Jordan Rosenberg, Yeshiva University High School for Boys, New York City, New York.
What's On for Today and Why
Students will explore the use of sound as a special effect to enhance or radically change the meaning of a scene. They will provide a soundscape for Macbeth's porter scene, and conclude by listening to and watching two very different film treatments of the scene.
This lesson will take one to two class periods.
What You Need
Folger edition of Macbeth
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
Film version of Trevor Nunn's 1979 BBC production, with Ian McKellen and Judi Dench.
Film version of Roman Polanski's 1971 film, with Jon Finch and Francesa Annis.
Macbeth Film Soundscape Handout
What To Do
1. As a class, read through Macbeth 2.3. Tease out both the basic action of the scene and its context in the play.
2. Ask students to brainstorm for possible sound effects that could accompany this scene. What sounds would lend themselves to a comic performance? What sounds would make it sound darker and more horrifying? Students might note the difference between a "shave and a haircut, two bits" knock and an incessant, resonant pounding, for instance.
3. Divide students into groups and ask them to create their own soundscapes for the scene. When they have finished, perform them for the class. Briefly discuss each of the scenes: how have they used sound effects to clarify or change the meaning of the scene?
4. Share two different film versions of this scene: the horrifying version from Trevor Nunn's BBC version and the more comic scene from Roman Polanski's film (see film details below). First, have them only listen to the scene, without getting to watch at the same time. Use the attached handout as a way for them to record both their specific observations and the effects of those observations. Then, allow them to watch while they listen. How have the soundscapes changed the worlds of the plays?
5. For those teachers and students interested in audio editing, a tutorial in using Audacity editing software can be found here.
How Did It Go?
Did students understand the role that sound effects can play in helping to create the mood of a scene? Were they able to express that understanding by creatively designing sound for a scene and performing that effectively? Were they able to see the same tools at work in the two film versions of the play?
If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.