Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Ivo Kamps

Relational Format



In this thesis, I closely examine William Shakespeare's 17th century tragedy, Macbeth, in comparison to five film adaptations for a 21st century audience: Roman Polanski (1971), Philip Casson (1979), Geoffrey Wright (2006), Rupert Goold (2010), and Justin Kurzel (2015). I chose to survey the women in Macbeth specifically because of historical blame placed on either Lady Macbeth or the witches for Macbeth's actions. General critical perceptions are that these women robbed Macbeth of his agency or free will and urged him, coerced him, to commit unspeakable crimes to advance his career. What I found in these productions are a variety of character features that present the women in novel ways, mitigating against, or supporting, a traditional view of women in the drama. In order to draw conclusions from the overall roles of these characters, I placed the play text directly beside the film scripts. If a director omitted a line or made another modification, what purpose was he serving? By addressing these changes, I was able to determine Macbeth's agency over his own fate. Details in the script alterations ultimately become determinative factors in the meaning of the play; with these omissions or modifications, Macbeth is able to control his own fate. In this analytical project, I served as an active audience member, watching the film to construe the directors' efforts as well as account for any concepts of the play, lost or diminished in their adaptations. Instead of passively adopting the directors' presentations, I sought to understand why the directors made specific changes to the play text in their scripts and certain choices of setting, lighting, costume design, and characterization. By actively engaging in these five films, I uncovered the implicit changes through the directors' use of cinematography and the impact of their explicit changes in their scripts from the play text on their 21st century audience. Ultimately, I aimed to reveal the importance served in the manifold retellings of this drama.



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