Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

Teaching with the Folger Macbeth DVD

It’s been  less than three months since the Folger Macbeth DVD became available, both at the NCTE Conference and through our shop and on Amazon.com. In adition to the 2-hour play, the DVD also boasts eight Special Features.  They are:

  • Capturing Macbeth film trailer takes you inside the critically-acclaimed production.
  • Directing Macbeth demonstrates the process that Aaron Posner and Teller go through to mount the stage production.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth takes a close look at what motivates these complex characters by interviews with the actors and directors.
  • Acting Macbeth gives fascinating insight into how actors prepare for their roles.
  • Comedy in Macbeth illustrates how the tension in the play is often relieved by humor, with a special focus on the role of the Porter.
  • Blood Will Have Blood gives a behind-the-scenes look at how stage blood is used to create a “horror show” atmosphere in Macbeth.
  • The Weird Sisters explores the directors’ unique choices in how to portray these extraordinary—and controversial—characters
  • Stage Combat explains how the fight director coaches the actors to create a unique fighting style and believable battle sequences.

You can even read the transcripts of each of these on our site.

So we’d like to learn what you early adopters of the DVD think about it and more importantly, we’d like you to tell us how you might use the play and the Special Features in teaching Macbeth. Try to be as specific as you can. We’re really curious how you might teach the play if every one of your students had the book WITH the DVD.

Thanks in advance for your comments.


  • My favorite sections by far have been Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth, and The Weird Sisters.

    With Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth, the students get to play with the idea that these characters are people with motivations and desires and personalities. This special feature lets them see how two actors (and a director) interpret those traits. It works perfectly to show the class this special feature, and then as a group, explore some other ways that an actor/actress can play these parts. Once students have the idea, they can take it a step further. How does the Macbeth/Banquo friendship operate? What about Malcolm and Macduff? The possibilities are as long as the cast of characters.

    What I love about The Weird Sisters is that it specifically addresses the visual nature of the play. Showing this special feature opens the door to the idea of costuming and prop use. After seeing a professional take the words on the page and create such a distinct image from it, students will likely be able to do the same (and this holds true for a number of plays. I often teach The Tempest, and I can use this special feature as an introductory point to have the class give the same visual treatment to characters like Caliban or Ariel).

  • It is amazing how enriching a staged performance is in comparison to just reading the play. There are so many things you just forget about when you are just reading the text – like the other characters who are still on stage during long speeches, asides especially.

    One aside particularly worth noting is Macbeth’s speech in Act 1 when he is thinking about how the prophecies told by the witches have come true, while Banquo and the other gentlemen notice Macbeth’s strange behavior: “Look how our partner’s rapt” (1.4.56). In the DVD, the other characters froze, implying that what we see his in Macbeth’s mind, and the long speech transpires much more quickly in “real life” than as we see it. Indeed, if his thoughts were in real-time, the other characters would probably have acted with much more concern, considering that Macbeth’s internal musings went on for at least an entire minute, maybe more – although Banquo showed some concern, it sounded like he was almost teasing.

    This is a good scene to use with students and a good opportunity to ask them how they would approach this differently, because it is a strange moment. How do you present asides effectively? I think the Folger DVD presented it well, but I remember my undergrad Shakespeare professor retelling a performance that handled it a little differently. Instead of freezing time, Banquo and the others went on the other side of the stage to have a private discussion (not heard by the audience), while Macbeth was seen talking to himself apart from them. Towards the end of the speech, Banquo looked over at Macbeth and noticed his strange behavior and broke in with the line quoted above.

    Likewise, I would show the students the multiple soliloquies, so they can 1.) use the footage to better understand the dramatic situation and 2.) see how to perform the scenes themselves. The best in the play by far (in my opinion) was Folger’s handling of the famous soliloquy that begins Act 1, Scene 7: “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well / It were done quickly” (1-2). Macbeth begins these lines on the stage below, just as Scene 6 is concluding on the balcony above (the speech actually begins before Scene 6 concludes), which produces an interesting dramatic effect, especially since during the entire preceding scene, Macbeth is on the ground stage gazing into a mirror, lost in thought. His sudden speech catches the audience off guard, and Macbeth (in performance) is seen as trying to “jump the gun” and get the deed over with, just as the lines convey.

    I would use this scene to ask the students how effective did they find this juxtaposition? Does it energize the play? Does this faster pacing add to the suspense of the play? What would change if the production followed the play more exactly?

    My last comment to conclude this lengthy post involves the Weird Sisters (for how could we leave them out?). Here, perhaps more than anywhere else, do we see the difference between seeing a play and reading a play. There are more effects going on during these scenes (strobe lights, countless props, intense drum beats, line chanting, etc.) than any other, and, if only I had better speakers than my laptop can provide, I imagine the one, even with the DVD, not only sees and hears the scene, but feels it as well.

    As a Master’s student of Education now, we have been working on creating podcasts, reading a passage, poem, etc. and putting sound effects and music to it. After showing students the scenes with the witches, this would be a good opportunity to allow the students to create podcasts either to this scene, finding their own music and sound effects to the text, or a scene of their choice. It would be interesting to see what they come up with.

  • I thought that the Folger’s version of Macbeth succeeded in what Ian Merril Peakes expressed as their goal, “making everybody understand.” It was fresh and gave a contemporary audience everything it could want from the theater. To use this DVD in the classroom for students to follow along with their reading of the text would be extremely beneficial. I especially thought that the special features were particularly helpful and as the class moved through the play and began to interpret it on their own I wold have them watch the special features, especially the section called “Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth” because I think it is a great tool to show them that there are many ways to interpret and that there is no right or wrong way of doing it. I think that once the students see that even the professional struggle with finding a way of expressing what Shakespeare has left on the page, they will feel more comfortable making decisions about their experiences with the text and the interpretation of it.

    I loved the aspects of horror, action, and comedy that are enhanced in this version of the play because I think it really gives new life to what is on the page. It furthers the understanding of the audience when they recognize a joke and can visualize the inner thoughts of the characters. I especially liked the fact that the directors made choices to show all the character’s grappling with an outward-ness that allows the audience to view it and take it in. I loved how Teller said that “we are a mad person together” in reference to the audience’s ability to see what Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are seeing in their mind’s eye.

    Performance is a great way to further understanding of the concepts and ideas that are represented within the play and I think that the Folger’s version captures those concepts and ideas and breathes new life into them to create a spectacle of a “good man who made really bad choices.”

  • I really enjoyed the treatment of the weird sisters in this version as they occupy a realm between genders, between life and death, physical and supernatural, wisdom and malevolence. Certainly these sisters are in line with Posner and Teller’s vision of a horror movie Macbeth. I would like to try having small groups of students use their imaginations, artistic abilities, words, and performance to create their own visions of the weird sisters. The DVD will work as an example of how this can be done.

    I was also impressed by the very funny porter scene. It would be great fun to have students update this scene to give it more contemporary humor. The DVD special feature on comedy would be a great introduction to this activity. As Teller says, humor does not age well.

    The directors of this version have edited out much of the text. They have also moved some lines around and layer others over each other. Following the full text along with the DVD in class would provide students an interesting opportunity to think about and discuss the editing of Shakespeare for the stage. They can debate the decisions made by the directors and work towards their own directorial decisions. Each of these activities can be fun, but they also ask students to look closely at the text and think about possible interpretations.

  • Although I am familiar with Shakespeare’s language use and have read several of his plays, I still at times find it difficult to fully understand his plays as they were intended to be without watching a supplementary video/DVD performance or listening to acted out plays on an audio CD. With this in mind, I find it to be unfair to expect secondary students to get the full meaning of his words without a supplementary source. Although the Foldger performance of Macbeth was edited down quite a bit from the original text, I still find it to be an extremely useful tool that I will incorporate into my teaching of Macbeth. This production has brilliantly brought the inner conflict and eventual insanity of Macbeth, as well as the ambition and later guilt of Lady Macbeth to the stage in a way that I believe students would find hard to dismiss as just another incomprehensible and confusing Shakespeare play. What better way to introduce students to Shakespeare than by watching this performance of Macbeth? Violence, murder, sex, passion, blood, insanity, more blood, and a taste of the supernatural should leave any teenager wanting more, and willing to struggle through the sometimes seemingly “foreign” Shakespearian language.
    There are several ways that I would use the Foldger production of Macbeth to create a lively lesson plan to do exactly what the producers of this DVD intended, allowing the audience to walk away from this production with a full understanding of the play. I think it would be a disservice to the students, however, if a teacher had them watch this DVD and not incorporate a lesson on subtext and how critical it is to understand the subtext before performing a scene. There is a layer of meaning and feeling behind (or beneath) every line of Shakespeare’s plays and without a clear understanding of the subtext, the words on the page would be nothing more than just that –words. The Foldger performance brings these words to life. Act 5, Scene 1, when Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking, overrun with guilt, and thinks she sees blood on her hands is the perfect seen to allow students to understand the importance of subtext. I think it would be even more effective if the teacher were to have students act out part of this scene before ever watching the Foldger performance, or any performance of Macbeth for that matter. The students would be able to experience this scene, I’m sure with much difficulty, without the subtext and understanding of what Lady Macbeth means when she says, “Out, damned spot, out, I say” (5.1.37). Since there is no written stage direction saying that she imagines herself covered in blood, without a close reading of this scene and interpreting what is motivating Lady Macbeth, the scene would not work. However, if the teacher then discusses the subtext of the scene and allows them to watch the dramatic and visually bloody Foldger performance, I would think that the importance in understanding the subtext of the play would be obvious.
    Another scene that I particularly liked was the Porter scene, Act 2, Scene 3. It provided comic relief that was much needed at that particular time in the play and would be a great scene to have students focus on, but only after they understood and grasped the subtext lesson. Because this scene occurs well before the Lady Macbeth scene (where I would teach subtext), I would give students a project that would make them revisit and closely read this scene again. This scene could be replayed for the students, if needed, but now knowing that its purpose was for comic relief, the students could work in groups of 3 or 4 to create a Photostory, using music, photos, and their own narration. This would allow students to have fun with this scene and be creative as they interpret it for themselves.
    The fact that there are so many clever “tricks” that Teller implements in this production also allows teachers to ask students to watch a scene, such as Act 4, Scene 1, when the witches (weird sisters) are gathered around the cauldron, and create their own interpretation. I think it would be interesting to see what ideas students could come up with if they were asked to incorporate the three apparitions into their performance. Or, teachers could have their students watch Act 2, Scene 1, and then ask them to act out the scene to figure out how to effectively display the dagger that Macbeth sees in his mind (the seated students would act as directors to the actor/s in front of the classroom).

    • When I was watching the Folger DVD, I also read along with the play originally to help clarify cases when I was unsure who a character was. I found it easier to follow along with both the written play and the performed play by approaching it in this way. I was surprised (as well as my roommate) at first when the DVD first started to see such a well put together, modern-day version of a Shakespeare play. That alone made it much more interesting than the versions many of us watched in schools.

      Since I was watching the DVD while reading the play, I noticed that there were a number of lines that may have been omitted, placed in a different but nearby place such as Banquo’s speech in Act 3 Scene 1, or characters’ lines were juxtaposed as they were in Act 3 Scene 3 with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. In the classroom, I would like to hear students’ reactions to this technique, have them guess as to why the director may have made that choice, and then show them have them watch the Special Feature: Directing Macbeth so they can get a closer look at what motivated the directors’ choice. For lines that were omitted, I would ask students to discuss with each other if they felt that any significance in meaning was lost by eliminating those words. I would provide maybe two different film versions of that section of the play and do what Folger’s Shakespeare Set Free does and have students compare different versions of the play and see which they thought was most effective and why. In lieu of comparing different versions, I would ask students to look at the costumes used in different productions and see how that adds to the characterization in the play and this could be complemented with the Special Feature: Acting Macbeth. Students may even want to dress up as characters one day and see how they are similar and different from one another and why they chose the clothes or costumes they did.

      As I said before, I like the modernity of the DVD. It will make students more attracted to reading Shakespeare. If my class were to act this out in modern times, I would propose the idea of how can we act this act with modern day technologies and resources that will make the play fun and interesting but at the same time still preserve some of the ancientness of the play. One way we can do this is by looking at ways in which Special Feature: Blood Will Have Blood used blood to create horror in the play and brainstorm ideas of how we can gain the effect in the classroom. Another issue related to the plays modernity, is the role of the Porter who in places like Act 2 Scene 3 break away from the script and interact with the audience. I think this is a great scene to show to a class to get them interested in Shakespeare and see that the play can be tweaked to have some modern day laughs. The class can possibly pick the student who they think best fits this role after watching Special Feature: Comedy in Macbeth to determine which student can best provide laughs during times of tension in the play. Students may wish to incorporate “inside joke” from the classroom.

      The DVD really brings the play to life by having scenes like Act 2 Scene 1 set in such a dark atmosphere, or by being able to see the floating dagger and hearing the owl screech during the murder scene. And I also think that scene like the fight scene in the end between Macbeth and Macduff is important to show because it is more than just a stage direction saying [Macbeth and Macduff fight]; there is more time and strategy to what goes on there. Students may wish to work in groups and discuss ways to best act such scenes in the classroom.

  • The pairing of the stage performance of Macbeth and Shakespeare’s text is nothing short of ingenius for teaching Macbeth in the high school classroom. This is such a beneficial product for students and teachers alike. There are three things in particular that I would like to make note of: Firstly, the performance (accompanied by a live audience), helps to convey tone. Students can perceive the emotion of the audience through their laughter and facial expressions when the camera pans to the audience. This is beneficial because the language can sometimes create a barrier for students to exactly understand the emotion that is being conveyed.
    To integrate this in a classroom setting, I would definitely use it to guide teaching and incorporate performance in the classroom. I suggest asking students to perform specific scenes from the play, whole-heartedly—with costumes, stage directions etc. After this assignment is completed, students can then compare their own adaptations of the scenes to that of the Folger edition. Also, this DVD works well to present students with a less-Hollywood version of a Shakespeare play. Finally, if vocabulary lessons are absolutely necessary, this text version provides all the resource that a teacher may want/need to create meaningful vocabulary lists. The vocabulary is pertinent to the text, and is not arbitrary.
    Finally, I think it is said best during the special features when the difficulty of the language is discussed in the context of the reason why Shakespeare is so frustrating and disfavored. I think this point can resonate with students, and they can understand that they are not alone, that it is normal to be unsure about the language, and that there are ways to overcome this.

  • After reading the play, the viewing of the play was refreshing. i thoroughly enjoyed how there were moments of humor and even a bit on audience involvement. Generally, I find that Shakespeare is a difficult task to grasp for most students because of the language. Visual aids are always helpful. However, viewing in its entirety during class time, not only because a bit monotonous, but takes away from class time. I think it is a wonderful idea that this can be viewed at home, discussed in class and that specific scenes can be reviewed and discussed. As I stated earlier, viewing Shakespeare, as opposed to just reading it, is of utmost importance. It gives students a better means in which to understand the language and also to view the various perspectives a director chooses to take. Scene, character, tone are all different from what students may have thought. I think that the viewing of this might be helpful after an in class performance or a close reading and discussion on what students sensed the scenery would be like, stage directions would be and character appearance.
    I know that there were several images that I had never pictured while reading the play. The witches were a wonderful addition, as was the image of Macbeth’s victims. Additionally, I enjoyed watching the relationship between Macbeth and his wife unfold. I had never imaged passion and love in their relationship. i found it to give the play much more depth and realism.

  • This DVD was amazing!!!! What struck me the most was how “Macbeth” was based on modern day technology, thought, and theater yet was kept in the time period Shakespeare intended it to be in; this not only shows how malleable Shakespeare’s play can be but that it doesn’t matter how it is reproduced the play will still convey the same message to its readers or viewers.

    As I watched the play a couple of ideas came to mind. Instead of watching the play first, I watched the “Special Features” to understand where the directors were coming from and was completely intrigued with the thought process Teller and Posner used to create visceral imagery and action through the actors. I loved how they focused on the fact that Shakespeare did indeed create a horror story that is filled with blood, gore, and passion…the perfect ingredients to hook teenagers in. What I would do first is have the students read the play following lessons that are in Shakespeare Set Free or make lessons of my own and then watch the entire play, however I would first play some “Special Features” before and after the entire play.

    What I would do is show “Directing Macbeth”, “Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth”, and “Acting Macbeth” first to the students to show how “Macbeth” is seen, interpreted, and portrayed by a modern set of directors and actors. Then, as a class we will watch the entire play from beginning to end so the students can see what was said by all acted out. Here is why I choose to show the entire play and not see it as a waste of time: as I was watching the play itself I decided to whip open the book and read along, it was in Act I Scene 3 and Scene 4 that I started to notice that the actors were not following Shakespeare word by word. WHAT?! As I listened and read on, the line rearrangement made sense…I sometimes feel that Shakespeare’s intention comes out in a roundabout way but when the directors cut and paste the lines that subtlety became direct and easily understandable. So, after viewing the entire play, I would replay “Directing Macbeth” (so the students are refreshed) and then pick a scene that was changed or meshed with another and have the students talk about how it was portrayed in the DVD and think of why the directors chose to change the scene and the effect it would have on the entire play. I want them to be able to see Macbeth as a modern play not something of the past that should stay in the past.

    After watching the entire play, I would also want to show “Comedy in Macbeth” and “The Weird Sisters” because I thought those parts were cool; especially the one on the witches. It gives a new spin on “Macbeth” and I would want the students to appreciate the choices that were made and to show how far ahead Shakespeare was than his time.

    I think having this DVD in the classroom is an advantage that teachers should utilize when teaching “Macbeth” because I believe that to truly feel what Shakespeare wants you to feel is so much more than reading it off the paper. It is seeing the gestures, the emotions, the LIFE behind the words that can only be portrayed through reflecting and acting.

  • Teller and Aaron Posner’s production of Macbeth is fantastic, thrilling creation hat updates a classic play while still retaining the core, or “pure” elements that made it so fascinating to Shakespeare’s audiences. Rather than making radical changes to the original text, Teller and Posner have transformed Shakespeare’s Macbeth into a visually stunning experience that relies as much on the ability of the actors to establish an intense, visceral connection with the audience as it does on the bloody spectacle unfolding before them. I was genuinely captivated by the performances given by both Kate Eastwood Norris (Lady Macbeth) and Ian Merrill Peakes (Macbeth), especially the latter. The way that Peakes is able to summon such a vast range of emotions as he skips from line to line, pouncing on each word and relishing in the import of its effect, is truly awesome.

    The DVD (as well as the text) has an abundance of potential in helping students to become interested in, and to understand Shakespeare. I think that showing selected scenes from this play might be a good idea as a point of reference for students during important parts of the play, such as Lady Macbeth’s reaction to her husband’s letter (1.5), Macbeth’s visions of Banquo at the dinner party (3.4), and Macbeth’s response to Lady Macbeth’s death along with the information of Macduff’s forthcoming attack (5.5).

    I would use selected scenes at first in an attempt to gauge the students’ responses to seeing this version of the play rather than showing it in its entirety. The play runs a bit long to devote too much class time to showing the whole thing, but I think that showing the most complex scenes to the class would be beneficial because it would let students visualize how one might interpret the text.

    The special features section of the DVD is packed full of interesting, educational material to use in the classroom.

    In “Capturing Macbeth,” Teller makes the play relevant by referring to it as a “horror” and a “thriller” – two terms that students usually associate with modern films. Both Teller and Posner reinforce the idea that their version of Macbeth is not the version, but rather another version of Shakespeare. I think that hearing these words from the directors makes the play seem more accessible to students by allowing them to agree or disagree with the Folger version.

    This section also lets students see behind the scenes of the production, where the rehearsal footage and interviews with the actors reveal that even experts struggle with the “right” way to interpret the language. Teller also suggests in the “Directing Macbeth” feature that any member of the stage crew is allowed to give input into the play, which shows students that it is important to include everyone’s ideas into the final product. I would use these sections of the DVD when preparing the class to put on their own performances of Macbeth to show students how many visions can come together into one cohesive reality.

    Another special feature that I particularly liked was “The Weird Sisters.” Teller and Posner’s rendition of the Weird Sisters is grotesque, even frightening, and certainly a lot of fun. I think that students might become interested in this supernatural element of Macbeth, and this feature of the DVD emphasizes their use of poetry and song in their speech. These are parts of the play that might be hard for some students to imagine – just how do the Weird Sisters look? How do they sound?

    By using this feature, students can be encouraged to discuss the function that the Weird Sisters serve in the play, and how their supernatural existence differs from some of the other supernatural elements that are included in the text. I would also encourage students to perform their own interpretation of the Weird Sisters by manipulating their speech. Should it be more musical? Should it be faster? Slower?

    These are just some of the ways in which the Folger edition Macbeth can be used as a learning supplement in the classroom. I am glad to have been made aware of this play, and would definitely incorporate it into a unit on Macbeth.

  • This was a truly engrossing experience and one of the best I’ve had in watching Shakespeare in a “film” version. The actors each reached a personal dimension in their characters. The action was quick and sweeping; the death horrifying and gory. Yet this production captured every aspect of Shakespeare that can ever be found: Action, intrigue, suspense, blood, humor, despair, love, lust… Yes, he was a great writer and a master of emotion, yet he could reap every reaction in his audiences that he wished, without regard to whether he was staging a romance, a tragedy, history or comedy.

    I would use this DVD and its special features as inspiration to my class to stage their own scenes. The special features provided, especially the “Blood Will Have Blood” and “Capturing Macbeth” sequences provide some great ideas for special effects. Simple illusory tricks, like sleight of hand maneuvers often used for card tricks, provided some great moments in the play. I wondered as I watched the production- just where did all that blood in her hands come from? (The “Out, damned spot!” scene) How did Banquo appear and vanish from the king’s room so easily? The fantastic, simple yet striking staging can really stir students’ imagination. By showing scenes from this play, I would then ask students to pick groups and a scene to interpret and then perform. Nothing beats the actual thrill of acting something that you helped to develop.

    I would also use scenes from this production to provoke students to think of how they would perform certain roles. Did they see Macbeth as a good man who made bad choices? Or did they see Macbeth’s “cowardice” as caution? Could Lady Macbeth’s desire for her husband’s success really be a desire for HER success? In every actor there is a different way to present the script.

    One of the most important factors in this play is the horror. The baby that rose from the cauldron- disturbing or creepily appropriate? Should Lady Macbeth’s blood be visible or a product of her own demented mind? As an addition to this examination, I would show more of the supplementary material (“Weird Sisters”), especially the segments on the manuscript about Renaissance stage illusions. I would then ask my class, how do you think Shakespeare did it? I would hope the look at horror then and now would be thought provoking and interesting.

    Lastly I would use this production’s version of the Weird Sisters and break down their props, costumes, speeches and actions. What is their intent? Are they evil or do they just draw out evil in others? How would you have depicted them? What are these things they throw into the cauldron? And so on. There is huge potential in using this production in teaching and I wish that I had only been so lucky as to see this version when I read “Macbeth” in school.

  • Incorporating this DVD version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth would definitely be beneficial for students. Shakespeare, as we all know, is intimidating and difficult for students to get through. The language is the biggest barrier between students and Shakespeare. Students are often looking to simply translate the language and they need to understand that the language doesn’t need a translation; it needs interpretation.
    This DVD is great and I think students would truly grasp the meaning of Macbeth after watching it. However, from personal experience, the meaning doesn’t sink in or have a significant impact by merely watching a performance. The interpretation and understanding of the play needs to come from the students prior to viewing the film version. If the students know they are watching a film then they may not take the time to understand the play on their own.
    With that being said, I still would incorporate the film into my lessons but I would after the class act out scenes themselves. I don’t want the students to use the film as the basis of their understanding. I would have them work in groups to act out particular scenes and make it clear that this is one way to look at it and that there are many interpretations from one scene. I would then show those same scenes from the film. If the film is different from the way the students acted the scene out (which I am sure it will be at least slightly different) I will have the group point out the differences between their interpretation and the films. Then I would have them discuss the different impact that those differences made on the audience. The key is that they understand they are simply different interpretations and not right or wrong.
    After seeing a few different film versions of Macbeth, or other Shakespeare’s plays, it was refreshing to see one done so well. The props, set, costumes, and effects were very well done. It clearly is a more modern, technologically orchestrated version which would definitely be appealing to students. This version is great, but like any film version of a play or book, it must be used as only a supplement to the text.

  • I loved watching this production of Macbeth, and found that reading along with it was helpful. The omission of some lines and re-placing of others is not a huge deal for me, granted it’s not what Shakespeare wrote down, but it’s the director’s choice, and editors have been doing the same thing with his work for years. I particularly enjoyed Macbeth’s performance, it was very honest and deep. I found him extremely believable as a good man who strove for power and did some horrific things to get it, and then went crazy because of it.

    I would absolutely use the DVD in my classroom, however, I’m not sure if I would use the production as a whole but use specific scenes for specific purposes. For example, the weird sisters mixing a potion and keeping tempo is an excellent visual representation of what Shakespeare wrote. I think seeing it done and listening to it will help students to read it and keep the tempo on their own.

    The supplementary features on the DVD were extraordinary to watch. I greatly enjoyed the Directing Macbeth, Acting Macbeth, Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth, and the Weird Sisters supplements. I think that in each of these supplements there is so much information that students can find helpful and useful when it comes to understanding how to perform Shakespeare and understanding the play itself.

    I think, in particular, the Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth feature will help students gain a better understanding of the characters. Indeed, it even helped me to hear what the actors said and how they internalized and made the characters come alive. They help give “insider information” about motivation and desire and all of the aspects of making the decision to kill the King-that information is definitely helpful for students.

    The magic aspect of this production was incredible. I’ve never been able to pull off even so much as a card trick, so I loved how they were able to pull of a floating dagger and a disappearing witch during a LIVE performance, as opposed to what they can do with film. And while some people say that they would rather not see the blood that makes Lady Macbeth go mad and commit suicide, I found it to be helpful in my own understanding of why she goes insane. However, I think both using blood and having the audience imagine it and come up with their own vision works. Asking the students what they would prefer and why is a good way to have them do a close analysis and interpretation of the text.

    • First, my apologies to Voule — I couldn’t post a comment to LoMo’s entry for whatever reason, so I had to leave a reply on someone else’s comment.

      I enjoyed Posner’s and Teller’s rendition of MacBeth, though admittedly it was not what I expected. With the backing of Folger, I assumed this show would be more, um, conservative.

      After watching it, however, I was reminded of how much I enjoyed MacBeth in high school — it was the first Shakespeare play by which I was enthralled — and, more importantly, why I enjoyed it. The supernatural, violent and sexual elements were the very things to which I was drawn, and I think this version of MacBeth would be a great supplementary tool for high school students because it celebrates these elements.

      In particular, I’d like to provide students a visual representation of that which is difficult to visualize — the witches, MacBeth’s hallucinations, etc. Perhaps I could contrast Posner’s and Teller’s interpretation of these scenes with others that are subtler.

      To that end, I enjoyed the Blood Will Have Blood bonus feature in which the directors and actors discuss the liberal use of fake blood in their play. We’ve frequently discussed in class the importance of teaching students that Shakespeare is read in classrooms, yes, but it was originally written to be performed on stage, and with each performance there is a great deal of latitude furnished to directors and actors.

      With this in mind, students need to conscious interpretive decisions about their readings and viewings — again, providing them an opportunity to be active and take ownership of their work. In Blood Will Have Blood, for example, the actors discuss audiences’ reactions to the blood and gore. I might charge students with mulling the ramifications of this. Does it detract from the play or enhance it? Are there scenes where the students would add gore or tone it down if they were directing? And so on.

  • Providing visual supplements like this performance to Shakespeare readings can do nothing but enhance a student’s experience with the text. The actors make the words on a page come to life and put their own personal interpretations and additions to the performance which students can enjoy. Acting adds raw emotions to the text, further drawing readers into the plot and helping them comprehend the various relationships between characters. The audience also helps to illuminate the play as lines that may not have been comical to students are pointed out by the reactions of the watchers.

    When I first watched the Folger Macbeth DVD, there were several instances where either the director or the actors took artistic liberty and added to the text. For example, in the beginning of Act 5 Scene 1, the stage direction states that Macbeth’s wife is reading the text alone. However, in the performance, Macbeth reads some lines in the background while his wife is reading the letter. In class, I would probably not watch the movie in its entirety, but rather focus on specific acts and asks students to identify the differences between the text and the performance. I would want them to start thinking about how they could make Macbeth their own through their own additions or alterations to the script of the play. I would hope that they could see themselves as the actors from Folger and try to take on the persona of the characters.

    While watching the movie I watched along with subtitles. This could be useful in the class to have students read along with the actors to see if they agreed with the emotion the actor conveyed or the emphasis they put on certain syllables or words. I would have students who disagreed act the lines out in their own interpretation, or if everyone agrees with the acting, ask them to show a different interpretation.

    The omission of several lines such as the the three witches scene from Act 1 Scene 3 or Banquo’s speech as Steven Giugliano noticed out was also interesting. The class could have a discussion on if this took away from the overall effect of the play.

    The eight special features are great as additions to the DVD. I liked all of them, but think that students would be most interested in “Comedy in Macbeth”, “Blood Will Have Blood”, “The Weird Sisters”, and “Stage Combat”. These four have to do with laughter, horror and gore as well as the supernatural and violence. Highlighting these points in the play show just how much is going on and again how they can be conveyed in real life. Personally, I really enjoyed “Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth” because I thought the actors did a great job conveying the deterioration of their characters throughout the play. Insight into their preparations can help students figure out how the mindset they should adopt when they are performing in class. Since I think students could benefit from any of these special features, I would probably let them choose one that interests them the most.

    The last comment that I had regarding the DVD is that it shows how much can be accomplished in a limited space. Nowadays, individuals are used to high tech movies that take them to Alaska and then Africa in less than a split second. Seeing this play shows the importance of imagination and how more is not necessarily always better.

  • At first I thought that the Folgers DVD would be a basic read along to the book, but I was very mistaken. Their reproduction of Shakespeare was really good and transformed the play into a something that can be appealing to a diverse classroom. It is always interesting to see how someone interprets Shakespeare especially in the form of acting. In addition to providing scenes that will keep students engaged throughout the play, they have a special features section that further explains the unique direction they went with. I enjoyed the special feature about Blood and how the director took a horror movie approach to the reproduction. Although he didn’t explicitly allude to a specific film, he incoporated the aspects that are present during such films. It is important that students know that there isn’t a right or wrong way to interpret the plays and that there is always room for creativity. Performance is a great way to convey text visually and rather than using no fear Shakespeare, these performances adapt the true text and present in a form that is easier to understand to a lot of students.

  • I really enjoyed the Macbeth DVD and I would select multiple scenes to illuminate the lines throughout the play. As we’ve discussed many times, plays are meant to be read aloud, and having such a contemporary performance with which to familiarize the students with the plot, inferences, language…will provide a clearer understanding of what is going on between the characters and this should make students more confident when acting out the scenes.
    Since Shakespeare’s work often intimidates students, I appreciated the levity in the performance, and I think the humor will encourage students to work at understanding the language and actually enjoy the play.
    The behind the scenes footage is always interersting, and also has value when analyzing the lines. They are helpful in getting students into the minds of the characters – especially during the dense soliloquies.

  • This production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth was quite captivating. Whether it was what I would have done with the show or not, I’m unsure. However, I found myself consistently watching and waiting to see what comes next.

    The illusionist element of the show is what I think will draw students to this production. The blood, gore, and seemingly supernatural atmosphere takes the show to a place that many would not necessarily see. I feel that the students will definitely benefit from how drawn to watching this they will be.

    However, I think that the level of blood and gore can be a little distracting. My fear would be that they may lose some element of the language because they would be too distracted by seeing Lady Macbeth soaked in blood or the gory, intense battle scenes.

    The production itself is incredible. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. He went “off the text a little bit,” but I felt it had a purpose in getting the message across. All in all, I think students would love it especially if they are simply using it as a supplemental material. I would certainly use it in my classroom.

  • If students were to have access to this DVD at home, it would change the way we teach Shakespeare. No longer does the teacher have to block out days for showing a movie, but now students can go home and, with the right assignment, be engaged in the process.
    I throughly enjoyed watching the DVD, and although it didn’t follow the text exactly, if the captions were turned on it helped integrate the language and added a focus to it. With all the blood and magic, this is not something one might automatically think of when thinking of Shakespeare and I think it could go a long way in changing the way students think about Shakespeare.
    When showing a movie in class, the teacher can be an active participate and involve the students by stopping the movie to make comments and ask questions. This is lost when students watch the movie at home, but so much more can be gained. First of all, class time can be devoted to getting students on their feet and “doing” Shakespeare as O’Brien suggests. Students can also be engaged with the play at home with a creative assignment. One such assignment might be to have students watch the film and become the directors where they have to keep a few elements the same, and change a few elements. Students would be able to back up their decisions with an explanation and take an active part in the learning process.
    Of course, parts of the play could be shown in class, and perhaps the students could use the DVD version to be a basis from which they preform their own interpretation.

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