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Macbeth Versions Comparison Film Analysis Essay

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Updated: Jul 6th, 2020


Macbeth is one of the exciting plays of Shakespeare that deal with tragedies such as murder, violence, and witchcraft. Several artists such as Roman Polanski and Geoffrey Wright have produced different versions of Macbeth, but they have tried to retain its originality. In their versions, the artists have tried to present the originality of the play by using various perspectives to explain the play to the audience.

Owing to the similarities between these two versions of Macbeth, the essay compares the Roman Polanski’s version of Macbeth (1971) with the Geoffrey Wright’s version of the adaptation (2007) by examining how they deal with the theme of violence using murderous activities, witchcrafts, greed for power, and cast.


Murder is a common theme in the two films. Roman Polanski’s version of the Macbeth retells a play that involves a lord, who ascends to power after the actions of treachery, murder, and involvement with supernatural forces. The players that Polanski employs include Annis Francesca, who takes the part of a lady-Macbeth, and Jon Finch, who acts as Macbeth.

The film brings to the fore the story of a highland lord who murders the King out of greed and love for power. In the film, Polanski presents the issue of murder as used in various parts of the film. From the start, the film is full of murderous activities, which involve Macbeth and his soldiers. Polanski commences the film with a conspiracy of the lord’s wife, who kills the King. Leggatt (2006) argues that the acts of murder include the killing of the King, soldiers, and bodyguards, as well as the family of the King.

The film done by Wright illustrates the theme of violence by portraying various acts of murder that dominate the play. Wright portrays murderous acts because the soldiers kill and terminate everyone, who opposes the leadership of Macbeth. Wright strives to retain the original version of the play. The use of classic settings in the design of the play helps in portraying the role that gangsters play in the original play of Macbeth and helps present it in the modern world (Shakespeare 2009).

Therefore, Wright applies modern locations such as Melbourne to exhibit murder, as used by Macbeth in the contemporary world, and tries to ensure that it is in tandem with the original version. From the versions of films done by Wright and Polanski, it is evident that both films exhibit the theme of violence using acts of murder that dominate the play. The aim of the warring groups in the play is to create violence, which results in tragedy and murder.


Witchcraft is another form of violence that the two films present throughout the play. According to the film done by Polanski, witchcraft is one of the powers that the Lord of Scotland uses as a tool for protection and ascension to the throne. Leggatt (2006) explains that the main characters in the play include the lord of Scotland and his wife. The two use witchcraft to ascend to power after the murder of the King. Polanski tries to retain the original version of Macbeth as Shakespeare performed.

However, Polanski depicts the original witchcraft and adds some of his personal innovations used to make the film more appealing and exciting to the audience. The additions made by Polanski are instrumental in expressing the acts of witchcraft in a practical way to enhance understanding among modern viewers.

Thus, Polanski shares the concept of witchcraft using a modern set up and contemporary era to appeal to the modern audience. In addition, the innovations used by Polanski in expressing the role of witchcraft as a tool for fulfilling violent desires make the play more appealing and interesting.

Wright exhibits the concept of witchcraft as a tool used to manipulate and protect Macbeth and her husband from the avengers and loyalists of the King they murdered. Wright uses three students, who pose as witches, and adds some of the modern performances to make the film more exciting for the modern viewers. Notably, Wright retains the original role of the witches as designed by Shakespeare that includes protection and manipulation of individuals.

In addition, the use of witchcraft as a tool of overseeing future events brings the originality of Macbeth in Wright’s film (Shakespeare 2009). Thus, Wright presents the role of witchcraft in the achievement of violent desires of Macbeth from a different perspective but retains the original concept of Shakespeare.

Greed for Power

The greed for power is a source of violence that both films exhibit. Both Polanski and Wright demonstrate the concept of greed for power in their films while attempting to keep the original concept of Macbeth by Shakespeare. Like Wright, Polanski explains that greed for power and kingship led to atrocities like murder and witchcraft. Polanski presents the fact that individuals can only achieve leadership and power through hard work and from the Almighty, but not from wars and murder.

After a foul prophecy from the witches, Macbeth’s greed resulted in the murder of the King and his loyalists (Shakespeare 2009). Although Polanski exhibits this concept of greed for power in a new and different perspective, the message relayed is still the original message intended by the author of the play, Shakespeare. Polanski argues that some of the present individuals, who have greed for power, engage in violent acts as demonstrated by Wright.

Wright presents the need for power and greed in Macbeth in his film using elements of the modern world. Some of the elements that Wright uses to make the play interesting and practical in the modern world include the use of modern characters and present scenes. According to Rowe (2011), the lord of Scotland, just like any other person, is greedy for power and wants to take over the throne.

Wright explains in the play that the egocentric nature of Macbeth and greed for power causes the atrocities that result in the deaths of many people. Due to his excessive desire for power, especially after the prophecy of the witches, Macbeth and his wife start to engage in several violent acts that cause the death of the King. Wright retains the originality of Macbeth and works hard to convey the message of Shakespeare that too much ambition and greed destroys a person and initiates violence.


Polanski expresses the themes of violence in the film of Macbeth through a set of realistic, gritty, and captivating features. From the play of Macbeth, it is evident that Polanski designs the play and permits some of the emotions from the death of his wife to prevail in the film. As a result, many events in the film are full of horrific and thrilling activities from Macbeth and his wife (Holland 2008).

Polanski depicts lady-Macbeth as a beautiful and cunning woman, who uses her prowess to deceive her husband into committing several violent activities. Polanski uses the past craggy coast of Scotland to create some kind of originality on the concept of Shakespeare. Moreover, to maintain the real nature of Macbeth, Polanski employs believable scenes of fights, which present the violent activities that transpired in the original play of Shakespeare.

Wright just like Polanski preserves the original English language in his film, although he includes a few alterations to make the play interesting and instrumental to the contemporary audience. The choice of stage acts makes the play more understandable to the present viewers, and as a result, it becomes more interesting and exciting than the former play by Shakespeare (Leggatt 2006). The captivating and original nature of the film is evident through the application of elements like voice controls, location, and characters.

A combination of these elements makes up a setting that depicts the original concept of Macbeth as pioneered by Shakespeare. The presentation of violent acts on the stage makes the film horrific and terrifying, just like that of Polanski. Hence, Wright uses this combination creatively to exhibit the violent activities that Macbeth performed due to the unending greed for power and leadership.


Macbeth is a play pioneered by Shakespeare, which exhibits tragic murder and the use of supernatural forces. In the play, Macbeth and his wife engage in several violent activities like killing the King of Scotland due to their greed for power. Polanski and Wright are some of the individuals that have produced the play of Macbeth in an attempt to retell the events, which transpired during the play.

Although their films happen in different periods, Roman Polanski and Geoffrey Wright present a theme of violence using various acts of murder, witchcraft, greed, and cast in the play. Although there is a difference in the presentation of these themes, Polanski and Wright try to retain the original concepts that are in the original excerpt of Shakespeare’s play.


Holland, P. 2008, Shakespeare Survey: Macbeth and Its Afterlife, Cancage Learning, New York.

Leggatt, A. 2006, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth: A Sourcebook, Taylor & Francis, New York.

Rowe, K. 2011, Macbeth: Evans Shakespeare Editions, Cengage Learning, London.

Shakespeare, W. 2009, The Tragedy of Macbeth, Aquitaine Media Corp, Chicago.

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