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Essay Fever

Wed Nov 16, 2005 6:06 pm

Thought I'd put on an essay of my own :) :

The Similarities and Differences between Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the Modern Macbeth.

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a tale of a hero who tragically falls and dies. There is a version that is said to portray the same story in a more modern environment. The two stories are made of the same plot, but in different environments with different characters. I will explain the similarities and differences as I go through the play.

At the beginning of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which I will shorten to S Macbeth, three witches appear on a heath, talking about when they will meet Macbeth. They also refer to the previous battle that has taken place, and one speaks of taking revenge on a sailor’s wife. At the beginning of Modern Macbeth, which I will shorten to M Macbeth, three bin men appear in a junkyard, also speaking of meeting Macbeth, who in this re-enactment, is known as Joe Macbeth. They speak of other, more modern strange things, similar to what the witches spoke about. The bin men are all male, whereas the witches were female but looked so ugly they resembled men.
In S Macbeth, King Duncan lives in a castle and has powerful allies to whom he gives land to look after. These are known as thanes. A few of these are Macbeth, Macduff, Banquo, Caithness, and Ross. King Duncan had two sons, Malcolm and Donaldbain. A battle had just been fought and Duncan was pleased with his thanes for taking part. In M Macbeth, Duncan is the boss of a popular restaurant. His employees are Joe Macbeth, Macduff, Billy (who represents Banquo), and some other miscellaneous employees. Some kind of event had taken place at the restaurant, and Duncan was very proud of his employees.
In S Macbeth, Macbeth and Banquo meet the three witches on the heath, who tell Macbeth that he will be Thane of Cawdor, and then King of Scotland. The three witches tell Banquo that he will get kings but he won’t be one. In M Macbeth, Joe Macbeth and Billy Banquo meet the bin men at the junkyard. The three bin men say that Joe Macbeth will be very happy, and that Billy Banquo will be not as happy, yet happier. They tell Billy Banquo that his son will be happy and sing “And his son, and his son, and his son…â€

Wed Nov 16, 2005 9:05 pm

There was a lot of very interesting material there, but I have a few suggestions to make. You seem to concentrate almost exclusively on what happens - you give a plot synopsis of Shakespeare's Macbeth and compare it to the things that go on in modern Macbeth. For the topmost grades, you need to talk about how things happen.

For instance, Shakespeare's Macbeth is very poetic and there are many soliloquies. (For those of you who don't study Shakespeare, a soliloquy is when a character is alone onstage talking to the audience.) Presumably modern Macbeth isn't quite so poetic. Shakespeare communicates the witches' mysticism through poetry, but the director of modern Macbeth doesn't. What is his replacement technique? Does it work? Secondly, the soliloquies inject a sense of deep loneliness into Shakespeare's Macbeth, and they show that the people in the play have different motives and meanings. Macbeth often interprets prophecies incorrectly, and the soliloquies highlight that. How does the modern director show the discrepancies between motives, meanings, and interpretations of different characters? Does he use the very old-fashioned soliloquy technique? If he has exchanged this for a modern method, evaluate the effectiveness.

In short, once you've given the what, always give a how. How requires you to look at things like language, rhythm, punctuation, and grammar - and, in Shakespeare's case, lineation. Read important lines aloud and ask yourself, "Why did Shakespeare end the line there and not there? Could it be significant? Note that the patterns of Macbeth's speech become much wilder when he is considering the murder of Duncan. The lines are disrupted, the rhythm isn't constant, there is punctuation all over the place. Is this a way of showing Macbeth's uncertainty and fear? Go deeper. How does this compare with the way the author of the modern Macbeth reproduces Macbeth's lines?

Finally, once you've got the how, look at the why. Lady Macbeth's speech is nearly always perfectly rhythmical and precise, even after the murder scene. Macbeth's is not. Could Shakespeare trying to be insinuate that Lady Macbeth is a cold-blooded, calculated murderess, whilst Macbeth is simply confused and vulnerable? Now compare Shakespeare's treatment of the couple to the writer of the modern Macbeth's treatment of them. Has s/he shifted any of the blame by tweaking a line here and there? Once you've given your how, always offer a reason why if you can.

Your final grounds for comparison comes with when. Compare the social context of the original Macbeth with the social context of the modern one. Macbeth has gone from being the man who would be king to being a restaurant owner. Why the sudden revolutionary change in his social status? What does it achieve?

What, how, when, and why. You need to ask and answer those questions as you write.

Wed Nov 16, 2005 9:16 pm

Thanks for the advice. I will do my best to take it in.
PS-Why did you change the quote at the end of your messages?

Wed Nov 16, 2005 9:19 pm

I always vary my quotation every few months or so. Before the Arabia quote, I had something by the artist Damien Hirst. Before that I had my favourite, "Some people say life is the thing, but I'd rather be reading!" by Oscar Wilde.

Wed Nov 16, 2005 9:38 pm

Oh, right. I had almost memorised the other one!
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