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Adapting Macbeth, or, Creating a Diversion?. [T]hence to the Duke’s house and saw Macbeth; which though I saw it lately yet appears a most excellent play.

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Presentation on theme: "Adapting Macbeth, or, Creating a Diversion?. [T]hence to the Duke’s house and saw Macbeth; which though I saw it lately yet appears a most excellent play."— Presentation transcript:

1 Adapting Macbeth, or, Creating a Diversion?

2 [T]hence to the Duke’s house and saw Macbeth; which though I saw it lately yet appears a most excellent play in all respects, but especially in divertisement, though it be a tragedy, it being most proper here and suitable. The Diary of Samuel Pepys, 27 January 1667

3 Divertisement (1) A kind of ballet; a short ballet or other entertainment given between acts or longer pieces…formerly also a piece of music containing several movements. OED, def. 2.

4 Some Macbeths (1674)

5 John Downes on the 1670s Macbeth The Tragedy of Macbeth, alter’d by Sir William Davenant; being drest in all its Finery, as new Cloath’s, new Scenes, Machines, as flying for the Witches; with all the singing and dancing in it…it being all excellently perform’d being in the nature of an Opera, it Recompenc’d double the Expence; it proves still [1708] a lasting Play. Roscius Anglicanus (1708)

6 Warrant authorising the adaptation of earlier plays in the Restoration Whereas Sr William Davenant, Knight hath humbly prsented [sic] to us a proposition of reformeinge some of the most ancient Playes that were played at Blackfriers and of makeinge them, fitt, for the Company of actors appointed under his direction and Comand…

7 Davenant’s Adaptations of Shakespeare The Law Against Lovers (1662) – mash-up of Measure for Measure and Much Ado About Nothing Macbeth (1663/64) The Tempest (co-authored with Dryden, 1667)

8 Singing, Dancing, and “Divertisement” in Davenant’s Macbeth Come hover through the foggy filthy air – Exeunt Flying (Act I, Scene i) Lady Macbeth: What quite unmann’d in Folly [the Ghost descends ------- Lords: Our Duties are to Pledge it [the Ghost of Banq. rises at his feet Act II, Scene v in Davenant is a new scene in which the witches sing songs and dance


10 Dryden on Shakespeare (1667) As when a Tree’s cut down the secret root Lives under ground and thence new Branches shoot; So, from Shakespear’s honour’d dust, this day Springs up and buds a new reviving Play. “Prologue” to The Tempest (1667)

11 Critical Opinions on the Adaptation of Shakespeare (1) “It’s almost like a rouged corpse – a thing too ghastly to conceive of” George C. D. Odell, Shakespeare from Betterton to Irving (1920-21) “everything that the authors [Dryden and Davenant] laid their hands on is defiled” Hazelton Spencer, Shakespeare Improved (1927)

12 Critical Opinions of the Adaptation of Shakespeare (2) “The extraordinary reduction of the protagonists…is revealed in scene after scene” Peter Dyson, “Changes in Dramatic Perspective: From Shakespeare’s Macbeth to Davenant’s” The Shakespeare Quarterly 30 (1979), 402-407.

13 Divertisement (2) the action of diverting or the fact of being diverted OED, def. 1

14 Montaigne, “On Diversion” Montaigne argues that reason cannot control the passions, therefore it is necessary to find “diversions” to provide an outlet for the passions so that they do not become destructive. This idea has a big influence on much continental thinking in the middle of the seventeenth century, especially in France in the 1650s, where…

15 Davenant happens to be thinking about “divertisements” as well [T]he wise Athenians (dividing into three Parts the publick Revenue) expended one in Plays and Shows, to divert the people from meeting to consult of their Rulers merit, and the defects of Government. “Preface” to Gondibert (1651) The People of England are observ'd by writers of other nations and by our owne to require continual divertisements, being otherwise naturally inclin'd to that melancholy that breeds sedition Letter to John Thurloe (1656)

16 The Re-Opening of the Theatres as “diversion” Greatest of Monarchs, welcome to this place Which Majesty so oft was wont to grace Before our Exile, to divert the Court, And ballance weighty Cares with harmless Sport. Davenant, “The Prologue to His Majesty” (1660)


18 Davenant’s Witches Shakespeare Act I, Sc. I, ll. 10-11 Fair is foul and foul is fair Hover through the fog and filthy air Davenant, Act I, p. 1 To us fair weather’s foul and foul is fair Come hover through the foggy filthy air And in an added scene: We shou’d rejoyce when good kings bleed (p. 27)

19 I go, and it is done. The bell invites me. Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell That summons thee to heaven or to hell. Shakespeare Act 2, scene I (63-65) Oh Duncan hear it not for tis a bell That rings my Coronation, and thy Knell. Davenant, Macbeth, p. 18

20 Macbeth Shakespeare, Act 1, scene 2 For brave Macbeth – well he deserves that name – Disdaining Fortune, with his brandished steel Which smoked with bloody execution Like valour’s minion Carved out his passage till he faced the slave Davenant, Act I (p. But brave Macbeth (who well deserves that name) Did with her frowns put all her smiles to flight And cut his passage to the rebel’s person

21 Macbeth Shakespeare, 1.3. Till that Bellona’s bride-groom lapped in proof Confrinted him with self- comparisons Davenant, Act I (p.3) Brave Macbeth opposed his bloody rage And checked his haughty spirits

22 Macbeth Shakespeare 1.4, ll. 49-53 Stars hide your fires, Let not light see my black and deep desires The eye wink at the hand, yet let that be Which the eye fears when it is done to see Davenant, Act I, p. 9 Let no light see my black and deep desires The strange idea of a bloody act Does into doubt all my resolve distract

23 Lady Macbeth in Davenant You were a man. And by the charter of your sex you shou’d Have govern’d me, there was more crime in you When you obey’d my counsels, then I contracted By my giving it. Resign your Kingdom now, And with your Crown put off your Guilt Davenant, p. 53

24 Macbeth as 1650s Regicide Drag his body hence, and let it hang upon A Pinnacle at Dunsinane, to shew Future Ages what to those is due Who others right by lawless power pursue

25 MacDuffs in Davenant Lady MacDuff: Ambition led him to that bloody deed May you be never by ambition led MacDuff: From Duncan’s grave I think I hear a groan | That calls aloud for justice. Lady MacDuff: If the throne Was by Macbeth ill-gained, Heavens may, Without your sword sufficient vengeance pay

26 On the added scene of debate between the MacDuffs, Lois Potter writes that it must have been: “agonisingly relevant…For that majority of Davenant’s audience who had been quiescent under Cromwell, this argument externalises an inner conflict that badly needed ventilating.” Potter, Secret Rites, p. 202.


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