Comparison between Roman Polanski’s Macbeth and Macbeth on the Estate

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I am going to discuss the difference between Macbeth on the Estate, which is set on a Birmingham housing estate, and Roman Polanski’s Macbeth set in Scotland. Macbeth on the estate is set in the early 1990’s and has similar issues that are brought up in modern day life. Roman Polanski’s version of Macbeth is set in the 11th century and is the closer of the two to the actual play that Shakespeare probably produced. I shall be comparing the two versions of Macbeth in detail looking at language used in the play, certain events that occur and how the different plays interpret them from the original play, the ways the films create tension and atmosphere using such style and technology not available in the days of Shakespeare and how different characters are portrayed in the film.

I feel that Roman Polanski wanted to put Macbeth on the big screen to show the public the amazing imagination that Shakespeare had, therefore his version has to be as close as possible to the real version seen on stages in the past. Ronan Polanski uses old language and creates a feeling of the past by using his surroundings with no modernisation involved so that then the film looked and felt as though it had just been recorded straight from when it happened and not recreated.

Macbeth on the Estate was put on screen to show that Shakespeare can relate to modern times with not much editing involved. The language used is still Victorian but the settings are modern. This is done to prove that the general public does not have to be really into Shakespeare to relate with him and understand his ideas. With little change the play of Macbeth is played in a modern setting with modern characters so that we can relate without having to change the way we look at Shakespeare.

Chris Hurst

Character – Lady Macbeth

The way the character of Lady Macbeth is interpreted by the two directors is very different with certain aspects still kept equal due to originality. In Ronan Polanski’s version she wears the long dresses and looks intelligent, she speaks to Macbeth with respect but authority and is welcoming when the King comes round to celebrate Macbeth becoming Thaine of Cordor. When the time comes she pushes Macbeth a little further enabling him to kill the King.

She persuades him using her feminine side and her presence seems to make him believe in himself to proceed with her wishes. Once the king is dead she plays less of a role in Macbeth’s life except for when she digs him out of a series of holes when he has visions of killing the king and Banquo. He has these visions and when all else fails she comes along and takes him away apologizing for his illness, she makes excuses for him, which shows that she is actually stronger than him because he relies upon her when his body is failing him.

She eventually commits suicide-leaving Macbeth to fight for himself; I think that she becomes psychotic after being able to cope with all of Macbeth’s troubles she has some troubles and he is not there for her which drives her to suicide. This shows that she is a strong woman but cannot cope being so strong for so long and eventually collapses and then becomes psychotic and drives herself to a sorry end.

In Macbeth on the Estate Lady Macbeth’s appears appealing to males, basically showing herself off. I think she does this so that when she suggests killing the king he looks at her and realises that he cannot say no to someone so beautiful. She therefore has the upper hand whenever she wants to. She speaks to Macbeth with a soft caring voice that he seems to be paralysed by and if she does not get an immediate reaction when using this tone she becomes firmer getting her point across whether he likes it or not. She seems unsettled by the kings presence when he comes round to get drunk to celebrate Macbeth becoming Thaine of Cordor.

She does stay up and help him into bed but with no care in the world it seems because she knows that he shall die soon. Macbeth has second thoughts about killing the king but she sets those straight with her loving touch, kiss and talking. She becomes more psychotic toward the end of the film, probably due to losing a child then all the things happening around her. She drives herself to suicide and does not seem to hesitate when committing it, which again shows that she is a strong person.

Chris Hurst

Directors Idea’s – Atmosphere structure

In Ronan Polanski’s version he uses mainly the feature of his surroundings and music to create a feeling of tension. If he wants to create eeriness about the characters on the screen he uses effects such as smoke on the floor to make it seem unnatural, which makes us feel scared or put off by the presence of this character. He uses smoke at its best on the witches right at the start when they are on the beach chanting witchcraft of some sort. If the witches had not been surrounded by smoke then they would appear near enough normal.

They were surrounded by smoke though, this makes us feel that they are not normal and seem to be floating on the smoke therefore creating a feeling of wickedness about them. Polanski also uses music to emphasize certain actions. The best example of this being when Macbeth is stabbing the king and he uses short harp tambourine sounds as the knife penetrates the king’s skin. This creates a feeling that the character is doing more than he actually is and doing it with more purpose than just to stab him. It makes a mark in your memory by using the sound of the tambourine to etch the action into your mind.

In Macbeth on the Estate the music is used a lot to create all kinds of feelings towards the character in that scene. When Lady Macbeth is remembering her lost child in the room that was set up for the boy/girl to be kept in the younger stages of life, she is stood there and children’s music is being played which creates sympathy for Lady Macbeth. The music is played from the moment you see her thinking about the child until she starts to talk, which stops the sympathizing and starts the listening to Lady Macbeth by the audience. Loud music is played when the king is celebrating Macbeth becoming Thaine of Cordor this adds to the celebration showing that all of them are happy for Macbeth but also seems to give the impression that, because of the rock music, some of them are just appearing happy but inside do not want to be there and want to get away or do something to show it. It could also show that something bad is about to happen.

In both Polanski’s version and Macbeth on the Estate when the character thinks about something of importance the music goes silent and a voice over speaks about the thoughts of the character making the audience listen with there full attention the screen also focuses on that certain character so that there is nothing to distract the viewer so that he/she can concentrate fully on what the character is thinking about.

Chris Hurst

Character – Witches

The witches in Ronan Polanski’s version are very similar to what I would have expected from Shakespeare; old hags with ragged clothes hanging off their bodies with creaky voices and ugly faces. This is what most visions of witches are from my perspective. They are very eerie; they know their witchcraft as they chant it out aloud taking turns at different lines. It appears as though the witchcraft has been passed down through three generations because there are three witches, one very old with closed eyes wrinkled face and a walking stick, one a bit younger looking able to see and in no need of a walking aid and a young one who looks about twenty-seven with no wrinkles hurrying about a lot seems to do all the chores and very agile. They never go after Macbeth and try to talk to him, they always wait for him to come to them then possess him with there advice which he laughs about at first obviously taking the easy option of not believing them but then he starts to consider what it would be like if what they said became reality, this then becomes true and he believes everything the witches say from then on.

In Macbeth on the Estate the interpretation of the three witches is the exact opposite with the witches all being young children which is not what people generally expect as witches, but they still play a good part as witches creating a sense of uncertainty about what they are saying so that you can’t make your mind up whether to believe them or not which is what I feel witches were made up to do. They have a room in a flat, which is decorated with all kinds of witchcraft items.

When they first appear they just shout Macbeth when he is outside, probably toying with him so that he would put up a chase so then they can talk to him. When they do first shout his name when he is walking past the flat it already seems slightly peculiar about there actions, the way they are somewhere then appear somewhere else a sense of uncertainty is created from the moment they first appear.

Chris Hurst


If Shakespeare could see both of these films at the time he had wrote his play then I would expect him to laugh at Macbeth on the Estate and absolutely love Polanski’s version because I imagine that Polanski has just created Shakespeare’s version but on a film instead of a play format.

Then again though, if Shakespeare had seen both plays after experiencing modern day life I would expect him to consider Macbeth on the Estate a little more seriously and with more respect to what the producer has tried to accomplish.

If Shakespeare lived in modern day life I presume he would prefer to watch Macbeth on the Estate because it would relate closely to his life compared to Polanski’s version.

Basically Shakespeare would like both versions but the tables would turn either way depending on what time period he lived in so that each one would relate more to that period of time.

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