Shakespeare: The Animated Tales: Season 1, Episode 3

Macbeth (23 Nov. 1992)

TV Episode  -   -  Animation | Comedy | Drama
7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 43 users  
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Encouraged by a prophecy and his scheming wife, Macbeth sets out to be King of Scotland, but soon realises the lengths he must go to keep his power.

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Title: Macbeth (23 Nov 1992)

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Cast

Episode complete credited cast:
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Narrator (voice)
...
Macbeth (voice)
...
Lady Macbeth (voice)
Laurence Payne ...
Duncan (voice)
Patrick Brennan ...
Banquo (voice)
Clive Merrison ...
Macduff (voice)
Mary Wimbush ...
Witch (voice)
Val Lorraine ...
Witch (voice)
Emma Gregory ...
Witch (voice)
Richard Pearce ...
Donalbain (voice)
David Acton ...
Malcolm (voice)
John Baddeley ...
Lennox (voice)
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Encouraged by a prophecy and his scheming wife, Macbeth sets out to be King of Scotland, but soon realises the lengths he must go to keep his power.

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23 November 1992 (UK)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Version of A Performance of Macbeth (1979) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A model adaptation of Shakespeare.
28 May 2001 | by (dublin, ireland) – See all my reviews

This animated version of the Scottish play has a number of advantages over a theatrical or live action adaptation. At 26 minutes, it has to shear the text to the bare minimum necessary to make the plot coherent. It might seem perverse to celebrate a Shakespeare with most of the Shakespeare taken out, but I defy anyone who has not read and studied the play first to be able to follow the threefold intricacy of the text (1. the narrative; 2. translating from Shakespeare's language to our own; 3. unravelling the elaborate figurative language) at the speed with which actors speak it. Or maybe I'm just dim. Most importantly, the words aren't just taken out, but translated into visual language. As anyone studying Shakepeare knows, the narrative dealing with the plot and characters is only level of the plays; there is always a powerful pattern of images, metaphors, similes etc. that don't simply make the narrative 'poetic', or suggest interesting insights (e.g. all the animal imagery linked to Macbeth), but create an inextricable second symbolic narrative that connects the actions of the plot and the characters of the players to the thematic and philosophical density of the ideas.

You can't really do this in live action beyond a few props - they remain at the level of words, which, as I have suggested, are spoken too quickly to be fully digested. But in animation, with its visual flexibility - where 'realistic' events can easily slip in and out of symbolic imagery - and its physics-defying action, this second level can be brought to the fore, without in any way sacrificing narrative coherence: a simple, but powerful example is the scene where the Witches tell Macbeth his future - the emblem signifying his Thaneship of Cordor becomes a string of bones collapsing into the king's crown.

Perhaps the most immediate advantage of animation is the vivid atmosphere it can create. On stage, the violence must be artificially stylised (you can't go lopping off real actors' heads), and even on film you know it's just illusive choreography and tomato ketchup. In this 'Macbeth', however, there is a satisfying goriness, making the horrors, the murders, Macbeth's ever-proliferating paranoia terribly real, and also providing some remarkable visual moments, such as the blood-dripping aftermath of Duncan's death.

Furthermore, 'Macbeth' is a supernatural play, which can only be recreated on stage with dry ice and old-crone shrieking. By turning Scotland into the kind of vast, arid desert-scape you might expect in Greek tragedy; by turning the interiors into crumbling, inhumanly vast, drippingly dank Gothic chambers; by turning the solidity of the action into an unstable visual mosaic backing the weird hallucinatory quality of Macbeth's waking nightmares, director Sebreyanakov creates an unsettling atmosphere that makes the Witches' world more powerfully convincing.

Ultimately, there are some things animation can't do. This 'Macbeth' is only surpassed by one other, that of Orson Welles. Welles created just the kind of visual world I've been talking about, privileging the visual, the symbolic, the hallucinatory over the verbal. But he does it with believable people, and not the somewhat stilted beanpoles Sebreyanakov offers. In the animation we get a powerful sense of the otherworldly and of mental breakdown. With Welles we get this, and tragedy. In other words, Shakespeare.


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