This essay will compare and contrast the ways in which Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are presented in the Shakespeare play and in Macbeth on the Estate, which uses most of the Shakespearean dialogue, but sets it in the modern context of a rundown English council estate. The main scene that will be explored is Act 3 Scene 4 which in the Shakespeare Play is the scene where Macbeth and Lady Macbeth welcome their guests to a state banquet. The Ghost of Banquo appears but only Macbeth can see it and his strange behaviour startles his wife and their guests. In Macbeth on the Estate the same scene takes place in a pub.
In the Shakespeare play, Macbeth is a Scottish noble who, on his way back from war, is told by 3 witches that he will become Thane of Cawdor and King. In Macbeth on the Estate Macbeth, played by James Frain, is a violent young man who, as he returns from a gang fight, is told by 3 weird children that he will become the Thane of Cawdor and the king who is really the leader of the gang. In both versions Lady Macbeth is the stronger of the 2 characters, and it is her ambition which drives Macbeth to commit the murder of King Duncan. However in Macbeth on the Estate Lady Macbeth, played by Susan Vidler, is an attractive, witty young lady.
In the lead up to Act 3 Scene 4, Macbeth has been granted the title of Thane of Cawdor as promised by the Witches / Weird Children and has, at Lady Macbeths urging (look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it), killed Duncan. Macbeth, concerned that Banquo, who was with him when he met the Witches / Weird Children, will reveal his suspicions regarding the death of Duncan, arranges Banquos murder. The Banquet is to celebrate Macbeth becoming King / the gang leader. Banquo is expected by all the other guests, and concern is raised when he does not appear. However Macbeth is told by the murderers that the deed has been done, but that Banquos son, Fleance escaped. This unnerves Macbeth, but he has to return to the banquet / bar and appear relaxed. Lady Macbeth is unaware that Macbeth has had his best friend Banquo murdered.
In the Shakespeare Play, the Ghost of Banquo sits in Macbeths chair at the banqueting table. In Macbeth on the Estate the scene is set in the pub, with a band singing, somewhat ironically, We are family. Macbeth first spots the Ghost of Banquo after playing a drinking game which involves spinning round and round. At first it seems that he is just disorientated and the rest of the guests are not particularly concerned. However the ghost continues to appear to him alone, next slow dancing to I cant help falling in love with you. The guests become more concerned, but still think it is the effects of the drinking game. But finally, by the bar where Macbeth tries to calm everyone down by offering to buy the drinks, the Ghost of Banquo appears again, this time Macbeths behaviour scares his guests too much and the party stops with everyone staring at Macbeth. Throughout the Scene, Lady Macbeth remains calm as she attempts to convince the guests that it is just a fit that he has suffered regularly since childhood, However ultimately she has to send the guests away. This is identical in both the Shakespeare play and in Macbeth on the Estate. This is also the scene where Macduffs disappearance is noticed.
Macbeth revisits the Witches / Weird Children, who warn him to beware of Macduff. Believing he cannot be defeated, as a wood cannot move, (Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam Wood to High Dunsinane Hill shall come against him), Macbeth grows in confidence and cruelty. He then plots the murder of Macduffs entire family. In Macbeth on the Estate Lady Macbeth runs to warn Lady Macduff and is there to witness the brutal murder that ensues. This is a deviation from the original Shakespeare script.
However, despite showing the greater strength of character in the early part, as the play progresses it is Lady Macbeth who cracks first because of the burden of guilt over what they have done, symbolised by her continuous washing of hands to try and remove the imaginary blood stains. In Macbeth on the Estate it is the witnessing of the murder of Macduffs family that has the most profound effect upon her. In both the Shakespeare play and Macbeth on the Estate, Lady Macbeth commits suicide. In the Shakespeare play we are told that it is by self and violent hands however in Macbeth on the Estate we see her throw herself off the top of a tower block of flats. In both versions Lady Macbeths death has a profound effect on Macbeth. He is lonely and depressed without her, and begins to lose confidence. However in the Shakespeare play, it is when he hears of the moving wood that he knows he is defeated, but decides to die in battle. This contrasts with Macbeth on the Estate where Macbeth just sits on his sofa and allows Macduff to walk in and shoot him.
In conclusion Macbeth on the Estate tells largely the same story as the Shakespeare play. In both Lady Macbeth is the stronger more ambitious character in the beginning. It is also her that is the most devious and lacking in conscience. However this changes as the play progresses with her conscience affecting her progressively more until she commits suicide. In Macbeth on the Estate her running to warn the Macduffs is an additional sign that her conscience is troubling her; whereas Macbeth becomes harder and more cruel as the story progresses. The death of Lady Macbeth unnerves Macbeth the most as he feels he has lost everything and life no longer has meaning. In Macbeth on the Estate this is the final straw which leaves him defenceless, but in the Shakespeare play the added stress of the moving wood is what convinces him all is lost. Both versions are entertaining in a tragic way. It is strange to hear Shakespeares iambic pentameter being spoken in a pub, however this modern adaptation works by combining old with modern in a manner that gives fresh relevance to the original story.