In the films you have studied to what extent do you find Lady Macbeth to be a fourth witch? Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:25:56
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Roman Polanskis version of Macbeth was staged in 1971, Macbeth was played by Jon Finch and Lady Macbeth was played by Francesca Annis.

The BBC production was staged in 1982, Macbeth was played by Nicol Williamson and Lady Macbeth was played by Jane Lapotaire.

The Royal Shakespeare Production was staged in 1978, Macbeth played by Ian McKellen and Lady Macbeth played by Judy Dench.

In Polanskis production Lady Macbeth was first introduced at the start of Act one Scene five, when she receives a letter from Macbeth unveiling the prophesies from the witches. Her costume is Shakespearean in period, in keeping with the time the play was written and it is bright and colourful. Polanski interprets Lady Macbeth to be a young and beautiful lady and also she is shown frail and innocent; for example, at the last speech of act one scene five, Lady Macbeth calls evil spirits to possess her body. This is a very dramatic and powerful speech but yet she talks faintly. Apart from Francesca Annis in my opinion acting out this speech poorly, Polanski leaves out a vital part of this speech:

Nor keep peace between

Theffect and it. Come to my womans breasts,

And take my milk for gall, you murth ring ministers,

Whatever, in your sightless substances,

You wait on Natures mischief.

I feel this was a great mistake by Polanski. This scene was shown as if it had no importance; it was rushed through, not giving a true affect on the audience. Lady Macbeth through this speech is running down the stairs to meet Duncan, this doesnt show that she is serious in calling evil spirits which I think Shakespeare intended it to be.

Lady Macbeths witch like character is first shown in this speech as she blocks out the good and calls up the spirits of evil.

In the BBC production Lady Macbeths appearance is different to Polanskis version, as she has dark hair and seems more powerful and thick skinned, and although their costumes are from the same period Jane Lapotaires are much duller and less decorative. At the end of this scene when Lady Macbeth calls on evil, Jane Lapotiare plays her with passion and shows that Lady Macbeth beyond doubt wants what she is praying and truly shows Lady Macbeth as a fourth witch. The point made in Lady Macbeths speech about her unsex-ing and her womans breasts no longer being used for milk but for murder shows us to what extent she has to suppress the feminine side of her nature.

In this production they did not in my view ruin this speech by omitting half of it like Polanski; the speech was given great importance to the play. Also the BBC production staged a middle aged woman of 38 for Lady Macbeth rather than a younger woman of 27 like Polanski. I believe this was a very good idea as it makes Lady Macbeth more eager for her husbands ambitions as it suggests through the play that Lady Macbeth had a child but lost it and now was unable to have children. It was imperative in Shakespeares time that you had at least one child to carry on the family name, I think this would drive Lady Macbeth more to want her husbands happiness as she was unable to give it to him through children.

In the Royal Shakespeare production Lady Macbeths appearance is very different from the two other films I have studied. Lady Macbeth looks a lot older. Also Judy Denchs costume is very distinct compared to the other two costumes, she wears a black dress and black head scarf and her speeches are made more prominent by a spot light focused on her face. I believe this has the best effect of the three plays as you can truly focus on the words of Shakespeare, In Polanskis version I could not keep Shakespeares words the centre of my attention as there was so much going on in the background.

In Act one scene seven Lady Macbeth tries to persuade Macbeth to murder Duncan. In Polanskis version this scene is set very near the Banquet for Duncan, I think this was a wrong decision as there was no focus on the scene itself, Polanski has a habit of doing this though out the play. When Lady Macbeth is debating with Macbeth to do this deed she starts to weep. I feel this was a good input to the play as it shows a human side to Lady Macbeth.

A great weakness of this scene was the cutting of the speech:

I have given suck, and know

How tender tis to love the babe that milks me:

I would, while it was smiling in my face,

Have pluckd my nipple from his boneless gums,

And dashd the brains out, had I so sworn

As you have done to this.

This part of Lady Macbeths speech I believe changed Macbeths decision form a definite no to an uncertain yes, and was of absolute importance to the persuasion scene.

This scene played by the BBC production had a totally different feel. The start of Lady Macbeths speech shows more anger and makes Macbeth look like more of a fool. Lady Macbeth is very controlling and powerful in this production compared to Polanskis version. Her outlook in this scene shows a fourth witch character as she smirks when Macbeth gives in to her persuasion saying:

If we should fail?

Also in the Royal Shakespeare production, Judy Dench is the dominant partner in the relationship but in this scene their loving relationship still remains whereas in the BBC production it dies down the end of Act one scene five.

In Act two Scene two Lady Macbeth is played well by Francesca Annis, she put on a brave front but also shows a little fear through her eyes whilst saying:

A little water clears us from this deed

In this scene we get a glimpse of Lady Macbeths humanity as she says:

Had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had donet .

This sentence might show that Lady Macbeth is not a fourth witch, she is just misunderstood, and she might have wanted this murder of Duncan to happen purely for the ambition of her husband.

Lady Macbeth in the BBC production gave a taste to the audience of how scared she was when waiting for her husbands return and I feel she played this scene exceptionally well.

In Act five Scene one of Pulaskis version, Lady Macbeth losing her sanity is shown very well, she is walking around naked rubbing her hands to get imaginary spots out of her hand:

Out damned spot: out I say

This I feel, is a very good interpretation of the sleepwalking scene. This nude scene of Lady Macbeth also parallels the nude witches in the film. This might suggest that Lady Macbeth is in fact a fourth witch.

From the Films and the text of Macbeth I have studied, I have found that Lady Macbeth has many characters: the fourth witch, the ambitious wife, determined, dependant, haunted, misunderstood etc.

I think from all the films I have viewed they have had different main characters, Polanskis Lady Macbeth was misunderstood, The BBC productions Lady Macbeth was a fourth witch and the Royal Shakespeare Company showed Lady Macbeth to be an ambitious wife.

I believe Lady Macbeth was a fourth witch in some ways and also played many other characters. Shakespeares intention was to let the audience decide.

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