Justin Kurzel’s 2015 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth transcends an endeavor to recreate the playwright’s tragedy and proves to be an attempt to portray the genuine emotion and ambiance that Macbeth evokes in readers and viewers. Kurzel’s outstanding artistic vision creates a stunning effect and a sensation of surreal gloom and sorrow. Even before a droplet of royal blood is shed, the audience catches a glimpse of a damaged realm, a society set on insanity and disaster.
The Three Witches
The witches in the original play, also called the weird sisters by several of the heroes, are portrayed in the tragedy with demonic powers and wickedness. The witches’ appearances, strange concoctions, and rhymed phrases make them appear as ludicrous paranormal parodies (Thiselton-Dyer). The playwright intended their talking to be rhyming verses, such as “Double, double, toil and trouble, Fire burn and cauldron bubble” (Shakespeare 52). The utterances of the witches appear nearly humorous, resembling malicious nursery rhymes.
In contrast, the film adaptation of the play represents the witches as humans yet with supernatural powers. Still, both in the movie and space, the witches are undoubtedly the most dangerous figures, being both enormously strong and purely evil. In the adaptation of Macbeth, the three witches say the exact phrases as in the play as they appear before the protagonist: “All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be King hereafter!” (Macbeth 11:38). Thus, while in the original play, the witches are represented as rather comical supernatural creatures, in the film adaptation, the sisters are shown in a gloomy perspective to contrast the real and paranormal world. Yet, in both versions, the sisters are seen as the most dangerous characters.
The encounter of Macbeth with Banquo is the culmination of the play and is also an essential part of the tragedy. Everything was going perfectly for the protagonist in the play until this scene. He initially murdered Banquo while his child, Fleance, escaped. Eventually, he meets Banquo’s ghost during a feast, and matters begin to change for Macbeth. As soon as the ghost of Banquo emerges, only Macbeth can see him, exclaiming that “the graced person of our Banquo is present” (Shakespeare 42). In Kurzel’s film version, the scene opens similarly to the play, with the monarch greeting his guests and speaking to one of the killers in front of the entire crowd. Furthermore, the film incorporates lines from the play, with one of the characters claiming that “his highness is not well” (Shakespeare 43). As a result, the protagonist becomes insane, and everyone notices his strange behavior (Putra). The difference between the play and the film is that in the latter, some guests leave the feast because Macbeth is behaving bizarrely.
The Death of Macbeth
It ultimately comes to the tragedy and perishes for the protagonist in the final scene, as is common in such genre of the play. The army, led by Macbeth’s adversaries Macduff and Malcolm, arrives at his fortress to assassinate him. During the fight between the main character and Macduff, the former says the following in the play: “And damned be him that first cries “Hold! Enough!” (Shakespeare 81). However, in the film, the character’s final words are more specific and aimed at Macduff: “I am not fighting with you” (Macbeth 01:43:15). Nevertheless, the similarity between the film and play is the blade on Macduff’s throat held by Macbeth. Additionally, Macduff tabs his enemy in the stomach and takes his head later as a trophy.
Thus, the three essential components that are necessary for the plot of Macbeth are the Three Witches, Banquo’s ghost, and the final scene, the death of Macbeth. While there are similarities between the film adaptation and the play, such as the incorporated original phrases, the way of killing Macbeth, and the turning point in his mental state, there are specific differences. The movie aims to invoke certain emotions in the audience and create an ominous and mysterious atmosphere, which led the director to omit the creation of a comic representation of the three sisters or maintain the same complicated constructions.
Macbeth. Directed by Justin Kurzel, The Weinstein Company, 2015.
Putra, Suatmo Pantja. “A study on moral values as reflected by two main characters in William Shakespeare s Macbeth.” English Journal of Merdeka, vol. 4, no. 1, 2019, pp. 37-42.
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Dover Publications, 1993.
Thiselton-Dyer, Thomas Firminger. Folk-lore of Shakespeare. Good Press, 2019.