What are some creative ways to create a modern day play of Macbeth by William Shakespeare?

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I've seen a lot of productions of Macbeth, and many of them have chosen to set the play in a nebulously "modern" setting, rather than in the medieval Scotland of the text. This is something common to modern productions of Shakespeare plays; the original text can be adhered to...

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I've seen a lot of productions of Macbeth, and many of them have chosen to set the play in a nebulously "modern" setting, rather than in the medieval Scotland of the text. This is something common to modern productions of Shakespeare plays; the original text can be adhered to while the surroundings are adapted to make the audience re-evaluate what the text is actually saying. Because Macbeth is, ultimately, a story about a man and his wife attempting to gain political power, the simplest way to help a modern audience properly grasp what it would mean for Macbeth to become king is to consider what would be the modern-day equivalent. The person in the position analogous to Duncan today is Queen Elizabeth II, who has no real political power -- a modern day Macbeth would not be trying to become king. However, if we imagine that Duncan is the president of a country, possibly the sort of country where assassinations have always been a means of political advancement, we could help the audience better understand Macbeth's position. Macbeth could be one of his advisors, a trusted member of his government, while his wife is the power behind the throne, so to speak—perhaps a woman who could be in an important position of her own, but chooses to hide her intelligence in the shadows in order to better manipulate the situation through her husband.

The great thing about modern Shakespearean productions is that the "conversion" of setting doesn't have to make sense on every level; it just has to be a suggestion for the audience. I recently saw an excellent production of Julius Caesar in London which imagined Caesar as a politician and the conspirators as members of his cabinet; the staging and costumes saw Caesar in a red baseball hat that said "Make Rome Great Again." You can imagine how this affected the audience interpretation of the play.

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Since female-driven narratives are becoming more popular with audiences, you might consider switching the sexes of the main characters. Make Macbeth a woman who is trying to rise to power of some sort (it could be political, or within a business or other type of organization), and then the play can deal, in part, with this woman's tricky relationship with her husband, a man who pushes her toward power but ultimately cannot handle the consequences of what he compels her to do. Instead of struggling with female weakness, the husband could try to deal with the effects of having a wife who is more powerful and makes more money than he does. In an era when women are becoming more empowered, making Macbeth a woman might be very interesting.

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One thing you could do is change the situation from kings and princes to a corporation or some other modern day situation where people are competing for power. Duncan could be the CEO, Malcolm his son, and Macbeth could be the guy who just oversaw a big merger or some grand business deal. The witches could be professors of economics, sociology and human behavior, and philosophy (Nietzsche or Machiavelli would work well). Maybe Macbeth goes to them for advice since they are all advisers on the dissertation he never finished.

Or, maybe all the characters are homeless and live in Central Park. And Macbeth, after years of harsh living, has gone a bit crazy, and three pigeons, whom he perceives to be future-telling witches tell him what to do in order to take over the park. This scenario is a bit more strange, but just to show how you could go any number of directions with this. Have fun.

I'd encourage anyone to be original and creative, but if you get stuck or need an example of a modern version, check out the movie Scotland, PA.

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To create a modern day version of the play 'Macbeth' by William Shakespeare it would be a good idea to consider what modern day audiences want and that is often novelty. Many audiences crave something different - particularly the young - whilst older older audiences might like the traditional version. Some ideas would be to create a modern urban play where the characters wear suits and carry laptops and ipods. Their idea of a 'king' could be their top=producing employee or boss instead of royalty. You could do a minimalist play, mostly dark, with no props and sparse costume where the 'witches' are truly invisible, perhaps appearing only as pools of light. The actors would have to be very accomplished to convey the drama and hold the audience. Contemporary Dance could be used to emphasise the action.

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