If you were directing this scene,would you have an actual dagger floating in the air? Why or why not?
I agree with everyone who has already spoken about this issue. Many people have already commented that a real floating dagger would look ridiculous. I will simply add that the devices and techniques that would have had to be used to make a dagger seem to float would also look ridiculous. Remember that most of Shakespeare's plays were staged outside, during the daytime, in theaters that had few of the special effects capabilities of modern theaters. Surely any floating dagger would have had to be hung at the end of a string, and it is hard to imagine how the string could have been made invisible. If a gust of wind blew, would the dagger sway with the wind?
The reasons given above are more than enough to argue against actually showing a floating dagger. Even if one were able to make a dagger seem to float flawlessly (as in a modern film), the use of a floating dagger would blunt the point (no pun intended) of this scene.
I concur with other editors in their belief that leaving the dagger to be imaginary actually strengthens its impact on the audience. I have never understood why in the Polanski film version of this play there was a "real" dagger, when it just seems to detract from the focus on Macbeth and his mixed feels of ambition, guilt, fear and desire.
Since Macbeth's vision of a dagger is just that, a vision, it would seem to go contrary to Shakespeare's intention to suspend a dagger that would be visible to all. In addition, I don't imagine the Globe Theater presented the scene with a visible dagger. I would choose to respect the nature of Macbeth's experience and leave the vision of the dagger for Macbeth's eyes only.
I agree with auntlori. The floating dagger is not terrifying. It is humorous. If Shakespeare were going for terrifying, an apparition of King Duncan would best make the audience and Macbeth afraid. I realize Duncan is not dead yet, but some image of him maybe covered in blood would create a horrifying scene.
I think that Macbeth is aware that the dagger is not real, as he questions its appearance and the foreboding that such an image represents-
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? Or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
He knows that as he cannot touch the dagger it is not real. For this reason I would choose not to have the dagger presented: it is Macbeth's vision, not ours. In the way that Lady Macbeth's tortured washing scene does not see her covered in blood, I think the dagger is more effective if it is only experienced by the one driven by the evil forces which created it.
The image of the dagger is just that--an image. It is up to the actor to create for the audience, with his words and body language, the vision he sees and to make it believable. I don't see any real way of making the dagger real enough to be believable on most stages, which means having it there is likely to seem laughable.
In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Act 2 Scene 1 has a dagger floating in front of Macbeth. If directing the scene, I would not have an actual dagger floating in the air.
The reasoning behind this is that what Macbeth is seeing is a hallucination. There is no dagger. Instead, Macbeth's conscious is causing him to see things which are not there. The dagger does not actually represent a weapon. Instead, the dagger represents Macbeth's guilty conscious.
The use of an actual dagger would misrepresent what Shakespeare was trying to say about Macbeth's character and the problems that have arisen since the prophecy has been told to Macbeth. The use of an actual dagger would not speak to Macbeth's mental incapacities.
At the same time, more from the play would need to be changed than a simple prop. Macbeth's vision of the dagger excites him (negativcely) and would not lead the audience to believe that he is actually spinning out of control mentally.