There are many films of Macbeth, and Roman Polanski’s version (1971) is the most popular. Shakespeare’s text has been pared down for the film, but this has been done intelligently by Polanski in collaboration with Kenneth Tynan. The film has been set in its historical context, which is a context of brutality.
After viewing the film, consider the following questions:
How is the character of Ross presented in the film?
When Macbeth murdered Duncan, the crown was sent spinning. Did you pick up any other image later in the film which echoed this happening?
Did you find any image in the film which echoed the hanging of the Thane of Cawdor?
Just before Macbeth’s coronation banquet we see a bear being tormented by two dogs. Later we see the dogs and the bear again. What is the symbolic purpose of these incidents.
What do you think is the significance of Macbeth snuffing out the candle with his hand?
Can you see anything symbolic when the camera zooms in to a full frame of flames during the scene where Macduff’s castle is being burnt?
How does the film show the disintegration of order and the increasing chaos of Macbeth’s rule?
Just before she dies Lady Macbeth is seen reading a letter. What letter is this? This scene is not in the original play. Why do you think it has been added in the film?
What do you understand by the ending of the film? This scene is not in the original play. Do you think Polanski is justified in adding it?
Macbeth: A Comparison of Three Different Contexts
The cultural context in which a text is written and received is important in determining the way in which meaning is created. An audience in Shakespeare’s time would have identified with certain beliefs (such as the superiority of the king and the importance of the supernatural) more so than a modern audience.
Read the play and watch the film versions of Macbeth by Roman Polanski (1971) and Macbeth, Shakespeare Retold, BBC (2005). Compare andcontrast the different versions. In your book, write down the similarities and contrasts using the template below.
Macbeth – Shakespeare,1600s
Macbeth – Polanski, 1971
Macbeth, Shakespeare Retold – BBC, 2005
Macbeth: Film Trailers
Macbeth. Directed by Roman Polanski. 1971
Polanski's Macbeth. REMIX
Throne of Blood. Directed by Akira Kurosawa. 1957
Men of Respect. Directed by William Reilly. 1990
Macbeth. Directed by Geoffrey Wright. 2006
Macbeth. Shakespeare Retold Directed by William Reilly. 2005