The Tragedy of Macbeth

Grade/Lit Connection
Grade 12 Macbeth

Type of Objectionable Material
PARE - A Columbia Picture Presents A Playboy Production of Roman Polanski's film.   Violance and gore, man hangs himself, stabbing of king to death, blood and gore.  Animal brutallity, bear cub attacked by dogs for entertainment.  Completely  naked old woman making a brew for Macbeth to see the future.  Pre pubesence boy is naked, seen clearly and then killed by stabbing along with two other  boys.  It is suggested that the mother is raped.  Wife of king in full nudity.  Macbeth is stabed from abdomen to shoulder in a violent manner and grossly decapitated.  This is very disturbing..

The "R-Rated Film Approval Form" and Permission Slip are typical of those found in CRSD and are shown below. The R-Rated Film Approval Form glossed over / minimizes the nudity & violence and other objectionable material and states how wonderful the movie is and how it will help the students learn.  The teacher (Picardi) likes the film because it is "visual" or "artistic" (Visual Literacy Obsession), because Jon Finch & Francesa Annis give great performances and because the scenery and costumes are historically accurate.  In September, the permission slip was posted and it mentioned the nudity and violence.  Neither document metions Playboy (Sept 17, 2010). This is a very dynamic situtation.

To put things in perspective, there are (13) "significant" screen performances of Macbeth listed on Wikipedia. Several of them are made for TV. (  Of the (13) available "significant" Macbeth films, CRSD (Picardi/Leventhal/Walsh) pick and approve the version with the most graphic nudity and violence.  They ignored the fact that Macbeth was financed/released by Playboy and left that information out of the R-Rated Film Approval Form and Permission Slip (August/September 2010 versions of these documents). They also fail to answer that age old question - Why is a movie from Playboy being shown to high school students?

From the R-Rated Film Approval Form / Permission Slip:

- "The film breathes life into Macbeth and his scheming wife. This artistically rendered cinematic version of Shakespeare's play serves to make the text visual ..."

- "The film star classically trained actors such as Jon Finch as the tragic hero Macbeth and Francesca Annis as his scheming wife Lady Macbeth. This artistically rendered cinematic version of Shakespeare's play serves to make the text visual ..."

- "In spite of the R-rating, the film provides an invaluable opportunity for students to experience a visual depection of the themes and conflicts ...".
PARE Response - We agree that Macbeth is very visualIn Macbeth, Polanski chose to show all  - including violence and nudity absent from the play. (1).
(1). Barbara Leaming, Polanksi: His Life and Films (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1982). pg. 38

Lets see some examples of how Polanski & Playboy make Shakespeare's play visual, provide an invaluable opportunity to experience a visual depection of the theme and conflicts and bring it to life. Lets include the Internet Movie Data Parental Guide (IMDPG) for this movie in the analysis. This will provide an objective / secular listing of any potential offensive material. This movie is rated 'R' because of Strong Violence, Graphic Nudity and Brief Language.

Macbeth by Polanski & Playboy - Shown to the students

In Macbeth by Shakespeare, the witches wear clothes.
In Macbeth by Shakespeare, the Lady Macbeth  is clothed when she sleep walks.

IMDPG - One witch lifts her tunic briefly in front of Macbeth and Banquo. Her vulva is briefly exposed.

IMDPG - Macbeth is lead into a cave by a totally nude ugly witch (her breasts, buttocks, and vulva are exposed briefly) to find the three witches along with a large group (20 or 30) of other witches performing a naked ritual. Many breasts are shown, brief glimpses of buttocks and vulvas are also seen.

IMDPG - Lady Macbeth sleep walks bare naked over to a desk and sits down. Her servant and doctor watch her and talk about her. They then lead her, still naked, and lay her in bed. Her buttocks are frequently seen, her breasts are seen occasionally, and her vulva is seen briefly
IMDPG  Macduff's 12 year old son stands in the raw in front of his mother in a basin of water whilst she pours water over him and washes him. His penis, scrotum and buttocks are seen.

Macbeth by Polanski & Playboy - Shown to the students
IMDPG - The murder scenes are frightening as is the attack on a household as everybody, including children, are slaughtered. Shown below:

IMDPG - A young child is stabbed in the back. (Macduff's son)

He dies in his mother's arms. In the back ground, another woman is screaming.

Macduff's son's killer, now turns his atttention to Lady Macduff. He wants to rape her.

In the back ground, you hear another woman screaming.

Lady Macduff escapes and sees a woman being raped. (cause of the screams in the  previous scenes).

Two soldiers are holding the woman, while the third rapes her. She is nude from the waist down.

Lady Macduff runs accross the hall, enters a room and finds a murdered child covered in blood.

IMDPG -Several bodies (including children) are shown slaughtered and covered in blood.

Macbeth by Polanski & Playboy - Shown to the students

IMDPG - A sword passes through a man's armor, from his underarm to the other side of the body.

IMDPG -A man is beheaded and his head is later shown on the end of a pole.

Perhaps William Shakespeare meant to have Lady Macbeth perform her sleepwalking scene in the nude -- it was this X-rated scene and the film's much-publicized spurts of violence, rather than the brilliant performances of Jon Finch as Macbeth and Francesca Annis as his Lady, that lured crowds to Roman Polanski's 1972 adaptation of Macbeth. Only a few critics glommed onto the most impressive aspect of Polanski's version: as Macbeth and his wife sink deeper and deeper into the morass of their murderous ambitions, they age and wither before our eyes (Shakespeare's play does cover several years, but this is usually forgotten or ignored by many actors and directors). Macbeth was financed and released by Playboy, which naturally necessitated a fold-out spread on "the witches of Cawdor." The original Shakespearean text was adapted for the screen by Polanski and Kenneth Tynan. Despite an excellent first week, Macbeth ended up in the red, compelling Hugh Hefner to think twice about future motion-picture projects. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

The making of Macbeth was covered in the February 1972 issue of Playboy.

Is Polanski's adapation of Macbeth accurate? NO. To what degree does he deviate from the accepted norms? In Macbeth, Polanski chose to show all  - including violence and nudity absent from the play. (1). 

Where in the play-text are naked women referenced? We are not aware that Lady Macbeth sleep walks in the nude or that there are 20-30 nude witches. Where in the play-text does Macduff's son get washed (nude) on stage? Could it be the influence of Playboy? It possible to learn about Macbeth without watching a child being murdered? Is it possible to learn about Macbeth without seeing a man die with an ax stuck in his back?   Is it possible to learn about Macbeth without seeing dead children covered in blood? Were rape scenes included in the  performances of Macbeth at  the Globe Theater? What is wrong with the other 12 significant Macbeth Films?

It appears that the teacher (Picardi), department coordinator (Leventhal)/district coordinator (Walsh) and Polanski have read a different version of Macbeth than the rest of us. 

Why is a movie from Playboy being shown to high school students?