Discuss the characters of the witches, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth with reference to performances and depictions of the roles and the text of the play.
The play Macbeth would have been performed around the 1600’s around the time of James I. James I and the people of England (Jacobeans) were very superstitious, witches would have been blamed for stealing children, destroying crops, causing storms and curdling milk etcetera James I thought that witches had tried to kill him when his ship was almost sunk at sea during a storm on his way back from Denmark. Shakespeare included this stereotype in his writing for example Act 1 Scene 1 the first witch says “I come graymalkin” and the second “Paddock calls”. Here they are referring to their familiars another stereotypical trait witches were given.
The essay will discuss and focus on Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and the 3 witches and the way they have been depicted in different productions.
Nowadays witches come in many shapes and sizes depending on the persons beliefs, many people do not believe in witches in the slightest. Unlike during the 1600’s when witches were blamed for even the slightest trouble they are unlikely to be now as science now explains most phenomenons. Although in less developed countries, where they do not have the modern technologies we have, even a simple card trick might scare people thinking that it is witchcraft.
Macbeth has many different facets and different producers of the play have interpreted Shakespeare’s original text in different ways in some plays he is a brave warrior who is ambitious and courageous “Brave Macbeth”, “O valiant cousin! Worthy gentleman!” He is seen like this because of his actions in battle Orson Wells portrayed this well in his stone throne giving off a great sense of power and strength.
Macbeth is sometimes seen as a Tyrant and murderer who is bent on power and who’s ambitions over rule his sense of reason causing him to become lost in himself. Becoming free to kill and slaughter to secure his own future. Ian Mckellen acted as such looking down on those around him with an obnoxious hateful glare.
Another interpretation is a philosopher he thinks about his actions never does anything without contemplating the affects. Before killing Duncan he changes his mind saying “We will proceed no further in this business he hath honoured me of late” This is proof that he does have a conscience and regrets the actions he has to take. Nicol Williamson acted this out well he seemed to be deep in thought and defensive.
He could also be represented as a victim of fate manipulated by those around him. Of course this then leads you to believe he is quite simple but he follows what he has been told is his destiny and has been brought up in an environment full of fear and confusion so finds that it is much easier to be led than to lead. “When you durst do it, then you are a man” here he is being pushed by Lady Macbeth into something he is not sure he wants to do. John finch seemed to portray this as his clothing connotates innocence and his youth inexperience.
Just as Macbeth has been depicted in many ways so has Lady Macbeth sometimes she is shown to be the 4th witch in some films she tends to whisper in Macbeths ear possibly messing with his mind slowly drawing him into an elaborate trap. She is seen by some directors to be helping the 3 other witches, always by his side making sure that he fulfils the predictions the other 3 have made and whenever he falters, helping him out and pushing him along. Later in the film she breaks down possibly falling back into her old ways and pretends to cast a spell “Come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, insex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty!” Act 1 Scene 5.
Of course another view is that she has a fragile mind she doesn’t think her actions through and slowly falls into madness as it dawns on her that she has committed an unrepentable act and that blood will stain her hands forever. “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!”
She can be seen as less of a witch but just manipulative again she tends to whisper into Macbeths ear and she also wears seductive clothing such as thin nightgowns, using her body to get what she wants out of him. ” When you durst do it, then you were a man…” Here she has even gone as far as to question his man hood just to get her own way.
Finally she could just be a lonely wife her husband always away at war she begins to miss him. When she receives the possibility that she could spend more time with him, she is elated and looks forward to a better future “I feel the future in the instant”