The scene opens with Macbeth talking to the Lords at the banquet he has thrown to celebrate his coronation. The Lords thank him for this and then Macbeth then talks about how he would, “mingle with society” rather than be a dictator. In the BBC 2 stage production, the most striking aspects at the opening are that the banquet hall is very dark and only the ‘top table’ is shown through the entire scene, so we really don’t get the impression that it’s a proper banquet as such.
Also Macbeth has an extremely dominating voice and the characterisation is quite befitting of a king. e appears to be a strong leader from our first impressions. In Polanski’s film, there is much more artistic licence because the film isn’t faced with the restrictions that a stage production is. As such, the banquet hall is will lit and the hall is filled with guests and slaves. Also there is bear bating in a characterisation of line 100, ‘Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear’. This is proof of the greater artistic licence that Polanski’s version has, as they can even have live animals on set.
A close up of Macbeth is used at this point showing him enjoying the scene, and this portrays the savagery of the human world. Macbeth is characterised as weaker than in the BBC2 version, and the actor is younger. Almost immediately the first murderer appears and starts to inform Macbeth of the murder they have committed on his behalf, in the privacy of an empty hall. The murderer tells Macbeth about how they (the murderers), ‘dispatch’d ‘, Banquo, but how his son Fleance escaped their grasp.
Macbeth is unhappy at this news (‘I had else been perfect; whole as marble, founded as the rock’), but nevertheless he is pleased that Banquo is ‘safe’. The murderer departs as Lady Macbeth enters the hall with the promise from Macbeth of ,’to-morrow, We’ll hear ourselves again’. In Polanski’s version the murderers are killed by Macbeth’s men and their blood soaked carcasses are dragged through the castle leaving the ground stained with the deed. This again points to the savagery of Macbeth. The play continues with Lady Macbeth telling off her husband for neglecting his guests.
She says that the banquet has gone ‘flat’ due to his absence and forces his return. On his return Lennox asks Macbeth to sit, but before he goes to do this, he addresses his guests about the absence of Banquo, performing what can only be described as a character assassination of him. He implies that Banquo’s absence is out of disrespect to his king, rather than any misfortune which has befallen him on his way, as Banquo is not the sort of person who would get himself into trouble easily. Ross agrees with his king and says, ‘His absence, lays blame upon his promise’.
We immediately see however that Banquo is there in the form of a ghost, that only Macbeth is able to say. When Ross asks the king to grace the subjects with ,’your royal company’, Macbeth remarks that thetable is full, because at this point the ghost of Banquo has already entered and has taken Macbeth’s seat at the table. Lennox points to Macbeth’s reserved seat but Macbeth then says ‘Where? ‘, he sees that the seat is occupied. Lennox asks him, ‘What is ‘t that moves your highness? ‘, and Macbeth realises that this is the ghost of Banquo who is sitting in his seat.
In Polanski’s production there is a physical manifestation of the ghost in Macbeth’s seat. It is a very graphic image and is meant to be disturbing; it again shows the greater artistic licence that is available to Polanski. In the BBC 2 production, the ghost is just an empty space which only Macbeth can see. This could possibly be more effective however for the viewer as he/she is forced to use their imagination to visualise the ghost and the imagination can be more powerful than a visual phenomenon.
It is at this point in the film version that Macbeth drops his goblet on the floor and immediately a servant falls to his knees to clear the spillage. This shows us the power of Macbeth, and more importantly it symbolises the spilling of blood that has dominated Macbeth’s rise to power. The slave wiping it up is symbolic of the way that Macbeth is able to cover up all that he has done. We see through Macbeth’s shouting at the ghost of Banquo that he still has guilt and that despite the fact that he has committed the most dreadful sins, he is still human.
It could be said that Banquo’s ghost is a manifestation of all of Macbeth’s guilt. It is because of his humanity that he has the fit. Lady Macbeth is quick to make and excuse for her husbands shouting at the ghost of Banquo (‘… my lord is often thus, And hath been from his youth: pray you keep your seat’). his shows her resourcefulness and ironically this is the last time we see her with her sanity. She appears strong and in control. In a previous scene we observed Lady Macbeth taunt her husband for being weak, and again the irony shows itself as she is the one who looses her sanity first.
Lady Macbeth then brings her husband aside and tries to talk some sort of sense to him. She is very impatient and refers to the dagger that Macbeth claimed had led him to Duncan. She rubbish’s his claim to have seen the ghost and calls him crazy. She then gets Macbeth to return to the banquet, (‘My worthy lord, Your noble friends do lack you’). When Macbeth returns to the banquet, the ghost has disappeared, and he toasts his missing friend. This is to cover up any suspicions that people at the banquet may have about Banquo’s absence.
There is an ironic juxtaposition in as far as as soon as Macbeth has finished his toast to his missing comrade, the ghost reappears. Macbeth is utterly appalled and he says ,’Avaunt! and quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee! ‘. This again shows us that Macbeth still has human qualities. Lady Macbeth tries to cover up again, but Macbeth continues his rant. In the BBC 2 version of Macbeth, there is a lot of tension built up through the fasting talking Macbeth. The actor makes animal like noises, which show the dehumanisation of Macbeth.
When Macbeth finishes his rage with the words, ‘Unreal mockery, hence! ‘, the ghost vanishes and doesn’t reappear again. Macbeth calms down and he says, ‘I am a man again. Pray you, sit still’. However the, ‘most admir’d disorder’, of Macbeth’s causes Lady Macbeth to send all the guests home. This is a turning point in both the play and Macbeth’s rule as king, and it shows the fine line between order and disorder. As soon as the hall has cleared, the epilogue of the scene begins. In the BBC2 version, this is were Macbeth really becomes dehumanised.
His voice crescendos to a peak and then returns to animal like grunting noises. Macbeth asks his wife, ‘What is the night? ‘ and his wife replies, ‘Almost at odds with morning, which is which. ‘ This stems from the opening of the play with the fair is foul and foul is fair theme. This comment about the time is very symbolic. Just as the twighlight is in the sky as they speak, and dark is ‘battling’ with the light of the morning, the forces of good and evil are duelling in Macbeth’s head.
This is shown immediately when Macbeth asks whu Macduff wasn’t present at the banquet. Macbeth is now targetting his comrade. Macbeth then talks about what he will do about the vision he had. He decides that he will go and see the witches, and when he says, ‘And betimes I will-to the weird sisters:’, he is accepting the evil that has infiltrated him.
He now thinks that it will be easier to continue with the blood shed, rather than seek redemption for the murders that he has already committed. e hints that there may be voices controlling him. Lady Macbeth’s response is one of worry, (‘You lack the season of all natures, sleep’). This is a homely remedy rather than one which will make any real difference. Lady Macbeth cannot understand the evil any more, and she is out of her depth. This is the start of the breakdown of their relationship. The most chilling aspect of this scene comes right at the end. Macbeth says, ‘We are but young in deed’, and this shows us that there may be more heinous crimes to come in the play.