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This version of Macbeth is performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company from England - considered by many to be the premiere Shakespeare company in the world.
This Macbeth was performed on stage some two or three years before the decision was made to try to film it for its appearance on television. As a result, the performers were extrememly well versed in their roles and the biggest problems were the transition from stage to home screen as it were. Remember the Welles' Macbeth shown last week was also a staged performance which was transfered to the screen - but in that case the big screen of motino picture houses rather than the smaller screen of a television. One of the results is that there is a stronger tendency to use close-ups rather than more distant shots.
The play is often thought of as one of the shorter of Shakespeare's major dramas. Some people have felt that there were serious cts made in the play. It opened in 1606 (600 and 1 years after Macbeth's birth) but the earliest edition is 1623. There is a letter from 1611 written by a person who had seen the play and comments on it. There is nothing in the commentary that indicates anything else was there. There is some thought that play may have been performed initially at the royal court and as a result may have had to have been somewhat shorter.
Is there anything you can think of that is missing? Where would additional material go and what would might it be?
Some people have pointed out (rightly) that some of text for Heccat is stylistically different from the rest of the play and may have been added later. But this only refers to Act III.5; IV.1 39-43; 124-31. In a manuscript play by Thomas Middleton called The Witch, Heccat sings the two songs indicated in Macbeth. The Heccat part may have been added (perhaps even by Middleton) but the witches seem to have been there from the start.
The witches are actually mentioned in some of the historical text which Shakespeare consulted before (or while) writing the play. He certain was aware of historical material.There is an indication in the play that Lady Macbeth had a child, and also that Macbeth has not. Gruoch, the actual wife of the historical Macbeth had a son (Luloch) by her first husband, Gillecomgain. The historic Macbeth did not in fact have any children. Hence Shakespeare's allusion ot Lady Macbeth's child and Macbeth's lack of child is accurate.
Start thinking about the meaning of the text and subtext of the play. What can you say about "fair and foul" and the use of oppositions in this play?
What is the role of the psychological and the supernatural in the play? How are we to consider the witches and the other supernatural bodings of the play (omens, predictions etc.)?
The play is written between 200 and 300 years before Freud. What can we say about insight into mental states?
Things to consider:
(a) Although both the Welles verions and the Royal's version are both theater performances moved to the screen, how do they differ and how are they similar?
(b) How are color, sets and costumes used in this production? What end do the choices made about these variables serve?
(c) Compare the Welles version and the Royal's relative to cuts and rewrites, degrees of Scottishness, depiction of hallucinatory events. Do we see Banquo's ghost or the "dagger of the mind"? Do we see the blood on Lady Macbeth's hands in the sleep walking scene? Would it be any more or less reasonable to see blood on her hands than it is to see Banquo's ghost or the dagger?
(d) Why is it important to know something about the time in which Shakespeare wrote and perhaps even the time of the historic Macbeth when reading and thinking abuot the play. Shalespeare's play are often anachrononistic in part. Would this be acceptible today? Does Shakespeare's possible motivation for writing the play affect the way one might chose to act in or direct the play? If so how?