Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Shakespeare's Macbeth: A Media Guide

I have recently produced Macbeth: A Media Guide. Here is an extract from the introduction:

Although the main focus in this guide is on the most influential film and TV versions of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, other audio and web-resources are also recommended. However, this guide begins by offering links to learning resources for younger children who are studying Shakespeare for the first time. Contemporary re-mediation is constantly refashioning the Shakespearean canon, drawn to the creative risk of playing with the brand and mixing up the source code, or simply aiming to make the drama more accessible to new audiences in a digital age.

We have moved a long way since Mary and Charles Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare was the primary choice for children. In fact, there is a long tradition of lavishly illustrated editions of Shakespeare, revealing that the text was seldom required to function on its own (Richmond, 2008; Rokison 2013). For instance, high quality media resources have been produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Shakespeare Learning Zone and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which have been expertly matched to various levels of learning, often employing elements of contemporary popular culture. Naomi Miller has remarked, ‘children and young adults represent an enormous potential market for Shakespearean material’ (2). 

Yet there are now so many resources available that guidance might be helpful for stressed-out teachers and for students driven crazy by the constant drilling of exams. While there have been 400 reputable films based on plays by Shakespeare, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) lists an astonishing 1,451 films credits for William Shakespeare (Writer). Evidently, commercial forces have capitalised on Shakespeare as a popular brand, just as the more media-oriented academics have followed in their path.

Nonetheless, there are perennial concerns that children are being denied access to authentic “Shakespeare”, if they rely on animations, abridgements, or heavily remixed appropriations. While there are problems with a reliance on clips that fragment the total effect of a full-length drama, Boose & Burt (1997) argued that ‘this shift to a cultural studies approach opens new possibilities for a kind of Shakespeare criticism with wider appeal to a non-academic public’ (10). At the end of the guide there is a bibliography of academic books and articles which have discussed the presentation, appropriation and adaptation of Macbeth on screen and in other media.

In fact, film versions of Macbeth date back to the earliest days of silent film (1916). Since then we have witnessed British and Hollywood versions of the play with a wide variety of famous actors and directors attempting to put their stamp on the Scottish Tragedy. Notable also is the global dimension as more films, clips and resources become easier to access through YouTube. Increasingly, live performances are also being documented and are sometimes distributed online streaming, or via DVD.

More recently we have had animations and even robotic versions of the play. Students can work through teacher-led exam focused close analysis of the text, or watch short clips of amateur and professional actors offering their interpretations.

Please help me to expand this very rough guide by filling in the gaps with your own recommendations.

1. Resources for schools                                                                             
2. Recordings of live performances                                                         
3. Podcasts                                                                                               
4. Feature-length films                                                                           
5. Audio recordings                                                                                 
6. History / context / discussion                                                              
7. Lectures                                                                                               
8. Other film adaptations                                                                        
9. Games and quizzes                                                                              
10. Further reading