You are planning a major production: “MACBETH” – THE HORROR MOVIE. In a presentation to potential funders (MGM, Fox, etc), what are all the things in Acts 4 and 5 that you would list to persuade them that this is the stuff of pure horror?

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This sounds like a fun assignment!  There are countless examples you can use in these two acts to convince someone Macbeth is a horror story.  The play has all the trappings:  witches, ghosts, insanity, suspense, fear and suspicion, and plenty of blood and gore.  In the opening scene of Act IV, we have three witches in their “haunt,” likely before a backdrop of all kinds of dark, twisted, ungainly, rotting things, and as an ominous peal of thunder roars in the distance they’re chucking severed animal parts, entrails, organs, venoms, all kinds of hideous things into a cauldron.  Even a “finger of birth-strangled babe/Ditch-delivered by a drab.”  Show the severing of that finger and you’ve likely got an automatic R-rating.  There is evil music playing, and when Macbeth comes on the scene there is more thunder and the apparition of ghosts, one of which is “a bloody child.”  Classic horror.  When the witches disappear they leave Macbeth agitated, confused, and frightened.

In the opening scene of Act V we are confronted with Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking and her descent into madness.  Imagine this scene:  the dark stillness of night, total silence, and Lady Macbeth entering in a trancelike state.  “…her eyes are open…but their sense are shut.”  A haunting look.  And she rubs her hands as if washing them, compulsively and at length.  This sort of unusual, repetitive behavior has the power to make the skin crawl – the Lady is herself haunted desperate, and unstable.  In this scene we have the famous line, “Out, damned spot!  Out I say!”  And then, “Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?”  A foreboding, mysterious, troublesome line, the atmosphere descending into something fearful and ominous as she mutters to herself about her sins.  She has secrets, and they are murderous. 

Macbeth’s own denial and anger in Scene 2 are disconcerting to the reader, and would make one fidget uncomfortably – he is in a nervous rage, suspicious yet clinging to the witches’ augurs, confused still and riled.  He lashes out at messengers and barks despairing orders, trivializes life in his famous “tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” speech – he shows all the signs of a dreaded and reckless madman.  Who knows what he might do?  He could turn against his own, he could turn against himself -- or worse, he could win.

These Acts as well are rife with murder – in Act IV we see MacDuff’s entire household murdered unceremoniously in his absence, Lady Macbeth, ravaged by remorse, commits suicide, and of course in the final scene of the play the same MacDuff emerges bearing Macbeth’s severed head aloft for all to see.  And Malcolm further contributes to the beastly, homicidal, irredeemable characterization of the villain, referring to the Macbeths as “This dead butcher and his fiendlike queen.”  The word “butcher” calls to mind a sociopathic killer – indeed the stuff of nightmares.

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