Roman Polanski version Tragedy Macbeth

The adaptation

Fair is foul, and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air”, the unfolding lines of the play as presented by Shakespeare puts forward a narrative oxymoron in the voice of three weird sisters. The Polanski version of Macbeth falls no short in presenting a similar tone and pattern of thoughts in the opening scene. Amidst the cries and the claustrophobic atmosphere of the war and tumultuous battlefield, Polanski did not fail to capture the grim faces and the secret wrath of the three witches. Roman Polanski’s version of “The Tragedy of Macbeth” holds a special space in the minds of voracious readers and the admirers of Shakespeare. No other play or adaptation has managed to capture the emotion of Shakespeare’s play so vividly keeping it close to the original version as much as possible. The film adaptation of Polanski was released in the year 1971. It grabbed the attention of not only the critics and the theatrical audience but also the philistine and people from all across the globe.


Polanski has set the entire film in a different shooting spot. The first scene takes place in barren land that lacks the fertility and the warmth of civilization. The barren land stands symbolic of the barren lives of the evil witches and their evil attempts (Mondale, 2017). The castle scene portrayed the royalty and the reality that flourished throughout the land of Scotland. The movie shifts every time from the barren land or battlefield to the castle, Polanski in this manner has shown the constant shift between the two worlds of infertility and fertility, virtue and evil, love and war. The entire stage and set up was made to shift and given a dynamic nature as opposed to the monotonous tone of morbidity. Different objects of royalty like scepter and crown have been used as props to show flatter the pomp and glory of royalty.


Polanski was too particular about the lighting. He used different mechanisms of lighting on the stage to depict different scenes. The opening scene was filled with and he utilized the low light mechanism to portray the uncertainty of the evils. Every episodic interaction between the evils and the audience was marked with low and soft lights. Dark, being a symbol of evil and uncertainty was utilized differently. Most of the soliloquies of Macbeth which portrayed his ambition and the qualities of being an overreaches were marked by low light to maintain the secrecy of mind (Mondale, 2017). On the other hand, the crowning moments and the glorious moments were framed in broad daylight. Along with lights, different angles of the camera played their part. Close angles to secret conversations like “Bring forth men-children only”, and heart-wrenching soliloquies were noteworthy. When Macbeth was riding with Ban quo, the camera shots and lens was kept at a similar level to show the equal importance of the characters in the frame and their similarity.


Polanski’s adaptation gained popularity for several reasons. The most important among them is costume designing. The witches have been cast in outlandish costumes with weird features and beards. The attire calls for the evil intention and the attitudes of the ‘unearthly’ creatures. The kings and the princes were dressed in royal gowns. Lady Macbeth was presented in different light-colored costumes like white and pink in different scenes. Unlike Shakespeare, Polanski sympathized with the character of Lady Macbeth as she was presented as a powerful, calm, quiet, and modest individual whose every ambition was devoted to her husband. Polanski’s Macbeth is bloody and bold. Violence, ruthless ambition, and hunger for power have been carefully sketched by Polanski in every costume. The Sleepwalking scene presented Lady Macbeth rudely. It displayed the character’s secret confession and conversation with the self. The Lady lacked a name throughout the play and lived in the name of her husband, was shown for the first time to think beyond her husband and encounter with the self without any veneer of costume.

Maddox Smith

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