Actors Performance in the play Macbeth (2)





Actors Performance in the play Macbeth


Macbeth is a tragic story written by Shakespeare in the seventeenth century. It is a story about a soldier, Macbeth, who is in search of power. In his quest, he goes ahead to commit murder. Shakespeare used the play to show how poor ambitions and the will to get power in the wrong way can lead to severe consequences. All the bad choices made by the soldier Macbeth in pursuit of power caught up with him in the end. This paper discusses the performances of the actors Ian McKellen, Judi Dench and John Woodvine in the play as Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and Banquo respectively. It describes the choices the actors made in the play both physical and verbal. It goes ahead to illustrate their choices in terms of clarity, logic and satisfaction.

Ian McKellen as Macbeth

Ian McKellen is a renowned actor and the part of Macbeth was one of his best performances. Macbeth is a trusted soldier in Scotland who emerges successful in the war. The other soldiers and King Duncun give him the name brave Macbeth. The King also awards him with the title Thane of Cawdor (Shakespeare, 00:04:20- 00:07:08). However he meets three witches who prophesy that he will be king in the near future. At first he doesn’t believe them. The character of Macbeth is expected to be ambitious and craving for power. Ian McKellen brings out this character well. When he hears the prophesy from the three witches, Macbeth is shown to want to kill the king but tells Banquo that he will leave it to fate. Macbeth also wants to know more about the prophesy but the witches, disappear before he could ask questions (Shakespeare, 00:09:14- 00:11:40). The fact that he thought about killing the king shows that Macbeth’s character is morally corrupt. He goes ahead to write to his wife . Macbeth had thought of killing the king but was against it when his wife suggested it. She has to insult him and bring up their dead child so that he can comply (Shakespeare, 00:28:30- 00:33:00). As the play continues, Macbeth has to kill Banquo so as to cover his bad deeds. The death of Banquo is followed by Banquo’s ghost appearing during banquets in the castle. The ghost traumatizes Macbeth and he starts to behave in a beastly manner (Shakespeare, 01:17:55- 01:20:10). This scene clearly illustrates Macbeth’s humanity and how he has been reduced to someone who needs sympathy and pity.

Judi Dench as Lady Macbeth

The character of Lady Macbeth, played by Judi Dench, depicts a different motivation for her actions than the painful loss of a child; instead, her readiness to commit regicide is motivated by her love for her husband. In a tender speech, Judi Dench’s Lady Macbeth explains how she would assist Ian McKellen’s Macbeth in assassinating the monarch (Shakespeare, 00:28:30- 00:33:00). Later, when she is successful in summoning the spirits, she starts to feel afraid. Dench’s Lady, notwithstanding her fear, resumes the incantation because she is determined to fulfill her husband’s dream (Shakespeare, 00:28:30- 00:33:00). Her affection is also seen when she reads Macbeth’s long affectionate letter to her telling her of his endeavors and the witches’ prophesy.

Judi Dench acting as Lady Macbeth is very passionate to her husband because after Banqou’s death, she gets worried when her husband goes mad. This is unlike her husband’s behavior when she dies. Macbeth reacts and comments that her death was inevitable (Shakespeare, 02:13:30- 02:13:40). Dench was also very good in illustrating how Lady Macbeth was affected by all the occurrences. As much as she was the mastermind behind the murder of King Duncun, she was tormented and ended up sleepwalking (Shakespeare, 02:01:50- 02:02:11). She also calls out to hell in the midst of her torment, showing fear on her face as she looks at her hands covered with imaginary blood (Shakespeare, 02:01:50- 02:02:11). The imagery used to portray the character by Dench leaves the viewers feeling like she is beyond redemption. I however don’t think Lady Macbeth was a villain as the play illustrated. Her main goal was to support her ambitious husband which led to her death.

John Woodvine as Banquo

The character Banquo is Macbeth’s best friend. The three witches appear to both Macbeth and Banquo and prophesy that Macbeth is destined to be king of Scotland while Banquo’s sons will be kings of Scotland (Shakespeare, 00:09:14- 00:11:40). John Woodvine brought out Banquos character as observant, less spoken, furtive and shrewd. Both characters are seen to be ambitious. After the death of King Duncan, Macbeth takes over the throne (Shakespeare, 00:57:20- 01:00:05). Banquo swears loyalty to the new king. However, Macbeth sees him as a threat since he is the only person other than his wife who knows about the meeting with the witches. He sends assassins to kill Banquo but Banquo’s son ends up escaping (Shakespeare, 00:13:50- 00:14:35). Banquo’s character as a ghost brings out the fear in Macbeth almost turning him mad. The ghost brings mental imbalance to Macbeth making him move around the stage like a mad man. Nobody else in the feast appears to see what Macbeth is seeing so they all react in confusion (Shakespeare, 01:17:55- 01:20:10). The viewers are left to conclude for themselves that Macbeth’s sins have started to catch up with him. Maybe Woodvine would have appeared on the scene but dressed in white clothes to illustrate that he is a ghost would have been more direct to the viewers.


The actors in the play use their performances to make the viewers understand the characters better. Their personalities are well brought out in the choices that they make and the changes that occur as the play continues. The viewers observe different characters, each of whom has a unique motivation for carrying out the deed and is personally impacted by its results. This essay has demonstrated not only how content analysis can support and advance performance and performance theory but also how the understanding of each actor can broaden and contribute to our understanding of the play and its character types. Eventually, the play gives and receives critical elaboration.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth.

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