There are many differences between interpretations of William Shakespeare’s MacBeth. This essay wall contrast Shakespeare’s original version and a movie version by Roman Polanski produced in 1970. Three major differences will be discussed.
One difference between Shakespeare’s and Polanski’s version is the absence of the scene in England in Polanski’s version. In the Original MacBeth, MacDuff goes to England to convince Malcolm to return and fight MacBeth. The scene of the longest of the play; it is very drawn out and lengthy. Polanski simply eliminates this scene and shows Malcolm back in Scotland. The reason I feel that Polanski did this is that the scene detracts from the continuity and action of the play. The play is equally effective without the scene, and more streamlined.
Another difference between the original and Polanski’s version is the scene where MacBeth kills the king, Duncan. In the original, Shakespeare was not allowed to show the death of a divine right ruler, so he showed MacBeth coming out of the king’s bedchamber after he had committed the murder. For Polanski’s version, however, he had no such limitation, and could show anything that he chose, so he showed the actual murder of Duncan, where Duncan wakes up, and MacBeth cuts his throat after stabbing him. The reason that Polanski inserted this scene was to show how cold-blooded MacBeth was, and that he would do anything to achieve his goal of becoming king.
A third difference is the use of the letter that MacBeth writes to his wife describing how he has become Thane of Cawdor and the witches’ three predictions. In the original, the letter was read by Lady MacBeth, and then not mentioned again. In Polanski’s version, Lady MacBeth takes out the letter after everything with her and her husband’s plan has gone wrong, reads it, and then kills herself. The reason that Polanski did this is that the letter is a useful device to cause Lady MacBeth to kill herself. She reads the letter, and it’s all this happy news, but she and MacBeth are miserable, and all the good things in the letter have gone awry.
There are scenes also in Polanski’s version which are not even included in the original. One of these such scenes would be the scene where the traitors from the war are being executed. They are brutally hung with cast iron brackets on their neck. This scene is very successful in showing the brutal treatment of traitors, the treatment that MacBeth would get if he was caught in his plan. The original did not do such a good job on this.
Another of these such scenes would be the dreams that MacBeth has about Fleance killing him and Banquo helping him. Due to the extreme lack of technology in Shakespeare’s time, this was not possible. The dreams sequence serves to show how haunted MacBeth’s dreams are, and how worried he is about losing the throne to Fleance because of the witches’ predictions.
There are many differences between these two version of MacBeth, and each of them, I believe, serves it’s own purpose to enhance and better the play.