) Introduction p. 3
2.1) The characters of W. Shakespeare’s Macbeth p.4
2.2) Summary of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth p.5/6
3.1) The representation of the witches according to their
appearance, setting, language and the created atmosphere
- The BBC’s adaptation (3.1.1.) p.7
- Roman Polanski’s film of Macbeth (3.1.2) p.8
- The direct comparison of the witches’ representation (3.1.3.) p.9
3.2) The representation of Macbeth according to his appearance,
setting, language and the created atmosphere
- The BBC’s adaptation (3.2.1.) p.9/10
- Roman Polanski’s film of Macbeth (3.2.2) p.10/11
- The direct comparison of Macbeth’s representation (3.2.3.) p.11
4) Conclusion p.12
5) Bibliography p.13

1) Introduction
William Shakespeare is still one of the most important writers of today. His plays are often models for modern films, dramas and books. For instance his play “Romeo and Juliet”. Nearly everybody knows the story and the tragedy of a tender love in a world full of hate. Many directors as well for theatre as for film already made an adaptation of this play.
It is very interesting to compare the differences between various productions of one play in order to show the enamour possibilities to interpret on play. Especially comparing two versions of a Shakespeare play has a real lure because he offers his readers a big freedom in interpreting him and his thoughts. This is why I want to concentrate on two versions of one of his most famous plays: Macbeth.
In order to show how different directors can interpret one play I’ve chosen a traditional version of the BBC and a modern film version of Roman Polanski. He seems to be predestined for a comparison in this way because he is so contested in the world of film because of his dubious methods in directing and his provoking representations.
For that purpose I first want to give a short summary of the whole plot of Macbeth with representation of all mentioned characters because then the following interpretations of each film versions is easier. I want to show the differences between the two adaptations by analysing the most important characters of the play: The three witches and Macbeth.
2) Synopsis of Macbeth
2.1. The characters
Duncan, King of Scotland
His sons
Generals of the King’s army
Menteth Noblemen of Scotland
Fleance, Son to Banquo
Siward, Earl of Northumberland, General of the English Forces
Young Siward, his son
Seyton, an Officer attending on Macbeth
Boy, Son to Macduff
An English Doctor
A Scottish Doctor
A Soldier
A Porter
An Old Man
Lady Macbeth
Lady Macduff
Gentlewoman, attending on Lady Macbeth
Three Witches
And other minor parts

2.2 The plot:
The story takes place somewhere in Scotland except in the end of the fourth act.
We are introduced into the story by three witches which are sitting somewhere on an open place and they are talking about a person called “Macbeth” with whom they want to meet. In the next scene we get to know Duncan, the king of Scotland. He is at war with some rebels and we are on a battlefield. He wants to know if his fight was successful and so he searches for a person who can report the battle. He meets a “bleeding captain” who reports the fight. The captain emphasizes the extraordinary deeds of the Thane of Glamis, that he saved the honour of Scotland and that he has fought very bravely and without fear.
After the conversation between the captain and Duncan again the witches come into play. They meet Macbeth and Banquo and they predict that Macbeth will be Thane of Cawdor and then king. They also predict Banquo ’s children to be kings but both, Macbeth and Banquo, do not believe in this prophecy.
Some minutes later two messengers sent by Duncan tell them that Macbeth is now Thane of Cawdor and that the previous Thane is sentenced to death. The first part of the witches’ prophecy comes true and Macbeth begins to believe in that he will be king of Scotland. He writes his wife (Lady Macbeth) about his mysterious meeting and he tells her about his wishes to become the new king. Lady Macbeth is inspired about this idea and she implies that she would do everything to help her husband; maybe she would even murder Duncan.
From a messenger she gets to know that Macbeth is going to come home and that Duncan also will be her guest. At the arrival of her husband she tries to convince him of murdering Duncan so that he will become king. First Macbeth is insecure but then he agrees. In the night he creeps into the king’s room and murders him.
In the next morning the dead body is discovered and they begin to search for the murderer. The hosts repudiate the suspicion empathically and Macbeth kills Duncan’s servants because they maybe know the truth.
The king’s sons are afraid of them also be murdered and they flee so that they arouse suspicion. The second result of their flight is that Macbeth is crowned and another prophecy of the witches comes true. But he is still afraid that someone could suspect him to be Duncan’s murderer and he remembers the witches’ words that Banquo ‘s children will become king. In order to prevent this he tries to murder Banquo and his son Fleance but Fleance escapes. Banquo appears to Macbeth and reasons with him so that Macbeth feels insecure and he again asks the witches’ advice. They tell him to fear Macduff, second that he “will never be harmed by any man born of a woman” and third that he “shall never vanquishe’d be, until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsiane hill shall come against him”.
Macduff goes to England in order to plan a revolt together with Malcolm (the rightful king). Macbeth gets nervous and orders to kill Macduff’s children and his wife but Macduff finds this out. He and Malcolm return with thousands of men in order to bring Macbeth down. When Malcolm arrives at Dunsiane Hill he gives the order to cut down the wood of Birnam and to bring them up to it. When Macbeth realises that a further prophecy of the witches becomes reality he is afraid and wants to fight against the revolt. In the meantime Lady Macbeth commits suicide but Macbeth.
Finally it comes to a direct fight between Malcolm and Macbeth. Macbeth is sure that he’ll win because of the witches’ prophecy but Malcolm tells him that he was ripped from his mother’s womb. So he is killed by Malcolm and Malcolm becomes the rightful king of Scotland.

3) Analysis of the first play
3.1 The representation of the witches according to their appearance, setting, language and created atmosphere

3.1.1 The BBC’s adaptation
In the first scene of the BBC’s adaptation the witches are introduced on a dark and open field. Because of their dark and dirty clothes with cowls they look like stones and seem to disappear on the ground until the middle one gets up and begins to speak. She is very old and ugly. The several layers of clothes make her movements slowly. Also her language fits to an old and confused woman. She is speaking very clearly, slowly, stressing many syllables. The weather is rainy, thunder sounds in the background. Then also the other witches raise their heads and they begin to speak about Macbeth and when to meet him. They are speaking slowly and silent and the thunder partly drowns their words. There is also creepy music in the background and altogether it is a tensed atmosphere. Also the colour scheme is monotone and underlines the obscure impression. It seems as if there is something dangerous and threatening in the wind and the viewer becomes curios what is going to happen next.
Altogether the recipient is introduced into one of the main topics of William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”: The confrontation of human beings (personified by Macbeth and his followers) with the pure evil and the dark side of life (personified by the witches).
The second appearance of the witches is in the first act, third scene. Banquo and Macbeth are on a heath and suddenly the witches come to surprise and surround them. The witches are standing round them in a triangle and Macbeth is unable to fight them. They prophesy Macbeth and Banquo the near future but he ridicules them.
The created atmosphere is comparable to the ambience provided in scene one. It is also a rainy and stormy weather and there is thunder and lightening again. The character of this scene is very serious and menacing but Macbeth does not realize this significance. In the BBC’s version the witches and the whole intimidating interior are hinting at a further conflict with which Macbeth will have to fight: believing in supernatural belongings or in his rational thinking.
3.1.2 Roman Polanski’s film of Macbeth
In Polanski’s contested version of Macbeth the witches are introduced on a beach. They wear medieval but colourful clothes and it seems like they are women who are coming back from selling their stock on the weekly market. But in the next moment they bury a man’s arm in a ritual strange manner. It is a foggy dawn of day symbolizing the beginning of all day life or rather opening of the story.
One of the two elder women (there is one very young blonde curled one) begins to chatter confused without thinking too much about it. The conversation seems to be quite pointless without aiming at a concrete intention. Inevitably the question rises if these foolish old women really can control the hero’s destiny.
Also in the third act where the witches in fact meet Macbeth Polanski presents the witches as three bewildered women. They are camping on a mountainous field and they are murmuring strange words. When Banquo and Macbeth arrive at their site they suddenly stop it and begin to make their prophecy with the words “All hail Macbeth! hail to thee , Thane of Cawdor” and “All hail Macbeth! that shalt be King thereafter.” While the witches are saying these words they are shown in close-ups and this underlines that these words are very important for the development of the plot.
The colour scheme in this scene is also light but not as bright as in the first occurrence and it is drizzling. It seems as if a dark cloud comes into sight slowly over the brightness of life maybe because of Duncan’s fight against the rebels.
Particularly the behaviour of the young witch attracts attention. When Macbeth runs behind them in order to hear more about his future as the king of Scotland she stops (while the others vanish in something like a tunnel) and lifts her skirt. She wants to provoke Macbeth and it shows that these “weird sisters”are really strange and bizarre.
3.1.3. Direct comparison of the witches’ representation
The difference between the two versions of the witches lies in the importance for the whole story of Macbeth. It is true that both directors as well Roman Polanski as Jack Gold (BBC) show us that the witches are playing an important part for the development of the plot but the way the witches do control it is dissimilar. In the BBC’s adaptation the witches rule deliberately the thoughts and the behaviour of Macbeth and they want to spread their bad seeds. The “weird sisters” in Gold’s adaptation are living in their own dark world apart from the rational world of Macbeth and Duncan’s kingdom. However in Polanski’s version the witches live in the same world as Macbeth does and are more closely connected to him. The witches represent his dark thoughts, his replaced wishes and desires and his idea of being King of Scotland. By isolating the witches and creating an own world for them Jack Gold emphasises that these dark fantasies have no place in hard war times.
3.2. The representation of Macbeth according to his appearance, setting, language and the created atmosphere

3.2.1 The BBC’s adaptation
We get to know Macbeth in act one scene two when Duncan is talking with the bleeding captain. The captain describes him as a brave hero who has saved the honour of Scotland. He is introduced personally in act one scene three in conversation with Banquo. He is a middle-aged man with a beard, he has a lot of muscles and he seems to be the classical hero he was described in the scene before.
He and Banquo are crossing a desolate mountainous area and suddenly three mysterious creatures appear. Unlike the recipient he is not impressed by these dark characters and the surrounding (compare: 3.1.1) but he takes out his sword in order to protect himself against this kind of anxiety. After noticing that he cannot impress and banish them with weapons and strength he tries to protect himself by ridiculing them. He always keeps a distance to the witches .
Although he first seems to be self-assure and not intimidated by the witches he has his doubts if the prophecy becomes reality until Duncan names him „Thane of Cawdor“. He writes his wife about what happened what shows that he needs acknowledgement from other persons because the witches distorted his straight beliefs. Shortly after she finished reading Macbeth enters the room and they begin talking about murdering King Duncan. Both, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, are convinced that this is the only way.
In this scene it becomes obvious that Lady Macbeth is the power, which presses Macbeth ahead. She is presented as a power-hungry and greedy person attracted by Macbeth ’s new popularity. Macbeth is influenced by her sexual power and the modesty shown before turns into gluttony.
In his long monologue (act one, scene seven) he is standing on a dark floor apart from the party for King Duncan. The motive of the shadowy corridor shows up that he only has to decide between two directions: back to the party to praise the king or to walk down the dark floor in order to plan Duncan’s murder. In his speech he weighs the arguments for or against the assassination in a rational way. The situation changes when Lady Macbeth suddenly appears. She interrupts his thoughts so that he is unable to finish them. She takes advantage of his love towards her when she becomes very personal and asks him if he wants to be a coward for lifetime. He starts getting nervous what is also shown in the frequently change of camera perspective and movement.
Finally his greed beats his pangs of conscience.
3.2.2 Roman Polanski’s film of Macbeth
In Polanski’s version Macbeth is shown as a young, good-looking and pensive man. On first sight he seems to correspond to the captain’s descriptions but on second thought he does not appear like the typical hero because he is hesitated and irresolute.
When he meets the three witches in act one scene three he looks irritated and perplexed while his companion Banquo talks to the weird sisters easily and ridiculing. Polanski stresses this contrast between two ways of thinking (Macbeth Banquo) by choosing a full shot. Banquo stands next to Macbeth and you can see his laughing face and Macbeth’s confused one.
Then the witches vanish and Macbeth awakes from his fix. He is suddenly curious and interested the witches’ prophecy so that he follows them to their hideaway. He still seems to be confused but he overcomes his anxiety with the aid of his desire for being King of Scotland.
In the scene he meets his wife (act one, scene five) he is surprised that his wife has similar desires of him being king after reading his letter and that he attracts his wife in this new way. Both as well Macbeth himself as Lady Macbeth are euphoric and they begin to bill and coo like teenagers in the bright room of Lady Macbeth. This is interrupted when Macbeth tells his wife that Duncan arrives this evening. Suddenly the idea of killing him becomes apparent and Lady Macbeth tries to convince him of committing this crime. Here his hesitation comes into play. While she is enthusiastic about this idea Macbeth seems to be depressed.
Polanski stretches the monologue of act one, scene seven. Macbeth starts fighting against his pangs of conscience during the banquet sitting next to Duncan. He is so absorbed in his thoughts that he does not realize the festive atmosphere. Suddenly it is thundering and the weather turns from a sunny day into a stormy night. Macbeth leaves the room and goes to something like a balcony. Only one step and he is standing in the middle of the thunderstorm, which symbolises that he must make a decision. He can go back to the dinner or he can take the difficult way, which could be the right one. Here he still has to fight with his conflict.
Lady Macbeth appears next to him and she asks him if they shall murder Duncan. Interrupted in his thoughts he tries not to show his lack of self-confidence and although he is not convinced of his decision he tells his wife that he does not want to commit the deed. He cannot look right into her eyes because then she would recognize his insecurity. But Lady Macbeth sees trough her husband and finally pressures her husband into murdering Duncan.
3.2.3. Direct comparison of Macbeth’s representation
The difference between Polanski’s and Gold’s Macbeth exists mainly in the outward appearance and the way of acting.
The BBC shows us a middle-aged and real brave man while Polanski’s Macbeth is young and not really heroic. He is rather a soft man, unable to make a decision. Maybe Polanski wants to emphasise that becoming a hero is depending on having a good fortune and not only doing well. Even a coward like Macbeth can make his mark in life with little help of his wife. However Gold stresses another aspect: The question in how far your destiny depends on other people.

4) Conclusion
Altogether I want to stress that the differences between the traditional version of the BBC and the modern one by Roman Polanski decisive. While the BBC’s director Jack Gold tries to reproduce exactly Shakespeare’s pattern Polanski interprets “Macbeth” completely new. He emphasises different traits of characters as well of Macbeth as of the witches.
My supposition that Roman Polanski is extraordinary talented in the grammar of film has verify and comparing his fascinating work with a less provocative version was very interesting and informative. It doesn’t mean that the BBC’s version is less good but it does not show aspects we cannot read in William Shakespeare’s tragedy of Macbeth. There is a lack of self-interpretation.
Finally I want to say that I am really impressed of Roman Polanski’s film of Macbeth. Although I have seen many films of him before I was again surprised what a talented director he is. Maybe it is easier to interpret an existing story than writing something new but Polanski in his perfection disproves this suspicion and shows that making a good film not only depends on a good story.
5) Bibliography
1) The films
The BBC Shakespeare “Macbeth”, directed by Jack Gold (starring Nicol Williamson and Jane Lapotaire
Roman Polanski’s film of Macbeth (starring Jon Finch, Francesca Annis, Martin Shaw)
2) The drama
- William Shakespeare: Macbeth, Stuttgart (Reclam)1977, English/German
3) Other sources
- The BBC Shakespeare on Cd Rom: Macbeth
Ich erkläre, dass ich die Facharbeit ohne fremde Hilfeangefertigt und nur die im Literaturverzeichnis angeführten Quellen und Hilfsmittel benutzt habe. Insbesondere versichere ich, dass ich alle wörtlichen und sinngemäßen Übernahmen aus anderen Werken als solche kenntlich gemacht habe.
_______________________ _________________________
Ort, Datum Unterschrift
Shakespeare, William: Macbeth. Ditzingen (Reclam)1996, S. 10
Aus , Z.48, s. auch im Anhang
Shakespeare, William: Macbeth, S. 110, Z. 92-94
Macbeth, p. 18, l. 49/50
Macbeth, p.18, l.32
vgl. Macbeth: erster Akt, Szene 2
Meine persönliche Aufgabenstellung war es, die Unterschiede zwischen einer Bühnen-&Filmumsetzung herauszufinden am Beispiel von Shakespeares Macbeth (erster Akt). Diese Facharbeit ist komplett, allerdings aufgrund von Krankheit in fast nur einer Nacht enstanden, worunter die Qualität des ganzen ein wenig leiden musste.Trotzdem sind die hauptsächlichen Unterschiede meiner Meinung nach deutlich geworden. (3379 Wörter)
07.05.2003 von unbekannt
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