Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

Macbeth at the Movies


Having a sneak peek behind the scenes of a theatrical production is always exciting. The special features on the DVD of the 2008 Folger/Two River production of Macbeth – designed especially with students and teachers in mind – reveal some of the thought processes and deliberations that went on before rehearsals began. Some features also show how much this production was a collaborative effort on the part of actors, designers, directors, fight choreographers among others. Sharing some of this documentary with your students can be a very rewarding experience as it offers opportunities for them to explore issues through the filter of a medium (movies) in which they feel comfortable.

In fact, the DVD inspired two featured lesson plans for October! One lesson encourages student suggestions on how to make Shakespeare accessible to a modern audience. Questions they might discuss include:

What are the barriers?
What does it take to engage an audience?
Do directors consciously focus on a particular niche market or appeal to a specific age range or social group?
What techniques can they adopt to widen the accessibility of a play, particularly one by Shakespeare?

The “Directing Macbeth” special feature is an excellent tie-in for this, and is available for viewing here.

The other lesson explores Shakespeare’s use of repeated words. Again, supported by discussions on the DVD, students are encouraged to identify literary devices such as word repetition, dual/multiple meanings, connotative associations that emerge from the text and interpret them as an early form of “special effect”. Shakespeare knew what he was doing and without all the technology available today, was able to create atmosphere, weave intricate patterns into the story line and foreshadow events through skilful use of language. Take a look behind the scenes with your students- you never know what you will find!

The DVD is available with or without the Folger edition of Macbeth from the Folger Gift Shop.

– Carol Kelly

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