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Thread: How can I modernize Macbeth?

  1. #1
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    Exclamation How can I modernize Macbeth?

    First of all, hey I'm new on here!

    Secondly, for my grade 10 english literature assessment I have to write and perform a dramatic monologue from Macbeth. It has to be modernized. We have two options when modernizing though, we can do either a soliloquy or just the play summarized. So does anyone have any ideas on how I can modernize Macbeth to perform as a dramatic monologue?

    Thanks!

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    Orwellian The Atheist's Avatar
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    Alex Salmond and Scottish independence.
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    Leave the bard's work alone! Shakespeare shouldn't be modernized. He doesn't need it. But given that it's an assignment, here's an article by David Crystal that might help:

    http://www.davidcrystal.com/?id=4253

    He suggests only altering really difficult words that have dramatic importance, and where there is no poetic loss. But that comes to making almost no alterations And who are you to judge there will be no poetic loss in altering the bard's words?

    As you actually need to do some modernizing, I wouldn't make many alterations, but maybe go and bit further than Crystal. Have a particular audience in mind - say your school chums encountering the play, on stage, without any help. Then your task becomes to translate the important words they are unlikely to know, but at least keep it reasonably poetic!

    Example:

    1 WITCH. Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.
    2 WITCH. Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin'd.
    3 WITCH. Harpier cries:—'tis time! 'tis time!
    1 WITCH. Round about the caldron go;
    In the poison'd entrails throw.—
    Toad, that under cold stone,
    Days and nights has thirty-one;
    Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
    Boil thou first i' the charmed pot!
    ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

    "Brinded" is a difficult word, but just translating it gives you, "thrice the patchy cat hath mewed." This just sounds daft. Maybe Shakespeare is hoping his audience will not know what the word means! It sounds like "blinded" and "branded" - two nasty things that witches might do to cats! You might actually alter the word to blinded or branded, without too much poetic loss (?)

    "Hedge-pig" sounds strange, but that's good! And it's obviously another name for hedgehog. But maybe alter it to hedge-hog if you really want to hand hold the audience. (Or just to show teach that you actually did something )

    "Harpier" is the witch's familiar. Shakespeare's audience might have known this as a name for a familiar, we certainly don't. Maybe change this to something like "Spirits cry"

    And that's it really, I wouldn't alter anything else.
    Last edited by mal4mac; 05-05-2014 at 07:45 AM.

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    I would suggest if you have to do a modernized version of MacBeth that you do a 'highschool' version. Perhaps MacBeth is trying to be on homecoming court or desires to be his class' president.


    mal4mac - I see no issue with modernizing the bard. Personally I think there is nothing wrong with putting it into a context that people who aren't as into Shakespeare will understand is great. It is timeless, yes, and perhaps there is no 'improving' upon the bard's work in a sense of being timeless, but there certainly is in terms of 'making it understandable'... No offense meant, I respect and admire your adoration of Shakespeare, but you shouldn't tell someone else to not try to be creative~

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    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    Given everything I believe and have previously posted, I should agree with mal4mac - or Crystal - but I don't really.

    Yes, there are terrible modernizations of Shakespeare: re-writing the script in "contemporary English" and butchering everything. Then there are adaptations that are sort of modernized but not really: such as Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing or the Ian McKellen Richard III - taking the original words and dressing them up in fancy new clothes. These are good, but are they modernizations?

    The ones that really work are those that demonstrate that Shakespeare's ideas are timeless and can be transposed. Macbeth has spun off a few good ones. The show "Breaking Bad" for example - while I'm not a huge fan of the show - it is a wonderful modernization of Macbeth. Any time a man (or woman) schemes to achieve something only to realize they can never be satisfied with what they have but have to keep going - this story, that is essentially Macbeth can be told in wonderful new ways. Some people will say this is not really a modernization - and no, it is not a direct adaptation: but I think it counts.

    So to Meow - if you've made it through all of this - take this opportunity to think outside the box. Present the idea of a soliloquy in a context that has meaning to you. Show your teacher that you understand what (insert character) is saying in (insert soliloquy) but you are not confined to the terrible idea of just re-writing the language.
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Darnay View Post
    The ones that really work are those that demonstrate that Shakespeare's ideas are timeless and can be transposed. Macbeth has spun off a few good ones. The show "Breaking Bad" for example ... it is a wonderful modernization of Macbeth. Any time a man (or woman) schemes to achieve something only to realize they can never be satisfied with what they have but have to keep going - this story, that is essentially Macbeth can be told in wonderful new ways. Some people will say this is not really a modernization - and no, it is not a direct adaptation: but I think it counts.
    I agree that if you are going to do more than alter a few words, a la Crystal, you should go the whole hog and write a brand new work. Given that Macbeth is so rich you can usually find many themes, with "Any time a man (or woman) schemes to achieve something only to realize they can never be satisfied with what they have but have to keep going" is just one. Another is "the corrosive psychological and political effects produced when evil is chosen as a way to fulfil the ambition for power." There are *many* examples of modern politicians following this theme. An example would be Tony Blair lying about "weapons of mass destruction" to further his ambitions to be seen as a player on the world stage. I can also see Cherie Blair as Lady Macbeth. You can even bring in the supernatural/theme as one of the Blairs' best friends is Carole Caplin, a "modern witch". In fact there' s also sorts of god bothering & supernatural stuff that can be associated with the Blairs. No doubt Bush could be used in this context from a US perspective. Or, at a more farcical level, there's Clinton lying about his sexploits to keep power. Or Nixon/Watergate.

    Another thing you might try is heavy satire, which uses a strong image from Macbeth in a modern context to make fun of politicians & other big-wigs.

    The Blair's were famous for indulging New Age activities, like a rebirthing procedure in Mexico that involved smearing mud and fruit over each other's bodies while sitting in a steam bath.

    For instance, imagine Caplin dancing round a hot tub containing the Blairs:

    1 WITCH [Tony Blair]. Thrice Peter Madelson hath mew'd.
    2 WITCH [Cherie Blair]. Thrice and once, the Straw-pig whin'd.
    3 WITCH [Caplin] Murdoch cries:—'tis time! 'tis time!
    1 WITCH. Round about the caldron go;
    In the poison'd dossier throw.—
    [Caplin throws in manuscript, taps Tony Blair, in tub, on head, then says:]
    Toad , that under cold stone,
    Days and nights has thirty-one;
    Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
    Boil thou first i' the charmed pot!
    ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn, and caldron bubble...

    This kind of heavy satire is of course an ephemeral thing, and not great art, but it can be very effective and amusing. My Blair example is rather dated, and not that interesting outside the UK, so don't steal it

    Can you think of any current events involving Obama that might be subject to such satire? One thing that comes to mind is Macbeth's reluctance to act. That might be used to reflect Obama's reluctance/inability in various circumstances, example:

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/201...record-failure
    Last edited by mal4mac; 05-09-2014 at 06:01 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    Leave the bard's work alone! Shakespeare shouldn't be modernized. He doesn't need it.
    I HIGHLY disagree. The beauty of Shakespare is that he is still relevant even today and therefore modernized adaptations are more than welcome. The idea that it must be sophisticated and treated anciently is quite pretentious and would make the Bard himself laugh.

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