Interpretations of Macbeth
Different productions of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth offer multiple interpretations of this classic play. The Los Angeles production notebook focuses on the power of the supernatural and includes a synopsis that claims, “Especially in this colored version of Macbeth, the hero appears to be a mere tool in the hands of a witch doctor and his sinister three sisters, who, with weird and sensuous jungle incantations, strip all pretense . . . off loyalties.”
The Boston production notebook, on the other hand, approaches the piece as a murder thriller. The director’s report emphasizes a simple production in which “[s]peed and excitement were the principal keynotes. . . . ” This approach was selected for the audiences of students studying the play: “My object was to send these children back to the classroom with a vivid picture of the play as a whole and perhaps enhance their interest in the study.”
The Cincinnati production notebook features a "Director’s Report" that points out the influence of production limitations on the interpretation: “Realizing we did not have any exceptional Shakespearian actors . . . [I invested] . . . the performance with a novelty in staging and business that would not point up the individual performance too much.”
- What is the emphasis of each production?
- Are the interpretations of each director valid?
- Is there a difference between a general audience and an audience of students? Why or why not?
- How do the various interpretations relate to the goals of each director?
- How do these plays compare to contemporary interpretations of Shakespeare in film or on the stage?
- What makes a play (or any piece of art) open to interpretation?
- Are there general themes or ideas that should always be conveyed?
- How do personal ideas influence interpretations of someone else’s work? What else inspires and influences interpretations?
- Who in a production is responsible for these interpretations? How does this person work with the other members of the production to convey his or her ideas?