The Reception of the Weird Sisters in Welles’s ‘Macbeth’ and Kurosawa’s ‘Throne of Blood’


This presentation will focus on the reception of the Weird Sisters of William Shakespeare's Macbeth (1606) as supernatural beings with power over destiny and nature in Orson Welles's Macbeth (1948) and Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood (1957). Welles's and Kurosawa's receptions of the witches are acts of power in themselves, for the directors decide how to visually narrate the bard's words. Welles's film opens and closes with the scenes of the three witches whose lines and deeds delineate that they are the ones who have staged the course of events and seen it through. They fashion a clay doll of Macbeth. They put a necklace, then a crown on the doll, which they eventually behead. The use of the doll illustrates how the witches shape Macbeth's destiny. In Kurosawa's film an androgynous forest spirit replaces the three witches. Being androgynous, the forest spirit crosses the boundaries of gender. Knowing the desires of Washizu and Miki, vanishing into thin air, controlling the elements of nature, such as the weather or the forest, she also crosses the boundaries of natural and supernatural. The scene in which she sings while spinning a thread draws on the etymology of the word weird, which is derived from the Old English word wyrd meaning "fate, destiny, the Fates." It also reminds us of the Fates, who have control over the destinies of the mortals, and Calypso and Circe, all of whom are depicted spinning or weaving while the latter also sing to enchant men.

Author Information
Buket Akgün, Istanbul University, Turkey & Visiting Researcher, Kyoto Seika University, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: FilmAsia2015
Stream: Film and Literature: Artistic Correspondence

This paper is part of the FilmAsia2015 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon