In my list of cultural encounters, there has long been a major gap: until tonight I had never seen Macbeth.

This is a little surprising, since I've seen and read an awful lot of Shakespeare. At school I did Hamlet and Antony and Cleopatra (and, I think there was also a brief encounter with Julius Caesar there somewhere.) At Uni in first year English we did half a dozen works of Shakespeare. Since then I've seen many productions of Shakespeare: as plays, in movies and on DVDs. But never Macbeth.

(Warning: Plot spoiler follows, so if you don't want to know what happens in Macbeth, stop reading now.)

Tonight I decided it was time to break the spell and finally see the Scottish Play. The ABC was showing Shakespeare Retold: Macbeth. It's a modern re-telling, with the plot set in a Scottish restaurant aiming for a Michelin three star rating. The witches were garbage collectors.

I've been paying attention to Macbeth references for years. There are Macbeth references throughout our culture (and not just "Out, damned spot!"). So by osmosis I pretty well had the play's characters and basic plot worked out: despite the fact that it was in a restaurant, I worked out Duncan, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and Malcolm almost immediately. And as for plot: well, it really does boil down to "Macbeth kills his boss, Duncan. And then lots and lots of other people die. And it all ends up badly for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

Now that I've seen one version (which didn't preserve the text - the language was modernised), I'll have to catch up on other productions.  Roman Polanski's Macbeth will probably be the first one I see. I'll consider Orson Welle's Macbeth from 1948. Throne of Blood (Kumonosu jô) (1957), which sets it in Japan is also apparently a good version.

Comments (4)
Anthony Holmes January 7th, 2007 10:38:43 PM

1) Macbeth
Mike McCormack 30/09/2007 9:02:16 PM

Gosh Anthony, this is a bit of a surprise! Conversely, this was the first Shakespeare play that I read and then saw performed (I recall a very good BBC version of the play done some time in the late 70s or early 80s). Our Year Ten English Teacher, surveying his class of bloodthirsty schoolboys, couldn't have chosen a better way to introduce the Bard. "Is this a dagger I see before me?" and "Out, out damned spot" have fondly stayed with me ever since...

2) I still need to watch the Polanski
6/10/2007 9:09:26 PM

Ten months later, and I still haven't seen a 'proper' Macbeth.

Cultural osmosis mean that I already had a pretty accurate idea of the Macbeth story, even before I saw "Shakespeare Retold: Macbeth". After watching it, I know the story a bit better. But I still need to watch a "good" Macbeth production.

At the moment I assume that this will be the Polanksi movie.

3) Macbeth
Anna Log 16/10/2007 6:01:35 PM

In my humble opinion, the Polanski movie version is an excellent, gore-filled adaptation. Polanski made it soon after the death of his daughter Sharon Tate. It's an especially harsh/cruel interpretation of an already bloodthristy story- you can't help but wonder how his grief afected the film's direction. See it!!!

4) Macbeth:-- Thanks for the recommendation
Anthony Holmes 19/10/2007 12:40:46 PM

I don't know why I keep holding off on watching a good Macbeth. Thanks for the recommendation... now I'm motivated to got and watch the Polanksi version.

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