The famous play Macbeth by William Shakespeare, has greatly influenced past societies and continues to be an influence in todayas society. There is not only one great influence either, as there are many smaller ones that have affected society. Of these influences, Macbeth has had its greatest impact on the movie and literature industries. In literature, the play is kept alive in more than one way. There are many full-length books that just discuss and explain the play of Macbeth. Other ways the play is kept alive is through other authors rewriting it, but making slight changes or even using some of his lines or themes in their own plays or other pieces of literature. The movie industry was also greatly affected by Macbeth. Since the invention of movies, there have been many different versions of this play that have been adapted to the movie screen. Macbeth is a play that can last forever as it has everything that still interests and has always interested people such as murder, deceit, and a trip into the human psyche. This play has lived on in many facets of and had many important influences on society, but two of those greatest influences are on the movie and literature industries.
Macbeth actually started its “afterlife” while William Shakespeare was still alive. Simon Formanas Book of Plays is an example of the influence of the play. 1611, Simon Forman wrote a book in which he described the performance of four plays at the Globe Theater. Book of Plays is one of the only reports of how Shakespeareas plays were actually performed on stage. However, many parts of the play were omitted in Formanas summary. For example, he did not include the entire second appearance of the witches.
Forman also included details that could not have possibly occurred on the stage of the Globe Theater. One example of this is when Forman reports that he sees Macbeth and Banquo riding through the woods. The Globe Theateras set would not have allowed this to happen, so historians believe that Forman pulled this image from a version that he had read previously and not what actually had happened on stage. On the other hand, Forman gives an elaborate description of some of the staging of the play. For example, he states that in the banquet scene, the ghost of Banquo sits behind Macbeth. This description could have only come from the actual performance and not just a writing of the play.
Another account of the cultural afterlife of Macbeth is found in a book by an unknown author called A collection of Divers and Remarkable Stories, written in 1670. This is a book that includes many different short stories including the story of Macbeth. Many large changes exist in this version of the story. For example, Lady Macbeth is completely left out of this version. Since the influence of Lady Macbeth has been completely erased, much greater emphasis must be added on his ambition. Macbeth is also seen in this story as more of a tyrant that in Shakespeareas version. “Rather that using this story to explain the life and death of Macbeth, the unknown author of this version of the story uses the death of Macbeth to explain the existence of the Stuart monarchy” (Molly) something not discussed, or even mentioned once the original Shakespeare version of the play. This is done to show the authors perspective on what should have been done
differently. The author wanted to explore a new route with his ideas, so he changed around the play to make it more of his own.
Sir William Davenant was the godson of Shakespeare. Many dramatists during his time period took an interest in rewriting Shakespeareas plays in order to update the language and make them more similar to the culture of the timer period. From 1663 to 1664, Davenant rewrote Macbeth. Following in his Shakespeareas footsteps, his version was performed in theaters from 1664 until 1751. His version of the play involved many changes, including the addition of many songs, which gave the play the feel of an opera. He also added five new passages, including the return of Donalbain and Fleance at the end. In Davenantas version, Macduff and Lady Macduff had more prominent roles. Their roles in Davenantas version were almost equal to the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Also, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, and the witches are included in some of the scenes added by Davenant. Another major change made by Davenant is a shift in focus. “Shakespeares Macbeth focused on evil; however, Davenant changed this theme to those of ambition and tyranny” (Molloy). His version basically showed a man that wanted something and did what he had to do to get it, while Shakespeareas version showed Macbeth committing unnecessary murders out of paranoia and not ambition and need.
Macbeth has also had affected Mary Shelleyas Frankenstein theme-wise. As in Macbeth, Shelley adds the theme of not thinking of consequences. Macbeth kills Duncan to become king, but doesnat even think about how it will affect his life in any way besides
that he will be king. This ultimately leads to his suffering and demise. In Frankenstein, Victor does not consider the consequences of brining to life a creature until he actually does it. “How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delinate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I endeavored to form?a Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the chamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep”(Shelly, 52). Once he first sees his creation alive, he realizes what he has done and finally begins to think of the consequences, which lead to the death of many people close to him and also leads to a miserable remaining life.
Macbeth has been adapted to the screen many times, with each having its own perspective. Such great filmmakers as Roman Polanski, George Orson Welles, and Akira Kuroasawa have all adapted this classic play. Each did it with their own visions in mind and each fit the play to represent the times they lived in. Each film is completley different, with few similarities, and they are like three completley different movies.
Orson Wellesa version of Macbeth could be considered the most radical. This movie is mainly about Macbeth and a study on him and no about any other characters. In this play, Macbeth is seen as even more of a savage than in the play as his costume makes him look like, as one source put it, “a barbarian straight out of Mongolia” (Heath). THis film was also shot mainly at night to symbolize the darkness in the character of Macbeth. This film was very unsuccessful and is seen as a failure (Stewart).
Roman Polanskias version of Macbeth stayed mostly true to the film and was not radical at all. The movie was filmed in Scotland, where the play took place. Polanskias vision was to have every characteras motivations explained and showed throughout the play. There are slight differences from the play though, such as the extremem violence and added scenes. Things such as violence, as shown in scenes like Macbeth cutting someoneas throat, and the murder of Duncan being added were really the only two radical visions of the play.
Akira Kurosawa, a great Japanese director of the 20th century, produced his version of Macbeth, The Throne of Blood, in 1957. Kurosawa completley took the play and adapted it to Japanese culture. “For example, instead of being Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, Kurosawaas Macbeth has a Japanese name and is in command of Fortress for a Shogun”(Heath). Kurosawa does make other changes, such as completely removing Macduff. In place of Macduff, Macbethas own men turn on him, shooting him full of arrows at the end.
William Shakespeareas play Macbeth has greatly affected past societies and continues to affect society today. The main area of society that this play influences is that of Shakespeareas own, the arts. It is weird to think that a play written so long ago, in the 16th century , could have a great affect on something that didnat even exist when the play came out: movies. Shakespeare was able to capture the essence of life and evil and bottle it up into one play, which has lasted for centuries. Like his sonnets, Shakespeare
discovered a way to overcome time and allow his plays and name to last forever. Shakespeare could also be considered a great psychologist as well for this, as his knowledge on humans; their thinking, actions, likes and dislikes, allowed Shakespeare to open up a whole new world to people that had never been explored before. Now, in the 21st century, most of these areas have been explored and time and time again, but Shakespeareas Macbeth is a true classic that will never die and will continue to influence generations upon generations in the future.