Macbeth

The supernatural is vital to the plot and the actions of the characters in Macbeth. As a director of a film version, how would you put across this influence to your chosen audience?

In this essay I am going to explain how I would go about directing the first two witches’ scenes in Macbeth. I will sum up why I am doing a certain action, for example the symbolism it has and what relevance it has to the witches. First of all I need to know some background about the impact of witches on peoples lives at the time in which it was written.

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Macbeth was written in 1606 in the time of the Elizabethans when the supernatural was in the forefront of many peoples’ minds. Witches were the objects of morbid and fevered fascination. In each village of Elizabethan England the ‘evil’ goings on were blamed on the old spinster who owned a black cat and never came out of the house. The witch. They were punished or interrogated by being forces to sit on a stool and then ‘ducked’ in the river. If they floated then they were a witch and if they sank then they weren’t a witch but most died of drowning anyway. There were many famous witch hunts at this time and everyone was scared of them.

In 1604 an act of parliament decreed that anyone found guilty of witchcraft would be executed. Many people who watched Macbeth saw the witches as a sign of evil and hatred. This was apparent in many of their lives. Shakespeare’s audience would hear Macbeth as an echo of the Christian faith. The religious imagery would remind them of the challenges on earth of Christian beliefs.

In Macbeth the two witches’ scenes that I am studying are full of mystery and confusion. A paradox, “Fair is foul and foul is fair” is used throughout the play. This is also an alliteration. In my version of Macbeth I am going to begin with thunder and lightening to immediately give the audience the impression that supernatural powers are at work. I will them have the camera zooming in through darkness and fog or smoke to one of the witches ugly faces (one of the two old witches) while she says her first line in old Shakespearean language so that there is an added effect of an old feel. I think that if I was to use modern translated language, then the sentences would not seem as powerful and evil.

Shakespeare coursework – Macbeth. Rob Jones

The supernatural is vital to the plot and the actions of the characters in Macbeth. As a director of a film version, how would you put across this influence to your chosen audience?

According to the script of the original version, the first scene begins at a desolate place, and I am going to replicate that by having the camera starting off looking at a snow blizzard and then zooming in on three dots in the distance. This will be the three witches with ragged clothes on and shivering. The whole of the background will be white with snow, but the watcher will not get the impression that these are pure women because they will be wearing black and there will be a slight echo when they say their lines in the first scenes. I am not going to include and thunder or lightening in this particular scene as I am going to leave the full extent of the evil effect of the witches until the end of the next scene.

Obviously I am going to have three witches as it says in the first line of the text, “Where shall we three meet again?”

I will have all the witches about the same old age, and have them standing with hunched backs around a sword (dagger) with blood on it and I will have the second witch thrust her hands onto the dagger. When she says the line, “When the hurly-burly’s done” it will be happening and this is to symbolise later on in the play when Macbeth becomes king by murdering Duncan, the previous king of Scotland.

I will then slightly change the order in which the witches say the line, “When the battles lost and won.” I will get the third witch to say that and at the same time, touches her hands on the dagger as well, to show that there is going to be a battle but in fact the witches will be predicting Macbeth winning the battle but loosing the battle to be King of Scotland. Due to the fact that I have got the third witch saying the line above, I will have the first witch saying, “That will be ere the set of sun. ” When she says this I will have the camera zoom into her face, but infact it shoots past her white face into the whit background of the “fog of war”. It will then get brighter and the sun appears, not yellow but red, the colour of evil and blood.

Shakespeare coursework – Macbeth. Rob Jones

The supernatural is vital to the plot and the actions of the characters in Macbeth. As a director of a film version, how would you put across this influence to your chosen audience?

Long chords of sustained violins and other stringed instruments will now come in to play and give an eerie effect. This gives the film version a sense of unreality. This foul imagery and monstrosity gives the viewer an insight into how evil the witches are because so far they don’t seem to be too bad and ‘devilish.’ The surroundings will then jump back to the fog of war on top of the mountain. (Where the witches are a big contrast to the peaceful surroundings). The first witch asks the other two, “Where the place?” and once again she and the other witches are deciding a future event. I will then have them once again going round their circle saying their lines.

I will them have them emphasising the start of every sentence and especially the last phrase. I will have the three witches very calm an collected when they are describing what they are going to do or what is going to happen, because this symbolises the fact that they are in control of the situation.

The final line in the scene, “Fair is Foul and foul is fair” is deliberately confusing and I am going to use this to try and get the audience to think about what is going to happen in the film and what the witches are talking about when they talk about the battle being lost and won and the paradox mentioned a few lines earlier. This is also of course an alliteration in the fact that the F’s are repeated and I will have the witches emphasising these like a drum, as well as a set of tom-toms in the background the give the impression of a highland battle as well as for them to keep in time with each other.

Although I am trying to get the viewer to guess what is happening in the film, the audience will probably know the storyline because it is such a famous play and therefore they won’t need to guess the storyline. Hence why I am going to keep the language the same and not add modernism because I feel that is adds a weak effect to the witches scenes, written in superstitious Elizabethan England.