Roman Polanski's Macbeth

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Roman Polanski's Macbeth

By | May 2009
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The story of Macbeth is a classic tragedy written by William Shakespeare in the 17th century. Macbeth is a general in the army of King Duncan, as well as the Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor, and, for a short time, the King of Scotland. When three witches tell Macbeth three prophecies, and the first two come true, Macbeth is determined to make the third become reality as well. Tragedy occurs when King Duncan is murdered and Macbeth is pronounced the new king. Macbeth becomes an isolated individual and is eventually destroyed by his own arrogance. In Roman Polanski’s 1970 film Macbeth based on the play written by Shakespeare, Polanski adds scenes to the original story in order to make the film dark and sinister. The reason for Polanski making his film sullen is because of the tragic events that happened to him prior to this production. The first major difference in Polanski’s Macbeth is showing the execution of the Thane of Cawdor. In the play, during Act 1 Scene 4 Malcolm summarizes the execution as offstage action:

“They are not yet come back. But I have spoke
With one that saw him die, who did report
That very frankly he confess’d his treasons,
Implor’d your highness’ pardon, and set forth
A deep repentance. Nothing in his life
Became him like the leaving it. He died
As one that had been studied in his death,
To throw away the dearest thing he ow’d
As ‘twere a careless trifle”(Shakespeare I.iv.3-11).
In Polanski’s movie, a scene is added showing the Thane’s execution. The scene shows the Thane of Cawdor on a platform in a noose. His last words were ‘Long live the King’ before you see the Thane jump off the platform, dieing instantly. By showing the death of the original Thane of Cawdor Polanski is creating a dark mysterious tone that will be carried on throughout the film, as well as foreshadowing the death of the new Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth.

In the first Act, when the witches tell Macbeth three prophecies he is most interested in...