Scene Analysis in Macbeth Essay Example
Atrocious, uncaring, ambitious. When we read Shakespeare’s Macbeth, these are the characteristics we instantly notice about the character Macbeth. However, in Justin Kurzel’s adaptation to the Scottish play, Kurzel changes the plot by including a war and a child apparition in the dagger scene and by changing the portrayal of Macbeth from an ambitious and inhumane thane to a grieving father. We can immediately tell that the setting is a broken world, a world bent on madness and destruction even before a drop of kingly blood is shed. With these changes, Kurzel demonstrates that grief from death leads to the dissolution of one’s sense of reality and morality and torments one’s soul.
Macbeth’s grief is shown through the ghost reincarnation of a child, which complicates his character and serves as a different motivation for him to murder King Duncan, rather than ambition alone. After his vision of the war ends, Macbeth is led to Duncan’s tent by a ghostly figure of a dead child who died in the war. The ghost serves as a symbol for Macbeth’s grief because Macbeth’s facial expressions after his vision visibly show that he was disheartened by the boy’s death. After the ghost leads Macbeth to Duncan, it is apparent that ambition is not the only reason behind Macbeth’s unspeakable act. Rather, his sadness over the death of the boy encouraged him to kill Duncan, whom the ghost believes is responsible.
After killing Duncan, he seemed unaffected by his horrendous act, which was a result of his grief numbing his feelings and torturing his soul to the point that he cannot feel anything. The addition of the ghost illustrates how Macbeth is no longer the story of ambition's destructive consequences, but a parable of how grief blinds and torments us. The Macbeths have lost a child to nature and a child to Duncan's war, so they plot to kill Duncan and usurp nature. Moreover, the ghost is shown to be holding the dagger by the blade with a bloody hand. This action reveals the ghost’s longing for atonement — atonement for Duncan’s sins.
Namely, the apparition believes that Duncan is responsible for his death because it was his war. By making the hand bloody, Kurzel relates to the saying, “an eye for an eye,” as the blood represented death, and the dagger was Macbeth’s murder weapon. Also, the addition of the ghost changes whom Macbeth’s lines are being spoken to. Specifically, a line that reveals Macbeth’s acknowledgement of his grief is, “Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible / To feeling as to sight? Or art thou but / A dagger of the mind, a false creation / Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?” (II.i.49-51). The director’s use of close-up filming and Macbeth’s grim facial expressions while saying this line show how Macbeth’s grief is tormenting him. Thus, in contrast to the simple character in Shakespeare’s original version who embodies ambition and cruelty, Kurzel’s Macbeth has a much more complex character who is overridden with grief.
Furthermore, the mysterious ghost of the dead child reveals Macbeth’s severe PTSD from the war and signals his grief from his unfulfilled desire for an heir. For example, at the beginning of the scene, Macbeth experiences a vision about the past war and focuses on the death of the teenage boy. The traumatic experience causes recurring thoughts of the boy in Macbeth’s mind and shows his unfulfilled desire for children as shown by the ghost haunting him. Thus, we can conclude that the hallucination or spiritual encounter between Macbeth and the ghost is not only brought on by the violence of the deed he contemplates, but by his grief for absent children. Moreover, the filming techniques and facial expressions set forth by Kurzel helped reveal Macbeth’s sadness over the boy’s death. Namely, during the conversation between Macbeth and the ghost, Kurzel made use of low-key lighting and a close-up shot at eye level to help resemble an intimate father-son relationship. Also, the serious facial expressions by Macbeth helped show his sadness over the death of the child.
The director’s additions completely alter the plot of the play and change the motif from ambition to grief, and fail to effectively show off Shakespeare’s purpose with the dagger scene. For example, it is the boy who commands Macbeth to kill Duncan, and not the dagger from Shakespeare. More symbolically, in Kurzel’s interpretation, Macbeth’s grief ultimately leads him to Duncan’s tent to murder him. However, in the original version, the dagger representing cruelly and ambition is what encourages Macbeth to kill. Furthermore, with the dagger, Shakespeare was trying to convince the audience of Macbeth’s inhumaneness, as the dagger symbolized Macbeth’s true nature. But Kurzel, with the addition of the child apparition, failed to replicate that purpose and instead portrayed Macbeth as more of a humane character blinded with grief than a senseless murderer. In addition, although giving Macbeth a family may make him more relatable, as we can relate to the strength of familiar bonds, the addition fails to give the same impression of Macbeth’s character in the way Shakespeare intended, and therefore makes Kurzel’s adaptation inaccurate.