The play ‘Macbeth? was written by William Shakespeare as early as 1606 and is thought to have been written for King James I who was especially afraid of Witches, who are important characters and affect many of Macbeth?s decisions throughout the play.
Macbeth starts the play as a noble in the service of King Duncan I of Scotland. He starts as Thane (noble) of Glamis and soon becomes Thane of Cawdor, after putting down the rebellion in that region.
Macbeth is favourite of Duncan but murders the king after he names his son (Malcolm) as heir to the throne. Lady Macbeth looses her mind, leading to her suicide due to the many evil acts the pair have committed, the most recent being the murder of Lady Macduff and her children.
Lord Macduff has fled to England and raises an army with the help of King Duncan?s sons and the English Earl of Northumberland, Lord Siward. The English army marches on Macbeth?s castle at Dunsinane where they discover that Macbeth?s soldiers have fled, leaving their lord alone to face the English. Macbeth kills Siward?s son, only to be killed himself by Macduff.
Throughout the story the Witches play a very important part. They predict that Macbeth will be given the title Thane of Cawdor as well as king. When Macbeth realises that the first prediction has come true he decides that the others will also, causing him to use any means necessary to enable this. The Witches also predict that Banquo?s (another Thane) children will become kings. Banquo is Macbeth?s best friend throughout the play but he still decides to have him murdered as to stop him having any more children who may take the throne away from him.
By modern standards the language used in Macbeth is quite hard to understand and to fully take in what the play is saying it is important to go over each scene so that we understand what actually is going on. There are many words used by Shakespeare that are rarely, if ever used today (Fenny = Slimy – page 99 line 12) and words that today mean a completely different thing to what Shakespeare has used them to mean (impress = conscript – page 105 line 94.Today the word is more often word to make somebody realise how good you are etc…)
There are basically two types of character in this Shakespeare play. These are the upper class characters such as Kings, Queens, noblemen etc… and the lower class characters which is everybody else. These two types of character have two different ways of speaking which makes it easy to determine whether they are an upper or lower class character. The two ways of speech are ‘blank verse? used for upper class characters and ‘prose?, which is used for the lower class characters. Blank verse is unrhymed poetry that has a regular rhythm and line length and is called ‘Iambic Pentameter?, which is the most common rhythm in English poetry. Prose is simple everyday speech and is also the way in which most novels are written. The way of speech can also be used to determine what sort of act a character is doing at the time. This means that if an upper class character is committing a murder or theft then they will speak in prose whereas a lower class character who is saving a life or doing some other noble deed will speak in Blank Verse. The two forms of speech are quite easy to differentiate and so the audience can easily deduce the rank of a character and whether they are performing a good or a bad deed.
The Witches are interesting as they are evil characters but they speak in Blank Verse. They also use chants a lot. Perhaps the most famous of these is the one that first appears during Act IV Scene I on line 10: “Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.” A chant is a monotonous phrase or slogan which is repeated over and over. It can be used to clearly get a message across or to cause something important to happen, in this case a magic spell.
I have chosen this scene as I think that it is the most important scene out of the three options we were given, as well as providing a wide window of opportunity.
The scene contains Macbeth who is the main character of the play, as well as the witches who are the catalyst for many of the events of the play. It will be interesting to see how I interpret these characters in the play and how they fit in with the rest of the play.
In this scene Macbeth once again visits the witches who he thinks are helping him. The Witches are of course evil characters and don?t have his good at heart. This is a fault of Macbeth?s who doesn?t realise it until it is too late and Macduff, with the help of Malcolm, has rallied support to overthrow him.
The first time Macbeth meets the Witches it is shortly after the Rebellion of the thane of Cawdor has been put down. Macbeth is with Banquo and the witches predict that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor, King of Scotland and that the children of Banquo will also become kings. These predictions lead to the murders of Duncan and Banquo. This meeting tells Macbeth to ‘Beware Macduff? (line 70) and leads to the murders of Lady Macduff, her children and the majority of the Macduff castle servants. The witches also lull Macbeth into a false sense of security by telling him that “…for none of woman born shall harm Macbeth” (lines 79-80). Macduff was born by Caesarean section and so ‘isn?t? born of woman. Macbeth?s security is also lowered when he is told that he is safe until “Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill” (line 92). This prophecy comes true when the English soldiers carry branches up to the hill which is almost as pathetic as saying that a Caesarean doesn?t mean you are born of woman. These two lapses in security will lead to the eventual downfall of Macbeth.
The scene is described as a ‘desolate place near Forres? (The royal castle of Scotland); Thunder is also described as occurring. I think that it is very important to get across the fact that this place is desolate and tainted by evil due to the presence of the witches.
I would set this scene at night, there will be fire-torches stuck in the ground providing some light (light bulbs, not actual fire) plus lighting coming from behind a thin sheet hanging in the back of the stage. The torches on the floor will give the audience the impression of a medieval setting. The will be randomly arranged around the stage, a ‘gentle?, or subtle example of the chaos that is associated with the Witches. The sheet will have images of trees and moor land on it. The actual stage itself will be decorated to look like moorland, dark green grass heavy with dew and small boulders strewn over the ground. I think that the idea that this place is desolate and unfrequented is important to get across to the audience. I think that an actual cauldron would be a bit odd looking so think that a large, stone alter, with a large bowl shaped crevice carved into it. There will be a light bulb in the base of the bowl crevice, which will shine up into the witch?s faces as they move around it. This would create strange shadows; which would make the Witches look physically evil. My Witches don?t actually look evil, only ragged and dirty. The audience would be able to see the evilness of the Witches as well as feel it in their actions. The rock effect would be more natural looking and a fire isn?t necessarily needed as the evil ingredients generate their own heat. The natural look would also mean that it doesn?t have to disappear in a puff of smoke like an iron cauldron would.
The three Witches are moving around the rock whilst describing the evil ingredients they are throwing in. They will speak quietly, but not necessarily evilly. The voices used should be enough to tell the audience that these people are not pure and good, but not the sort that need violence and chaos constantly, at least not in the material world. I think that although the witches are fundamentally evil and therefore don?t really need a reason to hate Macbeth it would be original to give them a reason. Macbeth will be wearing his feudal colours when he finds the witches. Two of the witches will be wearing ragged clothing but it will be obvious to the audience that some of this clothing bears the colours of Macbeth, suggesting that these too were once loyal servants to him but due to Macbeth committing an evil act against them, or by an evil such as the one that is corrupting Macbeth now, they have turned. Two of my Witches will be men, enhancing the idea that they were maybe soldiers of Macbeth who were punished by their master and so have decided to oppose him. The third will be wearing clothes that were once very expensive, a dress of a noble lady of the period, torn and ripped by time. She may have been an old love of Macbeth who was dropped by the man and is now bitter.
The clothing of the witches will strengthen the atmosphere of evil that is opposing Macbeth; but that it is his own fault that evil has picked him out to be converted.
The Witches won?t have evil cackling voices but instead keep normal human voices; showing that there is still some humanity left in them at the same time as showing that humanity can be so easily converted to evil.
Once the spell is completed Hecate, the Queen of Witchcraft enters. Nowhere in the play is Hecate?s name mentioned so this character can also be widely interpreted. Expanding the idea that the witches were once subjects of Macbeth I think that Hecate could also be an ex-subject. I however like that idea that Hecate is a Thane of Scotland, decked out in his lordly colours. He will not be raggedly dressed but instead his clothes will be fresh and clean. He won?t be lord who is named in the play but will remain an unnamed rival of Macbeth. The three ‘witches? who accompany him will also be cleanly dressed, wearing the armour and colours of their lord (they will be men-at-arms, footmen etc…). Hecate?s lines are often spoken in a cackling way but this won?t be very appropriate for my Hecate. As he speaks his lines the lord (Hecate) will slowly walk back and forth in front of the Witches, clapping his hands for the first two lines. When this small speech is finished a song and dance is described as occurring. Instead of this my three main Witches will get down on one knee and bow to the lord. They will remain like this for several seconds until the lord (Hecate) and his entourage has exited the stage.
When Macbeth enters there will be a loud clap of thunder followed by the light behind the sheet in the back flashing for a few seconds to simulate lightning. Macbeth will have a faint spotlight of white light will shine on him. The light will not be too strong to show that the good that is left in Macbeth is waning and it will take little persuasion from an evil force to drive him all the way to eternal damnation. The thunder and lighting will alert the audience that something important is happening (Macbeth?s entry). It may also cause a few members to just as well.
When Macbeth speaks he will have a deep, booming voice. Clearly belonging to the higher orders although now and again in his dialogue his voice will wobble and break into that of an underling, like the Stereotypical voice of the witches. His voice will do this when he speaks of murder or of other foul acts he has committed. This means that it will happen mainly after Lennox has informed him of Macduff?s flight to England. This will show the audience that Macbeth would be a strong (Psychologically) man if he could stand up to the manipulations and corruptions of the Witches.
When the witches speak to Macbeth they will not do so in a subversive manner as they will consider themselves to be his equal, as they know they have power over him. Shakespeare also reveals something by making them speak in blank verse, the manner usually reserved for upper class characters. Possibly the witches really are upper class characters?
Shortly before the first apparition appears the 3 witches all speak together. I think this (Come high or low: Thyself and office deftly show.) should be spoken softly, inviting Macbeth to ‘follow? them in the abyss. The witches will bow low and split apart. The apparition will appear in the gap. After this, we see MacBeth disappearing off the premises, presumably to knock one off, just as Kev Scott did so famously in the showers of Bedlington High School. He is foul.
The apparition is an ‘armed head?. This doesn?t mean that it?s a head with arms. That would be stupid. It is in fact a head with a helmet on. I think that it is hard to actually portray a floating head on stage without special camera effects like in a film. Therefore I will make the ‘armed head? into an actual armoured warrior. The helmet will be one that encloses the bearer?s head fully, so hiding the face inside. All the lights will go out apart from the one in the rock, alter, cauldron affair and the light on Macbeth. A spotlight will shine down, exactly the same colour and strength as the one that shine on Macbeth. The helmet may cause the voice of the ‘head? to be muffled and so the visor will need to be raised but hopefully the shadows of the lighting will mean the audience will not see the face. I would make my armoured warrior wear exactly the same clothes as Macbeth, but he will not notice this. The identical clothing will act as a testament that is Macbeth himself who is causing him to fall from grace. The warrior will chant the word Macbeth louder and louder as he walks around the King. He will do this once until reaching the point from which he appeared. He will appear to leave but will turn around at the last moment and say, in a normal conversation voice ‘beware Macduff?. He will then go on with ‘Beware the Thane of Fife? (Macduff?s title) before ordering Macbeth ‘Dismiss me, enough!? He will be one of the only characters in the play who will speak to Macbeth in such a way and not cause Macbeth to become angry. I think that the strong contrast of the loud chants and the soft ‘beware Macduff? will enhance the fact that Macduff is a major enemy of Macbeth and will end up killing him. The contrasting way that the apparition speaks to Macbeth will show the audience that it is Macbeth who is insulting or degrading himself, as the apparition will appear to be Macbeth himself.
All the original lights will come on again as Macbeth converses with the witches.
The second apparition to appear to Macbeth is a bloody child, supposedly coming from a caesarean operation. This will be a difficult apparition to show and so I think that a child of maybe eight or nine years will be used. Once again, all the relevant lights will dim and this time a beam of light, hinted with red shall shine on the child. The high voice of this apparition (a pre-pubescent child) will contrast sharply with the mighty voice of Macbeth. The audience should notice that the power of the Witches has caused Macbeth to focus all of his attention on a small child. After Macbeth has heard that ‘none of woman born? can harm him Macbeth becomes happy as he thinks that he can defeat Macduff. He will turn away from the apparition towards the audience and smile and nod to himself. When the light comes on after this apparition as left the beam on Macbeth will be noticeably dimmer than before, showing that Macbeth has taken another step to eternity in the presence of Beelzebub. Macbeth has decided that Macduff must go, but he hasn?t decided on a time yet. The change in strength of the beam should be subtle but noticeable so that the audience will clearly notice.
Finally the third apparition appears, a child wearing a crown and holding a twig. Perhaps this is to show that a child has the power of leadership (the crown – royalty) and nature (the twig). This Child will be about 10-11 years old and he will be wearing the royal colours of the old king Duncan. The audience will be aware of the colours of Duncan from earlier in the play but in this scene only the top half of the child?s body will be lit up and so it won?t be blatantly obvious as to what the child is wearing. These colours will show that the spirit of Duncan lives on in his sons who will eventually come to defeat Macbeth. Despite being a child this apparition will speak with the voice of a full-grown man, the voice of Macbeth, which will be provided by a pre-recording on a tape player. This may show the loss of childhood innocence in the way that the child is speaking with the voice of a man and also how it is Macbeth himself who is his own worst enemy. This will be one of the strongest indications to the audience that it is Macbeth who is causing himself to be corrupted. The contrast of the small boy and the deep voice will be very noticeable.
Macbeth is very happy at what the apparitions have said and fails to notice the many hidden symbols that they bear such as the identical clothing worn by the first apparition and the colours of Duncan and the voice of Macbeth borne by the third apparition.
Only one thing troubles Macbeth now, the idea that it may be the offspring of Banquo who reguarly had his wicked way with his wife, who rule the kingdom instead of his own. Macbeth therefore orders the Witches to tell him about this. After he has made the question “…shall Banquo?s issue ever reign in this kingdom?” There will be a pause of about 3 seconds; long enough to alert the audience that something important is about to happen. Thee Witches will turn away from Macbeth and look to the floor before saying “Seek to know no more”; they know that the images that they must now show Macbeth will not please him, but he has demanded it and although the Witches have infinitely more power than Macbeth they will show him this apparition as they have shown him the apparitions that have pleased him.
All of the lights will go out so that the stage is completely dark. A white light will come on a follow on the first of the eight kings who will walk on to the stage. The first king?s coat-of-arms will be vaguely familiar to the audience but as each king comes on stage with his own spotlight it will be obvious where this familiarity comes from. The first king will the furthest descendant from Banquo who will come on stage at the very end and as time has gone by the Banquo coat-of-arms will have changed through marriage etc… Therefore as the kings slowly come on stage the royal colours the kings wear will become more and more recognisable. This will be the first sign that everything is not how it seems to be spotted by Macbeth. As the first king enters Macbeth will show signs of recognition (he will have his own dimmed spotlight on him now) and as more of the kings arrive Macbeth will become more and more agitated. He will begin to slowly pace across the stage, looking at each king in turn with interest and horror. At time he will need to face the audience so that it is apparent to those watching how worried Macbeth now is. He will see the reflections of all of the kings in the mirror that the final one will bring out and the awful truth will begin to dawn on him. When the ghost of Banquo arrives Macbeth will be very angry with the Witches and his soliloquy will become louder and louder as the kings appear until all of them are standing in front of him. They will stay for a few seconds before all of the lights with the exception of Macbeth?s go out. The actors playing the kings and Banquo will rush off stage so that the ambient lighting can come back on after only a few seconds, giving the impression that the kings have totally vanished. Macbeth will shout the final line of the soliloquy (“…What, is this so?”) during the darkness (to hide the noises created by the exiting actors) in anger at the witches for showing him this apparition which is not what he expected, or wished to see.
The Witches will now begin to smile and look pleased with their work. They will begin to mock Macbeth with the song they will sing and the first Witch praises Macbeth as a ‘great king? in a voice of mock worship. Once more the audience will realise that Macbeth has no power over these creatures and how they are the real evil in the play. Macbeth is simply an unfortunate puppet who has been picked out. The Witches dance and vanish (the lights will go out again). When the lights come back on they will be noticeably brighter due to the departure of the Witches. Macbeth will be shouting his lines about how the Witches have abandoned him when Lennox enters. Lennox will be accompanied by a man wearing the colours of Macbeth. He will, however be muddy and look tiered out. In his hand he will be carrying a large leather bag. This man will be the messenger that Lennox will inform Macbeth about. Macbeth will still have his dim spotlight on him but Lennox will have a bright light, his uniform/armour will be clean and shining, showing that Lennox has not fallen from grace as Macbeth so clearly has. Lennox will inform Macbeth of the flight of Macduff to England which will lead to Macbeth?s final soliloquy of this scene. During this Macbeth will speak of his plans to murder Macduff. He will pace around the front stage whilst Lennox walks towards the back of the stage to talk with the messenger. Macbeth should look flustered and angry, he should look as if he has lost all sanity and means of rational thought, showing the audience that in this one scene Macbeth has gone from a murderer to a madman. The spotlight will be put out permanently. There is no way back for Macbeth now.