Macbeth and Issues of Gender

byDeborah Samuel


William Shakespeare's Macbeth is both the author's shortest and bloodiest play. It is therefore a natural choice for high school students. Plays are meant to be performed and not merely read, as is usually the case in the high school classroom. Therefore, it is a happy occurrence that instructors may now use video recordings, audio recordings, and DVDs to bring the performance element into the classroom. But performance on film was not Shakespeare's medium. On stage, the audience gets to look where it wants. The actors get to say their lines without fear of winding up on the cutting floor. When we switch from a play to a film, the director is king, and we now have possibly quite a different experience.

The artistry of cinema and the difficult task of taking a stage play and reinterpreting it for a different medium offer students and teachers a plethora of interesting, and sometimes controversial choices to examine. The intention of this curriculum unit is to examine many of these cinematic alterations and interpretations and to use them to enrich the classroom discussion of Macbeth. How do the costumes add to or conflict with our understanding of the characters? Does the casting seem appropriate? For instance, is a particular Lady Macbeth too old, too young, too sexy, or too ugly to have caused the reactions in Macbeth that we see? Why was a particular location chosen? Was the director looking for authenticity, trying to convey a message, or did he simply run out of money? What changes in mood occur when lighting or the background music are added? Many such questions and more may be posed when considering a scene of Macbeth on film, or of any adaptation of literature to film.


Macbeth is an appealing play for both male and female twelfth grade high school students. The subject matter of the play is known to involve murder and violence, and at first glance, not much more than a man whose ambition got the better of him. We have in Macbeth what appears to be the ultimate man, one who knows exactly what he wants, a man of action. However, Shakespeare is capable of writing far more nuanced characters than that. I propose that we look at many non-linguistic issues of film to help illuminate the subtleties in the language of Shakespeare.

Macbeth is introduced to us before he ever appears on stage. This is a technique that Shakespeare often employs. We learn of Macbeth's "valiant," "brave," and "noble" virtues, his exploits on the battlefield, and of the admiration of his king before he steps foot onto the stage. The exploits of Macbeth in battle are vividly described. We learn that Macbeth unhesitatingly "unseam'd" the "merciless Macdonwald" "from the nave to the chaps," and with a bit of foreshadowing of future events, "fix'd his head upon [their] battlements." We learn that "brave Macbeth" killed so many that his sword "smok'd with bloody execution." We discover that, even when "shipwrecking storms and direful thunders break," and the opposition begins "a fresh assault," neither Macbeth nor Banquo were anymore dismayed than eagles are by sparrows, or lions by gentle rabbits. Thus they turn the tide of battle so completely, and vanquish their enemies so thoroughly, that "poor Sweno, the Norweyan lord" must beg to have their dead soldiers buried on Scottish soil.

"The narrative casts forth an image of Macbeth as an almost superhuman engine of destruction," says Derek Cohen. "The phrase 'carv'd out his passage' is no neutral description of warrior's progress, but a terrible image of bloody slaughter as Macbeth makes a corridor of bodies between himself and Macdonwald. The smoking sword speaks not only of the hidden demonism of the hero, but also the wrath with which he wreaks his righteous havoc" (Cohen 130).

As a result, we are thoroughly prepared to meet a man who is decisive, brave, undaunted by overpowering enemies — a man who knows what he needs to do and does it, and certainly a man who does not flinch from bloody acts. So it is with great surprise, perhaps astonishment, that we see this great man of the battlefield, this man among men, brought to his knees by the powers of "equivocation," manipulation, and persuasion by the women of the play. Or is that what has happened? Was it instead a form of permission for Macbeth to act out his ambitions already lurking in his heart? We have already heard about Macbeth's ambitions and thoughts so horrible that he wonders, "why do I yield to that suggestion/Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair/And make my seated heart knock at my ribs" (I, iii).

Scholar Dennis Biggins says that "Shakespeare carefully avoids portraying a Macbeth helplessly caught in the grip of irresistible demonic forces; the Weird Sisters' malice is evident in all their traffickings with him, yet nowhere are we shown invincible proof of their power over him" (256). Was this man, who fights so bravely on the battlefield, so weak and uncertain of his own actions once at home that he can be swayed with a well-constructed argument, or a trick of fortune telling? What comments is Shakespeare making about gender stereotypes of his time? What happens when a man or woman attempts to "o'erleap" the role that has been spelled out for them in society and go another way?

This curriculum unit will address these questions. Students will examine selected scenes from four screen adaptations of Macbeth: Roman Polanski's Macbeth (1971), Orson Welles' Macbeth (1948), Men of Respect (1990), and Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood (1957), or its more direct translation, The Castle of the Spider's Web. Each director has his own approach, visible in camera angles, lighting, sound, casting, omission and inclusion of Shakespeare's lines, and the addition of scenes never written by Shakespeare. We will examine Macbeth through the questions it raises about the nature of men and women. How are the witches and Lady Macbeth depicted? Who do they cast? How are they dressed? How do they sound and move? Students will view selected scenes of the women in Macbeth to enrich their discussions of Shakespeare's apparent attitudes. What is Shakespeare's original intent, and do the directors aim to be faithful to this, or do they alter the meaning of the play as written to suit a contemporary audience or personal point of view?


The world that Shakespeare has created in Macbeth is a world of men and women living with gender stereotypes: crossing them, fighting against them, and the blurring of roles. Interestingly, according to Holinshed's Chronicles of Scotland, the inspiration for many of Shakespeare's plays, we learn that in the days of the historic Macbeth, once the actual King of Scotland, women were not kept in a quiet, weak, uninvolved role. We learn from Carolyn Asp that "Holinshed actually writes of this period that 'in the daies also the women of our countries were of no lesse courage than the men; for all stout maidens and wives. . .marched as well in the field as did the men, and so soone as the armie did set forward, they slue the first living creature that they found, in whose bloud they not onlie bathed their swords, but also tasted thereof with their mouthes"(158). Shakespeare, on the other hand, creates a world where it is unnatural for women to fight. In Act IV, scene iii, Ross is explaining to Macduff how bad things go under the rule of Macbeth, so bad in fact, that "your eye in Scotland would. . .make our women fight." Asp believes that "this comment suggests that Shakespeare took liberties with his source in order to create an artistic world in which he could examine male and female stereotypes"(158).

Men and women do have differences, to be sure, and Kimbrough refers to these differences as "infinitesimal." The differences really exist not in the body, he says, but in the mind, and by Shakespeare's era, the separation between men and women had become "an absolute division of humanity, not into subtypes of one species, but into separated types, each treated as if it were itself a separate species" (175). The separate species of the male was on top, women below. Shakespeare examines these strict distinctions in his plays. Women dress as men, as just one example, who were really boys playing women. He enjoys the opportunity to examine human nature, and clearly, he can see the reality beyond the roles played by men and women - the each is capable of the characteristics and strengths of the other. "Shakespeare sensed that humanhood embraces manhood and womanhood. Shakespeare sensed that so long as one remains exclusively female or exclusively make, that person will be restricted and confined, denied human growth. . .his works move toward liberating humanity from the prisons created by inclusive and exclusive gender labeling" (Kimbrough 175).

Although both the men and women of Shakespeare's Macbeth are important, the focus of this curriculum unit is the women of the play: Lady Macbeth and the witches. Macbeth may appear at first to be a stereotypical, uncomplicated man, and will become more complex later on; Lady Macbeth, however, reveals her complicated personality from the start.

Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth is one of the strongest women in all of Shakespeare's plays. However, consider how she must contend with the role of women in her world. In order for Lady Macbeth to carry out her plans, she feels she must pray that the gods "unsex [her] here." Even then, it is not her intent to carry out the murder of Duncan herself, but to spur on her husband to "catch the nearest way." "And the irony of this attempt to masculate herself is highlighted by the fact that she was trying to be the 'good and dutiful' wife of the newly emerging middle-class culture, trying to 'better' her husband" (Kimbrough 187).

Shakespeare's Scotland is a warrior society with little place for women. "Women are subordinate to men and divorced from political influence because they lack those qualities that would fit them for a warrior society"(Asp 158). We have already seen how Macbeth's first entrance into the play follows his brave actions on the battlefield.

In Macbeth, and elsewhere in Shakespeare, as in Elizabethan literature in general, to be 'manly' is to be aggressive, daring, bold, resolute, and strong, especially in the face of death, whether giving or receiving. To be 'womanly' is to be gentle, fearful, pitying, wavering, and soft, a condition often signified by tears. That machismo was a positive cultural virtue in Shakespeare's day is what gives point to Lady Macbeth's strikes against her husband. Indeed, the play opens and closes with ceremonial and romantic emphasis on brave manhood. In the beginning, such is the theme of the description given of 'brave Macbeth' by that 'good and hardy soldier' whose 'words become thee as thy wounds. /They smack of honor both.' (Kimbrough 177).

Lady Macbeth is not aligned with the stereotypes in Shakespeare's Macbeth, but nonetheless she must contend with them from both inside and outside herself. Asp outlines many examples of ways that the characters of Macbeth cannot overcome their male/female stereotypical roles. Despite Lady Macbeth's desire to be more like a man for the task at hand, she proves to be still the weak female when it comes to the actual deed. She needs wine to maintain her courage. As she says, "That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold" (II, ii). She jumps and starts at every sound saying, "Hark! Peace! It was the owl that shriek'd" while waiting for her husband to return from his murderous act. She thinks of killing Duncan herself when she has the daggers in her hands, but holds back, saying, "Had he not resembled/My father as he slept, I had done 't"(II, ii). The speech of both Macbeths is "staccato," demonstrating the fear they are both feeling at that moment.

Macduff arrives, discovers the murdered Duncan, and awakens the household. Lady Macbeth enters feigning outrage by the disturbance, and Macduff replies with concern for her gentle nature as a woman, "O gentle lady, /'Tis not for you to hear what I can speak:/The repetition, in a woman's ear, /Would murder as it fell" (II, iii). In fact, he is correct to be concerned, because shortly thereafter, she is overcome by the news of murder. It is not Duncan's death that overwhelms her womanly sensibilities, but the news that Macbeth has gone beyond their plan and murdered the chamberlains who had been "mark'd with blood" of Duncan. Macbeth admits, "That I did kill them" (II, iii), and Lady Macbeth exclaims, "Help me hence, ho!" (II, iii) as she faints, Macduff requesting, "Look to the lady" (II, iii). Despite her attempts to go beyond her own gender, in the end, she proves that she remains a "lady."

Derek Cohen states, "The equation of manliness with violence, a truism in the criticism of Macbeth, has a curious double edge. It is from Lady Macbeth that Macbeth himself takes his images of manliness. His fears and scruples, his anxious dependence on his wife's opinions bespeak a sensitive 'femaleness' in his own nature which is visibly belied by her brutality. We are left in gender limbo"(133).

So Shakespeare seems to have deliberately chosen to examine what happens when a man or a woman departs from sexual stereotypes. In the case of Lady Macbeth, we see the tragic result of one who pushes for the ultimate act of violence, in a manly fashion, not able to predict the "manliness" she will unleash in her husband, or the distance it will create between herself and her "partner in greatness."

Women as Forces of Evil and Lady Macbeth

Women are a dangerous presence in Macbeth. According to Stephanie Chamberlain, fear of the power of women was a strong force in early modern England. Women could wield control over patrilineage in ways men could not. Women could be unfaithful in marriage, thus changing the lineage, and a husband could be duped into raising another man's child. Women could pass on traits, both wanted and unwanted, through nursing, rearing of children, and neglect of children. It was feared that women would commit infanticide. Chamberlain tells us, "Perhaps no other early modern crime better exemplifies cultural fears about maternal agency than does infanticide, a crime against both person and lineage"(3).

Coursen suggests, in fact, that the story of Adam and Eve underlies the entire play. He says, "The myth vibrating beneath the surface of Macbeth is of the original myths - that of the fall from a state of grace" (375). When she says, ". . .look like the innocent flower, /But be the serpent under't (I, v), he believes that "The serpent suggests the deception which slithered into Eden to tempt Eve," and that "Lady Macbeth here is the tempting serpent and, of course, is also the deceived" (376).

In Act I, scene seven, we see Lady Macbeth acting as the ultimate temptress. She skillfully pulls out all the stops to manipulate her husband. When Macbeth informs his wife that "We will proceed no further in this business" (I, vii), she impugns the ultimate definition of manhood, his sexual prowess, when she replies, "Art thou afeard/ To be the same in thine own act and valor/As thou art in desire?"(I, vii), and then almost immediately questions whether or not he would choose to "live a coward." He replies, "I dare do all that may become a man" (I, vii), feeling he must defend himself against her accusations. She does not stop there. First she acts as if the idea originated with Macbeth and not herself saying, "What beast was't then/That made you break this enterprise to me?" (I, vii) and adds, "When you durst do it, then you were a man" (I, vii). She continues to wheedle seductively, saying, "And, to be more than what you were, you would/Be so much more the man." (I, vii). Next, in the very same speech, Lady Macbeth utters the cryptic lines stating that, rather than back out of this promise to kill Duncan, she would sooner take "the babe that milks me:/I would, while it was smiling in my face, /Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums/And dash'd the brains out" (I, vii).

When Macbeth responds with, "If we should fail?" (I, vii), we see that she had indeed succeeded in convincing him to go through with the murder of Duncan after all. And she is not through yet. She has the entire plan worked out, and all her husband must do is follow instructions. Macbeth is so in awe of his wife's power and force at that point that he states that she should "Bring forth men-children only;/For thy undaunted mettle should compose/Nothing but males" (I, vii). Apparently, Macbeth feels he must prove his manhood to his wife even though seemingly all of Scotland has acknowledged his bravery and courage. By the end of a scene like this, what man could stand up to such a woman?

The Witches

Fear of women in early modern England is also evidenced by the accusations of witchcraft toward primarily women. "In the period 1300-1500 about two-thirds of all accused were women. A closer examination. . .indicates, however, that many of the male one-third were persecuted in the early fourteenth century, and by the end of this period the trials. . .show an overwhelming concern with women" (Anderson 172). The question is why were women the targets to such an overwhelming degree of this barbaric persecution, and why was this so readily accepted? Where were the defenders of women?

Anderson and Gordon point to the lowly position of women in the Middle Ages, "even in the earlier period of 'courtly love'" (Anderson 173). They quote Eileen Power when they say, "a fundamental tenet of Christian dogma was the subjection of women, while: 'The view of woman as instrument of the Devil, a thing at once inferior and evil, took shape in the earliest period of Church history and was indeed originated by the Church.'" (173).

The belief in witchcraft, therefore, was not new when King James took the throne of England in 1603. However, as in many things, Elizabeth took a moderate approach to their prosecution. King James, on the other hand, fancied he was an expert, wrote his own book on the subject entitled Daemonologie, and even participated personally in some witch trials (Best 1). A renewed and more enthusiastic persecution of witches was exported from Scotland along with their monarch. Between 1560 and 1707, somewhere between three thousand and four thousand five hundred had "perished horribly" in Scotland, more thanin England, despite a much more meager population (Anderson 176). One of King James' acts once he took the English throne was to "extend the death penalty" to many more accused witches than had been the case under Elizabethan law.

The English, however, never matched the Scots in these large numbers. In fact, Anderson and Gordon report a study by Notestein suggesting that "self-confident and independent women who increasingly appear in late sixteenth and early seventeenth century drama probably mirrored real changes taking place in all levels of English society" (177).

Do the women of Shakespeare's Macbeth reflect a set of conflicting opinions about women of his day? "The relative mildness of English witchcraft and witch persecution can, therefore, be attributed to the difficulties involved in translating an image derived from a sexual mythology which saw women as generically inferior and inherently evil into one which could appear credible to a society which saw women in a different light" (Anderson 181).

So we have a very conflicted image of women as source material for Shakespeare's Macbeth. On one hand, we have the text from Holinshed telling us that women were courageous and powerful members of the army in the Scotland of the eleventh century. On the other had, we have the women of Shakespeare's own time circumscribed to a very definite and subordinate role, while ever more independent women begin to appear. Simultaneously, and perhaps in part because of this, women are feared and persecuted, and seen as "inherently evil." Are the witches in Macbeth the ultimate personification of that much-feared independent woman? Wouldn't women of 2007 be able to relate to operating in a society filled with conflicted feelings?

Lady Macbeth, of course, has her husband, and she very solicitously refers to him as "My thane." Lady Asaji , in the Japanese version, is careful to say "My Lord" when speaking to Washizu. The superior position of the men must not be ignored if they hope to be at all persuasive. In Early Modern England, the patriarchal family was a value enforced from many directions, especially the Christian Church. Bever explains, "European male leaders considered patriarchal families to be the foundation of society. . . 'Assertive and aggressive' women challenged this order, and could be beaten by their husbands, punished for moral offenses ranging from scolding to adultery, or, at the extreme, burned for witch craft" (956).

The witches in Macbeth fly in the face of the patriarchal society. Early in the play, the witches seem to have no such male superior. Macbeth and Banquo meet three strange women on the heath with no man in sight. Or are they women? Banquo wonders this when he says, "you should be women, / And yet your beards forbid me to interpret /That you are so" (I, iii). So even their appearance sets them apart from normal women.

Prior to this we hear about one escapade of the witches who take revenge against a sailor's wife who would not share her chestnuts! What does the witch do? She goes after the woman's husband. "Her husband's to Aleppo gone, master o' the Tiger;/ But in a sieve I'll thither sail, / And, like a rat without a tail, / I'll do, I'll do, I'll do" (I, iii). The other witches offer to send additional wind to help her. She plans to keep the sailor awake so that "Sleep shall neither night nor day/ Hang upon his pent-house lid;" (I, iii), and then proudly displays "a pilot's thumb" (I, iii). Shakespeare is letting us know a thing or two about these "weird sisters." What is his take on them? I would ask my students to speculate. They do not seem to be as malevolent as Macbeth will later become. We do not hear of brutal murders at their hands. Yet they are not dutiful wives or carefully chaperoned daughters. They are disorderly and disheveled, outside of society's norm, and worst of all, seem to enjoy that position.

The Films

Lady Macbeth and the witches have been depicted a wide variety of ways in theater performance and screen adaptations. Directors differ widely in their opinion of the proper way to portray her. Just think of the difference between stern and masculine Dame Judith Anderson in the NBC production of Macbeth in 1954 versus feminine, young and sexual Francisca Annis in Roman Polanski's Macbeth. Students will be asked to examine several productions of Shakespeare to evaluate these differences.

Kurosawa's Throne of Blood, or Cobweb Castle

Early in his career, Akira Kurosawa was pulled to make a film of Macbeth. However, when he heard that Orson Welles was already doing the same, he postponed his project and completed his version in 1957. This black and white film is in Japanese with subtitles, but would still be exciting enough to hold the attention of many students. Kurosawa follows the general outline of Shakespeare's story, though in a somewhat simplified version. He saw a connection between medieval Scotland and medieval Japan, while also being relevant to contemporary society. One place where we see subtle differences is in his depiction of Asaji, his Lady Macbeth. Anthony Dawson says, "The scene mirrors and departs subtly from Macbeth. Washizu is even less ambitious than his counterpart, more troubled and uncertain, while Asaji is much darker and more implacable than Lady Macbeth. She is the driving force throughout and . . . is unalloyed evil. . ." (167). What are her exact words? "Is she more evil?' would be a question for my students to answer for themselves.

Kurosawa creates a connection between the witch (only one in this screen version) and Lady Asaji. He uses elements of Noh Theater to portray both women while not doing so with the male characters. "It is the two women who live in this stylized and ritual world" (Richie 119). Dawson also sees a strong connection between the two female characters in the film. He states, "In Throne of Blood there are really only two women, and they are mirrors of each other - Asaji and the strange, ambiguously gendered spirit in the forest, who spins her wheel and knows, perhaps even controls, the fates of vain and mortal men who 'end in fear.' It is a man's world, but it is the woman who makes things happen" (167). This witch is notable for her androgynous appearance. She is dressed like a woman, but appears to be a man in woman's clothing. This is taking women with beards one step further, and is in complete contrast to the very lady-like appearance of Lady Asaji. Why this appearance of the witch chosen will prompt much discussion, I hope.

Lady Asaji has the most steely, single-minded persona imaginable, practically unmoving behind her white mask as she proposes the murder. However, like Lady Macbeth, her "womanly" fear appears once Washizu leaves the room to commit the deed. "Asaji, now alone, first sinks to her knees, then leaps up and moves wildly to the bloodied wall while percussion and flute beat a frenzied accompaniment. Incipient madness? Fear? We aren't sure, but it feels like a way of conveying the doubt implicit in Lady Macbeth's 'Had he not resembled/My father as I slept, I had done't.'" (Dawson 167-8)

Orson Welles' Macbeth

Orson Welles made his version of Macbeth in 1948,thesame year that Laurence Olivier's Hamlet was due to be released. The studio producing Hamlet was so enamored of Laurence Olivier and this project that no expense was spared, either in the making of the film, its subsequent advertising, or its distribution. Life magazine featured an eleven-page spread trumpeting its arrival. The international press waited for the film in gleeful anticipation. Mr. Welles, on the other hand, was derided from the start. He had to make do with the smallest budget, and reviews panned his movie from all directions, especially in comparison to Olivier's Hamlet. Life magazine's review said, "'Orson Welles doth foully slaughter Shakespeare in a dialect version of his 'Tragedy of Macbeth'" (Anderegg 74). Nonetheless, it is today appreciated by many film critics and is an interesting film to compare to the other adaptations of Macbeth.

Welles depicts a world that is primitive, and the sets are sparse, but in fact this lends to the atmosphere of an eleventh century Scotland. Michael Anderegg, considered by Dudley Andrew, Professor of Film at Yale University, to be among the very best critics of Shakespeare films in the USA, explains that

. . .the opening precredit sequence of Macbeth. . .exemplifies Welles's approach throughout: the viewer is immediately caught up in a series of seemingly unconnected images and sounds, a melding together. . .of the rational and the irrational, the concrete and the abstract, the specific and the general. Underlying the images - of clouds, the sea, the witches, rain, flames - is a mélange of sound and musical effects. . .These incongruently juxtaposed images and sounds not only set the tone and create the atmosphere for the events to follow, but provide as well, in microcosm, an exposition of Welles's mode and methods: the film, in its entirety, will be like the mud voodoo figure of Macbeth the witches pull up from the murky depths of their cauldron - a crude, primitive, roughly molded but at the same time powerful and evocative substitute for Macbeth himself, conjured up from the materials at hand, magically brought to life by the imaginative manipulation of eccentric conjurers" (Anderegg 80-81).

Anderegg's view of the film could serve as an excellent starting point for students to consider the rest of the film

The scene based on Act I, scene seven between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, when he first arrives home after the fateful predictions, contains numerous line deletions, a reordering of lines, and an execution of the traitor Cawdor in the background as Macbeth kisses his wife. We first glimpse Lady Macbeth lying on a bed of furs, such as the ancient Scottish might have used, and she is reading Macbeth's letter. She writhes on the bed as she reads it. When she speaks to deliver her "unsex me here" speech, she has a Scottish accent. This Lady Macbeth is not young, but when Macbeth returns to the castle, the sexual relationship is apparent.

Daniel Juan Gil makes much of the fact that Welles does not use the traditional method of filming conversations through use of the "shot/reverse shot," which is "an editing pattern that cuts between individuals according to the logic of conversation" (Corrigan 176). According to Gil, Welles' idiosyncratic film techniques are ripe with meaning. For instance, he believes that because of the lack of the shot/reverse shot filming, something that so signifies normal social contact, we are witnessing "a sign of profoundly sexualized, socially deviant intimacy that binds Macbeth and Lady Macbeth" (3). He also says the "the extreme high/low shots. . .mark King Macbeth's social deviance" (5).

Drawing my students' attention to the various possibilities of how one scene can be filmed would be fertile territory for interpreting a filmmaker's intent. We can look at camera angles, such as high and low shots, as well as how often a director has placed cuts in his scenes. For instance, if the director uses quick cuts, as opposed to Welles' famous long shots, what mood does it create? What meaning, if any, can we infer?

The witches in this screen adaptation are kept at a distance from the viewer. We are not able to see their faces clearly, nor can we see whether or not they possess the beards mentioned by Banquo. They have long, wild hair and are holding what appear to be large pitchforks. Sarah Hatchuel says, "The forked staffs they hold connote evil and demonism, and are directly opposed to the Christian crosses carried by the Scotsman (who are recent converts from Paganism) throughout the film" (3). She also believes that by making it impossible to see the faces of the witches " through numerous out-of-focus shots, fading in/out and dissolves, creates a world in which certainty is lost and the instability of form and meaning reigns" (4). In fact, Welles has inserted a scene with soldiers in prayer on their knees that was not written by Shakespeare. I would ask students to consider reasons for Welles to have inserted this religious motif. Welles takes a definite stand on who is at fault for the tragedy. The witches "pour ingredients and shape, out of clay, a voodoo doll representing Macbeth. As J. Lawrence Guntner notices, Macbeth is therefore presented as 'their creation and their toy'" (Hatchuel 3).

Roman Polanski's Macbeth

Polanski directed the most bloody version of Macbeth shortly after the Manson murders of Sharon Tate, his wife, and the other unfortunate visitors in his home. Anyone watching in 1971 would have been thinking about these much publicized brutal murders. Several very violent scenes, in fact, have been added to the film that do not appear in Shakespeare's original play. For instance, we not only hear about the murder of Lady Macduff and family. We see the murderers enter her private accommodations, finger and break her belongings (much as the Manson murderers may have done at Polanski's own home), and we are also "treated" to the brutal rape of a servant in the background. It is also interesting to note that the executive producer of the film is Hugh Hefner. Students may want to speculate what influence someone like Hugh Hefner may have had on the production. Of all the film adaptations of Macbeth using Shakespeare's original language, this Lady Macbeth is the most young, beautiful, and sexual. Was it really necessary for the witches to appear naked in the cave when Macbeth returns to question them? Francesca Annis as Lady Macbeth is shown naked as well once she has lost her mind, (her long hair covers all frontal nudity). Do these choices have a valid reason that adds to our understanding of the play?

Polanski's three witches are strange in appearance, though none have beards. He begins the film with a strong hint that the witches are responsible for what happens when he shows them on a beach digging a hole, and in that hole they place a dismembered hand holding a dagger. In this adaptation, women appear to be more powerful, and they are more brutally treated. Is there a connection?

Men of Respect

This film stars John Turturro, Stanley Tucci, Rod Steiger, Peter Boyle and other stars that students are bound to recognize. It was released in 1990, but does not seem at all dated to students in 2007. I love showing this film after we read Macbeth because it takes not only the spirit of Shakespeare's play, but imitates nearly every nuance and event while updating the language and setting. Macbeth is now Mikey Battaligia, Banquo becomes Bankie Cuomo, Donalbain becomes Donny, etc. Instead of witches, Mikey and Bankie suddenly find themselves in the strange parlor of an old woman (with two male companions) who goes into a trance and tells them their fortune. Instead of thanes of Scotland, the characters are members of the mob, pledging total loyalty to the "Padrino." An excellent way to review the reading of Macbeth is to ask students to point out all of the counterparts and related sequences from Men of Respect that are in the original Shakespeare.

The close connection between Mikey and his wife is made quite apparent in the scene where he lies naked in bed next to his clothed wife while she massages his neck. (It is still possible to show older high school students because his leg is strategically crossed. You do see John Turturro's backside, however. The movie is "R" rated, I believe, mainly for its violence.) "Why is he naked in this scene?" I would ask my students. Is it merely to demonstrate the sexual relationship, or is it there to add to the sense of Mikey's vulnerability?

How is this modern-day woman, this mob wife, portrayed? Is she as strong or as weak as we imagine Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth to be? One would imagine that a powerful woman today would be more acceptable, but yet she is still the woman behind the man urging him on to take his rightful place at the top. Is the powerful woman of today real, or does her position in the world of organized crime change her circumstances? I look forward to hearing the opinions of my students.


I love teaching Shakespeare's plays to high school students. The plots are exciting, and I get to see my students progress from needing every single line explained in detail to being able to get the gist of the play on their own by the time we are half way through. This is exciting to me. In the past, when we finished reading the play, as a reward and as a method of reviewing, we would watch at least one screen adaptation in full. This curriculum unit is intended to try another approach. It would never be possible to show more than two films in class in their entirety. With all there is to accomplish, even that much is most likely too much. With the use of film clips that focus the attention of students on particular elements of study, we have a case of "less is more."

I have several specific objectives for this unit. All of them involve increasing students' critical thinking and skills of analysis in one way or another. It has been my experience that by asking students to compare two things - two characters, two stories, two poems, two styles of writing, or in this case, two versions of the same work of literature (one a play, the other a film), more becomes apparent in each. Someone once said that to know happiness, one must also know sadness. It is through comparison only that each is knowable. When Lady Asaji is as still as marble, Washizu looks that much more anxious. When we look at a picture of Dame Judith Anderson as Lady Macbeth, Francesca Annis's beauty, youth and sexuality become that much more apparent.

The primary objective of this curriculum unit is to provide a means of further analyzing the characters of Shakespeare's Macbeth through the use of comparison. We will have already read a good portion of Macbeth. Watching, analyzing, and comparing clips of four film adaptations will enhance my students' ability to listen, and to think critically about what they are watching. Students will be asked to attend to details beyond their usual practice, so an additional objective is to make more informed and active moviegoers of a previously passive audience. As part of the follow-up to the unit, students will have an opportunity to enhance their analytical writing skills.

This unit is designed to develop students' skills in "reading, analyzing, and interpreting literature" as stated in Pennsylvania State Standard 1.3. In particular, State Standard 1.3.E. is to "analyze drama to determine the reasons for a character's action taking into account the situation and basic motivation of the character."

The particular objective of Lesson Plan One is to prepare students to begin thinking about gender issues. Just what does it mean to be a man or a woman? In Lesson Plan Two, it is my objective to consider gender issues, but also to give my students perhaps their first experience of a close reading of a film. Students will be introduced to a new vocabulary of film techniques. Then they will be asked to apply these definitions and point out how the director has placed the camera, used the lighting, decorated the stage, etc. to portray his vision of the play. In Lesson Plan Three, prior to viewing Throne of Blood, I believe it is important to acquaint students a bit with Noh Theater and the Samurai Warrior tradition. We will then slowly watch a clip of the film and do a close reading of a scene between Lady Asaji and Washizu. How has Kurosawa skillfully used the techniques of film to express his point of view? In what ways do we see Lady Macbeth anew after watching Kurosawa's version? In Lesson Plans not fully elaborated in this unit, I would continue the process with Men of Respect and Polanski's Macbeth. We would also consider how the time period of each film has impacted the director's vision.



Brainstorming, often used as a prewriting activity, is a technique to get out as many ideas as possible without any editing. This way, ideas are more likely to flow. This is the opposite of sitting in front of a blank page saying, "Oh, that's not a good idea. I can't use that one either, " and before you know it, you have writer's block. Brainstorming sessions can free one's mind from these self-critical and restricting thought processes.


A storyboard is a term taken from filmmaking. Directors such as Hitchcock sometimes created storyboards prior to filming. These are drawings of scenes, frame by frame, as the camera will later film them. In the storyboards, camera angles, long shots, close-ups, etc. would all be evident. In the classroom, this technique allows students to, in a sense, make their own film. Students would draw a scene frame by frame as they imagine it.

Role Playing

Role Playing allows students the opportunity to take on the persona of a character, or to improvise the reactions of one character in a given scenario. These are done like mini-plays or skits. I ask students to volunteer to do these in front of the class. Often, once things get rolling, and some students think they can do better than what they've seen, even more reluctant students will volunteer to participate.

Character Mapping and Graphic Organizers

Character Maps are one form of many types of graphic organizers. A chart or other form of visual representation can help students who have difficulty conceptualizing ideas, or who are reluctant writers. The web has numerous examples of character maps and other graphic organizers that teachers can download for free, but I find it best to create my own so that it is more specifically addressing the concepts on which I want my students to focus. One example is on the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) web site at lit-elements/. At this site, you can create your own character map with blanks to be filled in by students at a later time, or have students complete one online themselves. At plot-diagram/, there is a cool graphic organizer that students can complete on the structure of a story.

Classroom Activities

Lesson Plan One


To prepare students to consider the theme of gender stereotyping, I would begin by place the word "Men" on one blackboard and "Women" on another. I would ask students to name all of the adjectives, feelings, or any other words that come to mind as they think of each of those words. I will write the words on the blackboard as they brainstorm their ideas.

Another possible technique would be to divide the class into several groups and the give each of them chart paper and markers to brainstorm these ideas within their own groups. This would be followed by taping the responses to the walls of the room to discuss the results and to compare the ideas of the various groups. We would then discuss what the class saw as similarities and differences.

Role Plays

To have students begin to think about Lady Macbeth's tactics, I would ask volunteers to role-play a scenario where they get to try their hand at persuasion. One example might be the following:

To the girls: Pretend your boyfriend has sent you a text message asking you to see Fifty Cent, Ludicrous, or another popular Hip Hop artist in concert. You are thrilled! Then you see him the next day and he has changed his mind. Say everything you can think of to persuade him to change his mind.

To further explore issues of gender, I would now ask the boys and girls to switch places, substituting Beyonce for Fifty Cent, where the boy is attempting to persuade the girl. I would follow this with a discussion of what it felt like to do this. Was it different to watch a girl trying to persuade a boy than the other way around? What does this tell us about how we see the roles of men and women, and what it is okay for them to do in our eyes?


As this one-period introductory lesson is ending, I would then explain to my students that we will be watching film clips from four different screen adaptations of Macbeth of corresponding scenes. I would direct my students to watch the film clips keeping in mind what ideas they currently have about what is a man or a woman. We would consider questions such as: In what ways do you believe Shakespeare followed or differed from those concepts? How, in particular, is Macbeth and Lady Macbeth presented in each of the films we are about to see? How does each of the characters either fulfill or contrast with what you expect from a man or a woman?

Lesson Plan Two

Prior to viewing Orson Welles' Macbeth, it is important to provide my students with background information about possible film techniques. A list of terms that I would use is located in the Appendix.

Next, I would ask my students to discuss their personal views and images of witches. I would ask them to draw a storyboard of the scene on the heath where Macbeth and Banquo first encounter the witches.

Once students are familiar with these terms, we will do a close reading of two scenes. The first scene would be the opening scene with the witches. I would give students a copy of the statement made by Michael Anderegg located in the earlier section on Welles' Macbeth. I would ask students to watch for the elements noted by Anderegg, and to see if they agree with his opinion. Also, we would compare this very brief section with the many pages in Shakespeare's text. Some questions for discussion would include:

  1. hy did Welles omit so much from the original text? (I would mention that Welles was pressured to cut much from his original film due to poor reviews and pressure from his studio.)
  2. hat meaning could be gleaned from "voodoo" doll of Macbeth on which the witches place a crown?
  3. here in the original text do we find the line, "Something wicked this way comes," and why might Welles have placed it here?
  4. hy is there so much fog? Does it appear to be realistic? How would it help the director who has a small budget? Could there be any other meaning?
  5. hat effect does the insertion of a man with a cross aimed at the witches have on the viewer at this point?
  6. escribe Welles as Macbeth. What adjectives would you use to describe him just based on his appearance in this first scene?

The next scene we would consider is the scene between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, beginning with her reading the letter informing her of the predictions of the witches. I would play the scene slowly, stopping after each few frames of film so that we may examine just what Orson Welles has done to create his intended mood. I would prepare a script of the scene (also located in the Appendix) so that students can concentrate on those techniques, as well as to provide them with a place to take notes. I would ask students to fill in the camera angles, to describe the mise-en-scene as the scenes change, to comment on the lighting with each frame, etc. These would be presented in the form of a chart or graphic organizer.

Questions to consider after completion of the chart:

What feeling do you get when the camera looks up at a character versus when the camera is aimed downward? What interpretation do you associate with these camera angels? Do they always mean the same thing? Does the high or low camera angle meaning something different in one scene versus another? Give some examples.

Lesson Plan Three

Background material for viewing Kurosawa's Throne of Blood

Kurosawa's Macbeth is an undisputed masterpiece. It is also a wonderful stepping off point for a discussion of Shakespeare's characters. However, it is essentially Japanese and will not be easily understood by my students in two main areas. Those are characteristics of Noh Theater and the principles of a Japanese Samari. I plan to avoid dwelling on either concept, but to give just enough background information so that students are able to understand what they are watching.

Characteristics of Noh Theater

It would be important to explain just a few basic elements of NOH Theater to my students - just enough so that they understand what Lady Asaji's strange make-up is all about. I would present the following information to my students, and ask them to look for any of these characteristics in Kurosawa's Throne of Blood as we watch portions of that film. We would also discuss the effect on our emotions as we see Lady Asaji in her white mask-like face. Does it increase emotion, or does it just distract from the intended emotion? The information below is borrowed (though excerpted and reorganized) from Ishii Mikko's article "The Noh theater: Mirror, Mask, and Madness." I would give this list to my students on a handout for us to read together and discuss:

  • Characters wear masks.
  • Stories are often of historical events known by the audience, and involve life's primary emotions: love, hatred, sorrow, vengeance, and jealousy.
  • Stories are told in a highly stylized form expressing feelings and ideas using poses and gestures that everyone in the audience would recognize. For example:
    • For Deep Sorrow: lowering the head and raising both hand to eye level.
    • For Even Deeper Sorrow: repeating this gesture. No tears are shed. The character represents the sorrow quietly but profoundly.
    • A journey of a hundred miles to a distant mountain or shore: a few steps on stage.
    • The consummation of love between a man and woman: a light brushing together of their sleeves.
  • The sequence of events follows a traditional formula. For instance the play begins with. . .a traveling monk or a courtier, announcing his intention of making a journey to a faraway place. He takes a few steps upon the stage and then announces that he has reached his destination. . .
  • A chorus, which is seated throughout the play at one side of the stage, comments on. . .the events; accompanied by instrument music. It also sings some part of his emotional speech to enhance the tension.

To further assist my students to understand enough about Noh Theater to be prepared for the film, I would show them images of masks. I would project images from the following web sites to the class for them to see prior to viewing the film. First we would look at a series of masks at a site called the "Noh Theater Page," which shows many of the masks worn in performances. The address is: I would ask students to comment on the various emotions these masks might represent. Next we would visit, an art auction site, to see several fully costumed characters.

I would share the following quote with my students. Michea Carter, in her 2006 Yale National Initiative curriculum unit entitled "The Delicate Marriage of Theater and Film," quotes the actress who played Lady Asaji in Throne of Blood:

In Kurosawa: A Documentary on the Acclaimed Director (2000), Isuzu Yamada is interviewed on her experience being directed by Kurosawa during the filming of Throne of Blood. Speaking extremely highly of the respect and warm regard she holds for Kurosawa, Yamada remembers the struggle she endured mastering the techniques of Noh theatre for her performance. She says that Kurosawa was adamant that her face remain stiff and unmoving as a mask. Her eyes were not to blink and her head was not allowed to make sudden movements of any kind. She was literally directed to control her physical and emotional self as if she were wearing a heavy mask on her face; thereby she forced all emotion to be displaced through her subtle body language and intense vocal variations. Yamada remembers a moment when after tapping a scene; Kurosawa made her tape the scene again because she blinked her eyes. (Carter 10).

Clearly, Kurosawa wanted that extreme mask-like appearance for Lady Asaji.

Role Play

To demonstrate how Lady Asaji's stillness makes Washizu appear even more tense and nervous, I would ask my students to conduct a role-play where one person kneels while speaking, remaining as still as humanly possible (including not blinking) while the other responds to what is being said with facial expressions, grunts, and body movement, such as sitting down, standing up, and walking. We would try this with several different pairs of students and several different scenarios.

The Samurai Tradition

Instead of handing students my own distillation of the meaning and traditions of the Samurai, I would assign them in-class group work to examine the following web sites: article-9065252>,, and I would give students these suggested web sites rather than just allow them to do their own search because most of what they would find concerns games rather than actual history. I would ask each group of students to write their findings on chart paper in list form so these can be easily read and posted in front of the classroom. I would suggest to students that they focus on what appear to be the primary principles of a Samurai Warrior. These sites also offer illustrations of Samurai that I will download and copy for display during our discussion. Once these have been posted, I will ask students to keep these in mind as we watch Macbeth's counterpart in the Japanese film Throne of Blood so that we can make comparisons.

Viewing Throne of Blood

I would begin the scene in which Lady Asaji is trying to convince her husband, Washizu, to murder His Lordship. Before any words are spoken, I would ask students to describe the mis-en-scene. Describe the room. Who is there? What are they wearing? Describe Lady Asaji's make-up. What is the lighting? What is the camera angle (in other words, does it come from straight ahead, from above, or from below)? As the scene begins, how are the characters positioned in relation to one another? How would you describe the mood the director is trying to create?

Prior to viewing the rest of the scene from Throne of Blood, I would distribute a worksheet containing all of the lines spoken by Lady Asaji and Macbeth's counterpart, Washizu. This script (see below) will enable my students to have a place to comment on specific elements of action and filmmaking while they watch. While viewing the clip, students will be instructed to fill in comments and observations about each of the following:

  • What is the expression on the character's face?
  • What is the character doing physically (merely sitting still, pacing, standing, etc.)? What sounds do you hear in the background? Is there any music, sounds of nature like wind or birds, or silence?
  • With what intensity are the words on the script spoken? Are they said softly, loudly, yelled, grunted, or what?
  • What is the tone of voice?
  • What movements did either character make? (Note: remember that in Noh Theater, just a slight movement can mean a great deal.)
  • Who is higher in connection to the other character when this spoken?
  • What do you believe the character is thinking or feeling at that moment?
  • Is this line in keeping with Shakespeare's original idea or does it differ? How much does it differ?
  • Copy any lines of Shakespeare next to the lines in the script that seem to be paraphrased from the original Macbeth.

The script would be typed with columns and plenty of space to allow students to comment liberally. We would stop along the way to allow for students to answer the questions and for discussion. Also, I would show the clip a second time, allowing students to comment as each several lines has been spoken. This would give me the opportunity to point out camera angles and other things that they may have missed on the first viewing.

I have written down all of the subtitles and will present this to my students in the form of a graphic organizer so that they can conveniently address the issues in the listed above as they watch. This script can be found in the Appendix of this unit.

After watching the scene, on a graphic organizer, I would ask students to compare the reasons Lady Asaji gives for the killing with those of Lady Macbeth. Who is more convincing to you? Compare the reasons Washizu gives for not killing the Lord. Compare these to those given by Macbeth. Who is more convincing? I would also ask students to complete Character Maps for each of the primary characters (see strategies).


This curriculum unit is aimed for an advanced twelfth-grade class where writing is an essential component. I would ask my students to write an essay in which they discuss three groups: Organized Crime, Samurai Warriors, and Thanes of Scotland in Macbeth's era. What is similar about the underlying principles in each of these groups? How would each in its own way make them a perfect environment for a character like Macbeth?

Annotated Resources

Recommended for teachers

Anderegg, Michael. "Shakespeare Rides Again: The Republic Macbeth." Orson Welles, Shakespeare and Popular Culture. Columbia University Press: New York. 1999.

This chapter, from a book by the same author, reports on the struggles faced by Welles in the production and the response to his Macbeth. Anderegg provides an excellent and very detailed description of the particulars of Welles' images that produce his desired atmosphere, tone, and characterization.

Anderson, Alan and Raymond Gordon. "Witchcraft and the Status of Women — the Case of England." British Journal of Sociology. June, 1978. This article notes that the vast majority of accused witches were women, a fact deserving of study. The use of women as scapegoats, they state, would not have been possible except for a prior belief in the inferiority of women - that they were weak and therefore more easily swayed by the devil.

Asp, Carolyn. "'Be bloody, bold and resolute:' Tragic Action and Sexual Stereotyping in Macbeth." Studies in Philology. Spring 1981. This does an excellent job of tracing the stereotypes throughout Macbeth, while also showing us that these were Shakespeare's creation for personal exploration and not historically correct. Ms. Asp also makes the interesting point that a society that reverses the "manly" quality of violence also suffers for it.

Bever, Edward. "Witchcraft, Female Aggression, and Power in the Early Modern Community." Journal of Social History. 2002. pp. 955-988. This chapter, while quite long, is worthwhile. It details many reasons for the scapegoating of women, but it also outlines ways women did indeed act aggressively in a society that allowed them few outlets.

Biggins, Dennis. "Sexuality, Witchcraft, and Violence in Macbeth." Shakespeare Studies. Volume 8. 1975. pp. 255 - 273. Biggins argues that the violence in Macbeth has a sexual component, as do the actions of the witches. I find his argument, detailed as it is, that the actions of the witches are sexual, unconvincing.

Carter, Michea. "The Delicate Marriage of Theater and Film." Yale National Initiative. 2007. curriculum/search/viewer.php?skin=h &id=initiative_06.01.05_u#b This excellent curriculum gives extensive information about various types of Japanese theater that might be of use in preparing students for viewing Throne of Blood.

Chamberlain, Stephanie. "Fantasizing Infanticide: Lady Macbeth and the Murdering Mother in Early Modern England." College Literature. West Chester University, PA. Summer 2005. The thesis of this article is that women were feared in early modern England for their power over patrilineage by means of infidelity, by infanticide, or by what is passed on by nursing and rearing of children. The idea of women as dangerous is then carried into the play Macbeth.

Cohen, Derek. Shakespeare's Culture of Violence. St. Martin's Press: NewYork. 1993.

This text examines the use of violence in a number of Shakespeare's history plays as well as Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth. I found his explanation of different categories of violence to be quite interesting and useful.

Coursen, Herbert R., Jr. "In Deepest Consequence: Macbeth." Shakespeare Quarterly. Autumn, 1967. pp. 375 -388. The author suggests that the true power of Shakespeare's Macbeth is its connections to the story of the Garden of Eden and Adam's fall from Grace after being lured by Eve to eat the apple.

Dawson, Anthony. "Reading Kurosawa Reading Shakespeare." A Concise Companion to Shakespeare on Screen. Diana E. Henderson, editor. Blackwell Publishing: Malden, MA. 2006. This is an excellent, well-written, clear chapter explaining ways in which Kurosawa "reads" Shakespeare - sometimes exactly capturing the intent of the Bards scenes, sometimes going a different direction. Exact movements of the characters, the sounds effects, the images, the music are all outlined I detail to make his point. This was all very useful as a preview of what I would like my students to do when they watch the films.

Gil, Daniel Juan. "Avant-garde Technique and the Visual Grammar of Sexuality in Orson Welles' Shakespeare Film." Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation. 2005-2006. borrowers/request?id=251798. Photographs are included.

Kimbrough, Robert. "Macbeth: The Prisoner of Gender." Shakespeare Studies. Volume 16. 1983. pp 175 - 190. Kimbrough makes a very convincing case that Shakespeare is playing with gender roles that were firmly ensconced in England of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Hatchuel, Sarah, "Prithee, see there! Behold! Look! (3.4.69): The Gift of the Denial of Sight in Screen Adaptations of Shakespeare's Macbeth." Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation. 2005-2006. request?id=250387 This excellent article discusses visual strategies in several adaptations of Macbeth: the theater production in1979 by Trevor Nunn starring Ian McKellen, the version by Orson Welles, Jeremy Freeston's 1997 Macbeth, and Roman Polanksi's screen adaptation. Photographs are included.

Mikiko, Ishii. "The Noh theater: Mirror, mask, and madness." ctx_ver=Z39.882003&res_dat=xri:pqil:res_ver=0.1& rft_val_fmt=ori:format:pl:ebnf:fulltext&res_id=xri:iimp& rft_id=xri:iipaft:aarticle:fulltext:00323688 This is an extremely long article on Noh Theater (34 pages), and includes far more information than is needed to give students a quick introduction on the subject.

Reynolds, Bryan. "Untimely Ripped: Mediating Witchcraft in Polanski and Shakespeare." The Reel Shakespeare: Alternative Cinema and Theory. Lisa S. Starks and Courtney Lehmann, editors. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press: Madison. 2002. This chapter establishes the links between the violence in Polanski's Macbeth and the tragic and brutal murders of his wife, Sharon Tate.

Recommended for teachers and students

"Basic Information." January 14, 2004.

Best, Michael. Shakespeare's Life and Times. Internet Shakespeare Editions, University of Victoria: Victoria, BC, 2001-2005.>. Not only does this web site give extensive information about Shakespeare, his work, his life, and other related topics, but also it does so in an attractive, easily searchable manner, and even tells students how to cite it as a resource. I wish all web sites did that.

Binnie, Paul. "Japanese Noh Theater." artelino - Art Auctions. 2001 - 2007. noh_theater.asp While the purpose of this web site is to auction art, it nonetheless provides a clear explanation of Noh Theater and gives a few dramatic illustrations.

Corrigan, Timothy. A Short Guide to Writing About Film, Fifth Edition. Pearson Longman: New York. 2004. This would be primarily a resource for teachers, but it may also be of interest to advanced students who are especially interested in film analysis. I like the tips on writing for my Advanced Placement students. More than anything else, it is a useful source of definitions about filmmaking for the novice.

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth with Reader's Guide with guide edited by Solomon Schlakman. Amsco Literature Publications, Inc.: New York. 1972. The print is large and clear, and the definitions are all on the left-hand page directly across from the corresponding line. However, there are no illustrations, no color, and no photographs - just the text followed by questions for further study in the back of the book. I use this text because we have sufficient copies for my students to take home, but we use the large, more attractive version in class.

"Samurai." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 6July2007. eb/article-9065252

This site provides some basic information on the Samurai. I love that they give the citation format.

"History of the Samurai." Budo Ryu Ninjutsu.Com. 2004. This site gives the history of the Samurai in a brief few paragraphs, and lists the basic principles of a Samurai Warrior.

Swerzenski, Jared. "National Immigration: Excerpts from "The Japanese Experience" Visual Culture Project." Clark University. courseroadmap/nationalimagination/jared.cfm This web site contains some beautiful images plus a few pertinent facts concerning Samurai. Students may enjoy seeing the images. It is not sufficient information to provide background for what are the samurai.


Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood. VHS. The Japanese Classic Collection: Home Vision Cinema. Toho Company, Limited and Brandon Films. 1957.

Men of Respect. RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video. VHS. Central City Film Company, Inc.: Grandview Avenue Pictures, Inc. 1990.

Roman Polanski's Film of Macbeth. DVD. Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment. 2002.

Orson Welles' Macbeth. Republic Pictures. 1948.

Appendix A: Film Terms and Techniques

The following definitions are taken from Tim Corrigan's book entitled A Short Guide to Writing About Film that I think will assist my students in thinking, writing, and talking about film. I would give these out on a handout, and we could refer to it as we discuss the films we will be watching.

Angle - The position of the camera or point of view in relation to the subject being shown. Seen from above, the subject would be shot from a "high angle"; from below, it would be depicted from a "low angle."

Close-up - An image in which the distance between the subject and the point of view is very short, as in a 'close-up of a person's face.

Composition - The arrangement and relationship of the visual elements within a frame.

Cutting - Changing from one image to another.

Frame - The borders of the image within which the subject is composed.

Long shot - An image in which the distance between the camera and the subject is great.

Medium shot - A shot that shows an individual from the waist up.

Mise-en-sce?ne - "a French term roughly translated as 'what is put into the scene' (put before the camera), refers to all those properties of a cinematic image that exist independently of camera position, camera movement, and editing. . . Mise-en-sce?ne includes lighting, costumes, sets, the quality of acting, and other shapes and characters in the scene" (46).

Point of view - The position from which an action or subject is seen, often determining its significance.

Shot/reverse shot - An editing pattern that cuts between individuals according to the logic of their conversation.

Voice-over - The voice of someone not seen in the narrative image who describes or comments on that image.

Appendix B: Script from a scene in Orson Welles' Macbeth

Lady Macbeth

Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be

What thou art promised.

Come you spirits

That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,

And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full

Of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood,

Stop up th' access and passage to remorse,

That no compunctious visitings of nature

Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between

Th' effect and it! Come to my woman's breasts,

And take my milk for gall, you murd'ring ministers,

And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,

That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,

Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,

To cry, "Hold, hold!"

Lady Macbeth

Great Glamis! Worthy Cawdor!

Greater than both, by the all-hail hereafter!

Thy letters have transported me beyond this ignorant present, and I feel now

The future in the instant.


My dearest love, Duncan comes here tonight.

Lady Macbeth

And when goes hence?


Tomorrow, as he purposes.

Lady Macbeth

He that's coming must be provided for!


We will speak further.

Lady Macbeth

Put this night's business into my dispatch.

Your face, my thane, is as a book where men

May read strange matters. To beguile the time,

Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,

Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower,

But be the serpent under 't.


Chants in Latin.

Lady Macbeth

When Duncan is asleep -

Whereto the rather shall his day's hard journey

Soundly invite him - I'll drug his servants' wine.


King Duncan is my kinsman

Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been

So clear in his great office, that his virtues

Will plead like angel trumpet tongues against

The deep damnation of his taking-off;

And pity, like a naked new-born babe,

Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubin hors'd

Upon the sightless couriers of the air,

Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,

That tears shall drown the wind.

Appendix C: Script from a Scene in Throne of Blood

Lady Asaji

Have you made up your mind, my Lord?


It has all been a bad dream. I have been haunted by an evil spirit.

No more of this!

Take over the Cobweb Castle?

I cannot dream of such a. . .

Lady Asaji

Why not, my lord?

It is not beyond your reach.

As a samari. . .

Who does not want to be the lord of a castle?


I am satisfied with the way things are.

I will keep this castle and remain loyal to his Lordship.

I want to live in peace.

Lady Asaji

But there cannot be peace.



Lady Asaji

If Captain Miki tells His Lordship of what happened in the forest. . .

Then, there would be no peace here.

His Lordship would regard you as a usurper.

He would most certainly have his men besiege the castle immediately.

You have only two ways to choose.

Stay here and wait for your own destruction

Or kill His Lordship. . .

And take over the Cobweb Castle.


But, that is high treason!

Lady Asaji

Did you forget. . .

His Lordship killed his own master. . .

To become what he is now.


He was compelled to preserve his own life.

His Lordship trusts me.

I would give my heart for him.

Lady Asaji

Does he know what lies deep in your heart?


In my heart? There is nothing.

Lady Asaji

I know otherwise.


I have no such ambition.

Lady Asaji

That may be so. . .

But will His Lordship still believe it?

Even after he learns from Miki about the prediction?


Miki. Miki will never mention such a thing.

He is my best friend.

Lady Asaji

He is ambitious.

Children kill for less.

In this world you must strike first. . .

If you do not want to be killed.

It is possible that Miki has already betrayed you.

I am worried.


Asaji! You must stop doubting my friends.


About 300 men from the castle are hiding on the hill at the rear.

Appendix D: Pennsylvania State Standards

1.2.B. Use and understand a variety of media and evaluate the quality of material produced:

  • Compare, analyze and classify how different media offer a unique perspective on the information presented.
  • Categorize and analyze the techniques of particular media messages and their effect on a targeted audience.

1.3.A. Read and understand works of literature.

1.3. B. Analyze the use of literary elements by an author including characterization, setting, plot, theme, point of view, tone and style.

1.3.E. Analyze drama to determine the reasons for a character's actions taking into account the situation and basic motivation of the character.

1.3.F. Read and respond to nonfiction and fiction including poetry and drama.

1.5.C. Write with controlled and/or subtle organization.

1.5.E. Revise writing after rethinking logic of organization and rechecking central idea, content, paragraph development, level of detail, style, tone, and word choice.

1.5.F. Edit writing using the conventions of language.

1.6.B. Listen to selections of literature (fiction and/or nonfiction).

1.6.D. Contribute to discussions.

1.6.F. Use media for learning processes.

1.8.A. Select and refine a topic for research.

1.8.B. Locate information using appropriate sources and strategies.

1.8.C. Organize, summarize and present the main ideas from research.

Comments (2)

    yorumlasak blog (harward, boston, bo)
    Subject taught:
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    Elie fabvs fabs (poahsfopiashfao, wisconsin, va)
    Subject taught: asfasfas
    Valuable piece . I learned a lot from the information - Does someone know if my business can access a fillable Scholastic Plot Diagram form to work with ?

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