The plays of William Shakespeare definitely sustain their ability of staying relevant in today’s contemporary world. This can be seen in the play Macbeth by Shakespeare and the modern version of the play, Macbeth Retold, directed by Mark Brozel. The main issues of the texts include the inversion of the gender roles and how power and greed can take its wretched toll on people’s lives. Women still carry the expectations of being reliant on their husbands and there are certain power-hungry individuals that will do whatever it takes to reach the top of the leader board. These two texts contain various literary techniques such as imagery and sarcasm to support the themes mentioned. Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, has a considerably interesting viewpoint on the gender roles as the women behave more masculine whilst the men are embodied in an inferior manner. The theme is represented by ‘Lady Macbeth’ who is quite a manipulative character. Lady Macbeth demonstrates the inversion of gender roles when she tells Macbeth to act more manly and asks the spirits to unsex her so she can be a man since she feels the need to compensate for Macbeth’s lack of masculinity.
She is also seen to be quite a violent person with cruel intentions which is illustrated in the line, “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 pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums and dash’d the brains out had I sworn as you have done to this” (Act 1, Scene 7, Line 3). The literary technique used here is imagery as a full detailed idea is given of just how much aggression Lady Macbeth possesses to the point where she would brutally murder an innocent baby. The gender roles are reversed once again in the film, Macbeth Retold, focusing particularly on Lady Macbeth’s modern version Ella Macbeth. This is relevant to our time because it is reflecting the authority that women now have. Interestingly though, the play was written in the 17th century where women were expected to be silent and obedient to their husbands so maybe it could be considered that Shakespeare paved the way to the liberation of women.
In the modern version Ella best demonstrates the theme when she pressures Joe Macbeth, modern version of Macbeth, into killing Duncan who takes the credit for Joe’s hard work as a chef in the restaurant. The evidence that this character illustrates this theme can be seen when she says “He milks you for everything you’ve got…no amount of money covers what you do for him…You’re too full of the milk of human kindness Joe. Thank you, Duncan, for the slap on the back, I’m so very, very grateful…It is shaming to hear the truth Joe? What kind of man is it who doesn’t feel humiliated in the position you’re in. what kind of man is that?” The technique that Ella uses is sarcasm, which is shown when she insults Joe’s manliness and she asks him rhetorical questions that she already knows the answer to so she is mocking his intelligence.
The theme of the destructiveness of power and greed is ever-present throughout the play, Macbeth. The character Macbeth craves success so much that it gets to the point where he is lead into a paranoid madness. The prophecies made by the witches are what sparked his ambitions for power. Macbeth doesn’t favour committing evil deeds as much as his wife Lady Macbeth but his burning desire for power and progression blinds his better judgement and he kills Duncan. After he has killed Duncan he displays imagery when describing his intentions, “…For mine own good all causes shall give away, I am in blood stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er” (Act 3, Scene 4, Line24). In this line Macbeth is making a comparison with his actions to that of wadding through a bloody river which also displays irony as his wicked action is murder which is associated with blood. He suggests that it’s impossible to stop once a man commits murder for their advantage.
It is visible that Macbeth is becoming addicted to killing as it gives him a sort of ‘boastful high’ but this is short lived as his guilt sends him crazy and inevitably gets him killed as well. The same happens to Joe Macbeth in Macbeth Retold. The theme of power and greed is expressed in Macbeth Retold which is the retelling of the original Shakespeare play, Macbeth, but it is still seen everywhere from the media to the school ground as everyone wants to be at the top of the food chain. This is still relevant in today’s world through the businessmen and women who sabotage their ways towards a higher career position. The character that best demonstrates this theme is Joe Macbeth when he murders Duncan, and then Billy who he sees as a new threat, he does whatever it takes to reach his goal but ends up becoming engulfed in paranoia to the extent where he mistreats those who respected him.
After a heated discussion Ella says to Joe “Men don’t run over by buses” which he then replies with, “No”. In the movie the technique used is the silence as the camera pans across their faces. This shows the suspense and tension present in the scene as they’d just decided to go ahead with the plan to kill Duncan and get the restaurant. To conclude, William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth has endured the test of time and proven itself to still be relevant in our current day through the discussion of the themes of gender roles and power and greed. Both of these themes appear in the original version of the play, Macbeth, and a modern version, Macbeth Retold. The themes were presented in many ways in the texts through the use of literary techniques. In the original play, imagery and irony were used and in the modern film, sarcasm and suspense were used.