Macbeth
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Macbeth

This project originated as a costume design independent study at Illinois Wesleyan University under the guidance of Marcia McDonald and was later used as the costume design for the Illinois High School All-state Theatre Festival's production of "Macbeth" under the direction of Tim Frawley. The design is still evolving and will hopefully one day be incorporated into a film version of "Macbeth".



Macbeth I

The opening battle scene sets the tone for the rest of the action of "Macbeth". Narrated by an outside observer and portrayed in the dream-like quality of a memory the sequence depicts the nature of Macbeth's character and foreshadows the subsequent action of the play.

Shakespeare created the plot of Macbeth by combining the story of the historical Macbeth with Holinshed's account of the murder of King Duff by a man named Donwald. It is not unlikely that the Macdonwald named in the beginning scenes of the play was based off this figure.

Though the witches appear to Macbeth for no apparent reason, it is likely that Macbeth performed some action that invited their attention. In this interpretation the curse of the witches passes to Macbeth upon the death of Macdonwald and in turn passes to Macduff upon the death of Macbeth. The potency of the witches' true power is in the perpetual mistaking of vengeance for justice

Macbeth II

In the beginning Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are ordinary people with very human weaknesses. Macbeth is a landowner and a victorious leader in Duncan's army. Historically, Macbeth was first cousin to Duncan and had an equal right to the throne of Scotland. His ascension to the throne came upon the defeat of Duncan in a battle at Pitgaveny in the year 1040 and his reign was virtually undisputed for 14 years.

Lady Macbeth, like her husband, is not by nature and evil woman, but with a weakness for vanity and a desire to be queen her character is consistently self-absorbed. Historically Lady Gruach Macbeth was married to Macbeth in a second marriage. Her dislike of Duncan was probably the result of the death of her first husband at the hand of Duncan's grandfather.

As the play progresses, king and queen Macbeth show an intensified use of red in their wardrobe. This is representative of the blood involved in the ascension to the throne. At the same time their clothes have become cumbersome multi-layered and pretentious. The illusion of bulk and importance indicates Macbeth's insecurity and his attempts to cover his guilt in a literal sense.

Macbeth III

Banquo is a likeable sort of character, a swashbuckling highland Robin Hood: quick in humor, fierce in battle, and reasonable in thought. As an opposite of Macbeth he maintains the story's delicate balance. His death signifies for Macbeth a fall from grace: the turning from good intentions to overwhelming fear.

Restless spirits, such as Banquo's ghost were believed to wander because they died wrongly. Shakespeare does not make it clear how Banquo knows that Macbeth has betrayed him, yet he appears in Macbeth's court in subsequent scenes.

This is a moment where the witches directly manifest their hand in the action of the story. The mysterious third murderer who appears unexpectedly is none other than the third witch "Warlock" As the executor of the witch's wishes he appears for no other reason than to finish the job according to the witches' prophecies by killing Banquo and allowing Fleance to escape ("Thou shalt get kings though thou be none")

As Banquo lies dying he sees "Warlock" standing over him. The face of Warlock appears as the face of Macbeth, and it is made clear that he understands Macbeth's true deception ("Oh treachery").

Macbeth IV

Macduff resembles the side of Macbeth we meet only briefly at the beginning of the play. His devotion to king and family are made clear through his actions yet his fear causes him to leave the country when danger looms the nearest. Through Macduff we meet the Macbeth that is left behind by the desire for power.

Lady Macduff shows the Lady Macbeth we never meet whose interests lie within her family and her home. Though Lady Macbeth executes great power of will in seducing Macbeth with the idea of power, she is not as great a force within herself as is evidenced by her breakdown later in the play.

By contrast, Lady Macduff is willing to defend her home and family against Macbeth's henchmen. Her will to survive and protect does not falter through they are cut short by her death.

More than just a balancing point, the character of Macduff brings home the idea that we are all equally vulnerable to the desire for vengeance or power. By killing Macbeth he falls into the hands of the very power he was attempting to destroy.

Macbeth V

The Witches role in Macbeth is one of Shakespeare's clearest representations of fate in the play. The witches haunt Macbeth with their prophesies yet speak only Macbeth's own thoughts

The first witch "Grimalkin", though spidery and beautiful in appearance is reminiscent of the old superstitions of the medieval mind. Her faerie qualities draw into questions the authenticity of her words yet Macbeth sees only her beauty. Lady Macbeth's influence testifies to Macbeth's view of women as attractive but harmless.

The second witch "Paddock" is neither male nor female and represents the pagan undertones still prevailing in Scotland at the time. The fragments of druidic robes stained and crusted with mud imply a state somewhere between death and resurrection.

The third witch "Warlock" is not limited to a single time or place. A warrior stained with blood at the throat and hands "Warlock" reflects the violence and bloodshed of medieval Scotland. As the strong arm of the witches it is Warlock who sees that the prophecies are carried out.

The Witches' appearances are ever changing. Macbeth sees the witches only as he wishes to see them and in turn they show him only what he wants. Their presence is preceded always by the witches' motif: a Celtic knot that, like the witches, cannot easily be interpreted.

Macbeth VI

The climactic scene when Macbeth learns of the death of lady Macbeth is a scene equal in the desolation that Macduff experiences when he learns of his wife's death. Macbeth cannot set his grief in perspective and he does not react with the disbelief Macduff shows but accepts it wearily.

The action of the scene shows how closely the Witches control Macbeth's fate and the action of the scene is projected onto settings and characters that have been visibly drained of their energy. Macbeth who was so bound by his own power is stripped to barest of essentials that are faded ghosts of their former glory.

As a climactic scene the news of Lady Macbeth's death is a turning point in which Macbeth's choice of either a faded existence at the hands of the Witches or a last act of self will is made clear. He realizes that his newfound power is not worth the price it has cost him. Taking his crown he hurls it away to have it return to his feet. The consequences cannot be escaped.