In Macbeth for Act 1, scene v, what dramatic conventions can you use to convey the issues?   

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shakespeareguru | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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There are as many types of dramatic conventions to potentially use in a staging of Act I, scene v of Macbeth (or any scene in the play) as there are different theatrical styles and traditions.  Do you want to stage a Japanese Kabuki style production of Macbeth?  Then you would use conventions from the Kabuki theatrical tradition.  Would you like to stage the scene using the conventions of Shakespeare's day, conventions that are referred to as "original practices?"  How about a modern film version of the play? Film brings in a whole new set of conventions, even if not a word of the text is changed.

All of these productions of the play would rely on different conventions.  Dramatic conventions are simply a set of rules that are understood by actors, directors and audience as the sorts of theatrical workings that can be expected to be used to assist in telling the story.  Different theatrical traditions and time periods use different conventions, so the "best" ones to use would depend on the tradition you are following.

For Act I, scene v of Macbeth, here is an example of some of the dramatic conventions from Shakespeare's day, or the original practices, that could be utilized to convey the issues:

  • Cast a man as Lady Macbeth. Shakespeare's theatre did not have female performers, and when Lady Macbeth says "un-sex me here", it will have an especially powerfully ironic effect, if the actor is a man rather than a woman.
  • Make sure that Lady Macbeth converses directly with the audience in her soliloquies.  In Shakespeare's theater, there was no "fourth wall" between actors and audience, so actors never pretended that the audience was invisible or "not there."  It was a definite theatrical convention that actors spoke directly to the audience.
  • Allow and encourage the audience to voice their opinions as the actors playing Lady Macbeth and Macbeth begin their disagreement over killing or not killing Duncan.  Part of the convention of Shakespeare's theatre was that the audience was not expected to sit quietly as polite observers to the play.  They cheered and jeered ( and threw things), much the way we might behave at a sports event today.  So, get the audience involved in voicing their opinions -- Whose side are they on, Macbeth's or Lady Macbeth's?

For more on dramatic conventions and staging a play with Shakespeare's original practices, please follow the links below.


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