The Contrast between Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Roman Polanski’s Macbeth Shakespeare’s play Macbeth is a tragedy that plots the fall and death of once a great man, revealing how ambition can lead to downfall. Many directors and producers have tried to portray his play into modern films but Roman Polanski produced the most successful Macbeth film, but Roman Polanski’s movie Macbeth changes many details that the viewer is unable to fully experience the catharsis.
Tragedy is built on the idea that the audience can sympathize with the tragic hero and therefore experience a strong emotional response at the ending. They both were based on the same plot however Polanski’s Macbeth is not a proper tragedy when compared to Shakespeare’s Macbeth because of the difference in the relationship between Donnalbain and his brother Malcolm, the focus of death and violence, and lastly the key modifications that are seen through the different approaches of the characteristics and acts of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
During Roman Polanski’s film it is noticed that Donnalbain envies his brother Malcolm, thus creating more mysteries and suspense. Their relationship was so similar in the play however in the film it seems as if Donnalbain does not like his brother because during the time when King Duncan was alive, Malcolm was given the title as the Prince of Cumberland and Donnalbain received no title or land from their father. After Malcolm was crowned, it appeared as Donnalbain was jealous and upset because of the way Donnalbain expresses his facial appearance and his attitude towards Malcolm.
Yet, in the play after the death of King Duncan, Donnalbain fled to Ireland and did not return through the whole play. Another aspect that in the film which was so different was the ending of the film. In the play, Malcolm stated a famous speech to end the play, “What’s more to do, which would be planted newly with the time, as calling home our exiled friends abroad that fled the snares of watchful tyranny, producing forth the cruel ministers of this dead butcher and his fiendlike queen…”(V. iii. 66-71). This speech was the statement that represented that Malcolm has brought Scotland back on its feet and on the right track, which portrayed the end of Macbeth Era and his evil deeds. This was the ending of the play but however in the film Roman Polanski added a twist in the film that would bring the cycle of bloodshed back into Scotland when it illustrated that Donnalbain has returned from exile and he stumbled into the witches on the way.
This foreshadowed that the deeds Macbeth did to become king will arise again but this time Donnalbain will be behind it all. In the film, the deaths and the violence are shown in a way with more information than what the play describes and it vaguely changes the plots with the showing of these deaths. There were many deaths in the films that were not in the play, but that caught many viewer’s eyes was an onset death that was not portrayed in the film.
Roman Polanski depicted the murder of King Duncan outstandingly because the audience never had the feel of how King Duncan was actually killed since it was an offset scene in the play. Also because of the blood and gore, and how it seemed as if Macbeth was actually being pleased by stabbing the King all over his body. However, in the play King Duncan’s death was an offset because Shakespeare could not have done it because King James, who was the king at that time, would not have liked a king being killed on stage.
Nevertheless, in the play King Duncan’s death was different from the film simply because it was an offset scene and was not portrayed at all. In the play, Macbeth is depicted in such a way that the audience can sympathize for the tragic hero, however in the film he was portrayed more as villain rather than a tragic hero. In Roman Polanski’s version of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is known to the audience as a sweet respectful woman and more of a tragic character because it did not reveal the part where she wants to abandon her womanhood as it does in the play.
She is depicted as courteous woman because of her tone and how she deals with Macbeth such as kissing him when he returns from battle, respecting some of his demands, and not threatening him to do something of her wish. In addition, since she committed suicide in the film by jumping off the balcony or stairs. However, in the play it’s the other way around. Macbeth is known as the politer and subtle human being of the couple and Lady Macbeth is described as a rogue because of her undertakings that are very unusual of a woman.
She states, “Does unmake you. 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 plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this”(I. vii. 55-60) to her husband, Macbeth. This is in the play when Lady Macbeth emotionally blackmails Macbeth to killing Duncan and manipulates and takes advantage of Macbeth and tells him he’s a coward if he doesn’t kill King Duncan, which was not illustrated in the film at all.
This reveals how different the film represented Macbeth than the play. Through Lady Macbeths great persuasion he did not express much remorse and repentance after murdering King Duncan and Banquo in the film, this was indicated thought Macbeth’s expressions throughout the film since it seemed as if he totally forgotten about what he had done for all the wealth, power and kingship. On the contrary, throughout the play it seemed as if Macbeth was always repenting his crimes worrying about the consequences that he will face if anyone found out the deeds he committed.
This gives complete awareness to the audience that in the film Macbeth does not deserve to be executed however after reading the book it clearly gives the audience an insight of the real culprit, Lady Macbeth, since it was her evil deeds, in addition to her pushing Macbeth to extreme limits to where he did not want to go in the first place. To conclude, tragedy is built on the idea that the audience can sympathize with the tragic hero and therefore experience a strong emotional response at the ending.
Roman Polanski’s film did not portray a proper tragedy because in the film, Donnalbain and his brother Malcolm had more of jealousy relationship compared to their relationship in the play, the focus of death was so different in the film as well because in the play Duncan’s Murder was an offset scene rather than an onset scene which was illustrated in the movie thus creating more violence and cruelty in the film, and lastly the difference in the characteristics of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in the film and play.
Therefore, this reveals that Roman Polanski did have prevailing film version on Macbeth but not a proper tragedy to grasp the genre of Shakespeare’s version of the play.