Comparing MacBeth and living with lady Macbeth

In Drama I have been studying two plays. The first one is Macbeth, by far the shortest of Shakespeare’s tragedies, which explores the nature of evil, witchcraft and ambition. Shakespeare examines jealousy, ambition, self doubt and passion- the feelings that we all have to some degree. The second piece is Living With Lady Macbeth by Rob John which we are performing as one of our assessments. In our play there are nine of us – eight girls and one boy. Everyone appears throughout the play. I play the part of one of the girls.

Macbeth has several settings in this play. These include the battlefield, an open place upon a heath, inside Macbeth’s castle and the English court. Living With Lady Macbeth also has several settings. These include Lily’s house and the school.

This modern play deals sympathetically and realistically with teenage bullying and examines the characteristics invested in the character of Lady Macbeth and to some extent, in the character of Lily. It is a ‘play about a play’ and traces Lily’s efforts to be cast as her heroine in her school’s performance of Macbeth. To succeed, she has to better Suzanne Porter, one of her peer group who has bullied her throughout her school days.

Living With Lady Macbeth only has one act whereas Macbeth has five acts.

These two plays were written in different times. Macbeth was written in 1606 and is set in Scotland with the exception of Act 4 which is set in England at around Shakespeare’s time although the actual events took place in the eleventh century. In contrast, Living With Lady Macbeth is a contemporary play and was first performed in 1988.

Another stark difference between the two plays’ is that Macbeth is set in a period of months or even years whereas Living With Lady Macbeth was set in an indefinite period of time leading up to and after the auditions.

In Macbeth the resolution comes at the end of the play with Macbeths death and the restoration of Malcolm to the throne. In Living With Lady Macbeth similarly the climax comes at the end of the play when Lily decides against playing Lady Macbeth.

There is some humour in both pieces. In Macbeth the porter scene is humorous. The language the porter uses and also the visual comedy. In Living With Lady Macbeth the three girls and Barry are humorous, however there are also moments of great tension similar to Macbeth.

The culture and society of these pieces contrast greatly: Macbeth, is a supernatural play, based around witchcraft. Living With Lady Macbeth has a school as its setting, to which our audience can relate. The three girls nameless and stereotypically, belittle Lily and he ambition to play Lady Macbeth. Even Lily’s mother and boyfriend do not believe that she is capable of the role. The protagonist, Macbeth, is the archtypal tragic hero with the fatal flaw. There is a domestic element to Macbeth as well. This is shown by Macbeth and his wife and Lady Macduff and her son. The minor characters in Macbeth are important in commenting on or drawing attention to the behaviour of the main characters. The comedy is often introduced by the minor characters, for example the porter.

The style of Living With Lady Macbeth appears improvisatory. Although the drama starts in the same way as Macbeth, the audience is quickly involved in Lily’s life. It is not a realistic play, instead it uses flashback and flash-forward as it is set in both Lily’s imagination, where she carries out the ‘murder’ of her school bullies, and in the real world. Lily relates to her friend, Mon, snippets of conversation and shows us her dreams. In contrast, Macbeth is poetic drama, in unrhymed iambic pentameter. Much figurative language and imagery is used throughout. In both the pieces there is the use of monologue. Macbeth follows a classic structure of exposition, complication and resolution but there is no subplot, unlike Shakespeare’s other tragedies as the playwright wanted his audience to focus fully on the play’s themes.

Traditionally, Macbeth is played on a thrust stage- raised and built into the audience, and partly covered. There would have been little scenery, very few props and a strong emphasis on the dialogue to create setting, mood and atmosphere. The staging of Living With Lady Macbeth is similarly minimalistic as the very brief scenes run fluidly without interruption, so we are performing the play on a composite set.

It was necessary to make substantial cuts in our piece Living With Lady Macbeth so that we could adhere to the time limit. This therefore meant the ‘death’ of the girls and cutting of Macbeth himself due to the lack of an additional actor.

When Shakespeare wrote Macbeth he wanted to please James I. He wanted a Catharsis reaction. We want our audience to enjoy our performance of Living With Lady Macbeth as much as we enjoyed preparing it. We want them to leave with a great understanding of the piece. They should hopefully be able to relate to our piece and learn from it.