Screen Shakespeare's Rhetoric Term Paper

Pages: 16 (4297 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature

The scruples, hypocrite and cynical Ross has his own fears and questions regarding the order of things. As much as he lacked all traces of humanity, he was able to see that those whom he accompanies in their evil doings are doomed themselves. Even the animal world seems superior to the human race as it is represented by Macbeth, his wife and those who support them. Ross remarks to his father that even the animals are acting strange and go mad following these cruelties inflicted by humans upon their fellow humans: "And Duncan's horses -- a thing most strange and certain-- / Beauteous and swift, the minions of their race, / Turn'd wild in nature, broke their stalls, flung out, / Contending 'gainst obedience, as they would make / War with mankind" (idem), while his father goes further and answers: "Tis said they eat each other" (idem). This is the place where Shakespeare conceives a world going mad, void of its laws, pray to the randomness of erratic human behavior, led by supernatural forces that feed upon the souls of those who are obsessed with power.

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Some scholars have questioned the dramatic characters of Macbeth and his wife as characters suitable for a tragedy. Russell Jackson considers Macbeth a predominantly "political play," written for James I who was no different than his ancestors: afraid for his place on the throne, preoccupied by supernatural forces, human being who believed to have a divine right to be the king, but had also the weaknesses and vices of a man obsessed with power and sometimes overridden by fear for his own life and destiny.

The staging of Macbeth is surrounded by a sense of mystery up until today. The superstitions that were in their natural setting in the seventeenth century have dwelled into the twenty-first century and as long as people will be inclined to listen to stories related to the past productions of Macbeth onstage, they will be surprised to find out about misfortunes that occurred during the staging off the play, starting with the times Shakespeare himself was directing his plays.

Term Paper on Screen Shakespeare's Rhetoric Has Always Assignment

Macbeth became the indisputable symbol for the dark side of the world and it appears to create a fascination for the human as well as supernatural forces that united created a medium suitable for hell rather than this earth.

The translation from paper and respectively stage to the screen made Shakespeare's universal play suitable for the audiences of the twentieth century. Orson Wells' Macbeth came on screen after two world wars had ravaged the world and challenged people's ability to comprehend the immensity of human suffering at the hand of other fellow humans. The unspeakable acts of cruelty and the new concept of genocide gave a hard blow on the Europeans who thought they had entered the twentieth century as people free of the cruelties of a world left behind by modernity.

Personalities of the twentieth century obsessed with power and their role as nothing less than the center of the universe, offered their features to match Macbeth's own obsessions and Wells blended them into a character that dominates the whole film: "The film contains some five hundred shots, and the majority focus directly on Wells as Macbeth or include him in the mis-en-scene. Frequently low-angle or high-angle shots or deep focus close up distort his size in comparison to the other figures. It is Wells' face and voice, directly and voice-over, that dominate the film. The rest belong to the faceless masses" (Jackson, 2007, p. 129). The main character that Shakespeare has let unpunished in spite of his own evil doings, Ross, the symbol of evil dwelling into the new world, is dismissed entirely from Wells' film. He chose instead to focus on Macbeth as the symbol of everything that went wrong with the human race.

Jackson points out Wells' choice of leaving Macbeth's destruction entirely to the witches instead of letting the army, Macduff and Malcom give him the final blow, as presented in the original play. This role of unleashing the dark forces trapped in Macbeth' soul and then letting him perish by his own dark forces is also obvious in Shakespeare's play, especially in the case of Lady Macbeth's death. Her husband is effectively killed by the hand of those who are the avengers of their families' death, but he reaches this point because of his own vices and obsessions. The witches only bring him to the point of no return, they seize his devilish side and play on the tune they know it will take him to his destruction. The final blow in the play will be given by a human hand though. In Well's film they represent the bad side of the human race that remains a constant even if its human representatives are physically removed from the stage. The witches continue in their existence in Wells' film, just as Ross continues to serve the mighty in Shakespeare's play.

Shakespeare's lesson that comes at a cost is best taught in Polansky's film made after Macbeth. He accentuates symbols that Shakespeare only suggested where he finds it appropriate, making the audience aware of the struggles of the human heart in fight with itself and the human mind trapped in its own cellar, in impossibility to see clear and detach itself from the madness that is slowly but surely taking it hostage. Polansky also gives his viewers a partial explanation for the madness that will conquer the two Macbeth: their lack of heirs. They will eventually hate and wish to destroy every one that has what they will never beget: children. They also loose all hopes for being physically able to enjoy their marriage since their madness makes them incapable of tenderness even towards each other.

Polansky is very careful with the details revealing the Macbeths' inner world: "From the outset we are included in their conspiracy, wayfarers on heir self-imposed psychological journey into emotional isolation and self-imprisonment. By the end lady Macbeth has cast off crown and robes[…] to become a restless sleepwalker, vulnerable in her nakedness […] and her fragile corpse barely warrants a comment in passing from Macbeth" (Jackson, 2007, p. 132).

In Polansky's screen version of Macbeth, Ross becomes one of the characters that are crucial to the message of the play, compared to his absence from Wells version. He hands to Malcom the crown which stood on the head of the man he served a short while ago, a man that in the end looses his head. The final scene of the fight between Macbeth and Macduff is taking advantage of the film techniques and keeps the tension up to the very end. Polansky develops it as a scene that may have a different outcome. Macbeth is still very confident and even when he finds out that the prophecies will be fulfilled, he is still fighting as if he had a chance to overcome his adversary. The viewer knows that even if he would kill Macduff, he will be lynched by the mob cheering for his opponent. He is nevertheless permitted an honorable fight that indicates he might finish in dignity he is not worthy of. At some point, Macduff is dropping his sword and in a desperate attempt to replace it, he takes a log and uses it as a sword, symbolism of the woods that came to the castle and fulfilled the witches' prophecies. Macbeth never stood a chance and the witches intentionally left that part out when they announced him that he would become king, in the introductory scene.

Ewa Mazierka considers the high degree of subjectivity in Polansky's choices to adapt the play for the screen. She underlines the heavy accent the director places on Macbeth's inner voice and the elements of the film that support the argument that the world is presented in this film mainly through Macbeth's eyes. However, compared to Wells' version, Polansky's is more generous with the rest of the world, even if it appears as presented through the main character's eyes. While Wells' Macbeth is indifferent to everything that does not concern him, Polansky's is able to perceive and analyze characters and places outside his inner world. An additional argument to that theory is "the fact that we accompany Macbeth even after his beheading [which] also testifies to Polansky's interpretation of Macbeth not so much as a tale about Macbeth, but as Macbeth's own story, his autobiography" (Mazierka, 2007, p. 149).

Everything is about brutality in this film and the scene Macbeth' beheading is continuing in this spirit. On stage, in Shakespeare's time, such a scene would have asked a lot of indulgence… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Screen Shakespeare's Rhetoric.  (2010, February 9).  Retrieved September 18, 2020, from

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"Screen Shakespeare's Rhetoric."  9 February 2010.  Web.  18 September 2020. <>.

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"Screen Shakespeare's Rhetoric."  February 9, 2010.  Accessed September 18, 2020.