Home > Multimedia Essays > Hey It Has Depth! Youtube and Lady Macbeth

Hey It Has Depth! Youtube and Lady Macbeth

When the name Shakespeare comes to mind, many would remember a head logo, a balcony scene with lovers melting at each other, and a famous line always orated “To be or not to be”.  But only a few would ever venture in knowing the complexities and all that is Lady Macbeth.

Lady Macbeth, is just one of the many Bard characters that has been immortalized in popular culture yet her fame lies in her constructed stereotyped trait of being an “ambitious” and “vile” wife of the Macbeth. Aside from that, she was also famous for the many reinterpretations of her sleepwalking scene in Act V Scene 1.

There were many versions of Lady Macbeth in the cyber video industry. YouTube hones a huge number of clips all from mainstream films to simple camera phone and even snippets of theater productions. Having “Lady Macbeths” here is a visual treat for those who enjoyed watching her suffer in many ways.

Still I wonder how scary has the sleepwalking Lady Macbeth gone too?

Yah, that was scary… This was the 1979 TV version from the Royal Shakespeare Company. And the screaming woman was Dame Judi Dench. Her eyes melted me. The fear still resonates. I posted this once in my facebook account and voila, some were a bit scared. Some YouTubers actually commented on this scene:

“This is the best Lady MacBeth I’ve ever seen. Dame Judi is simply amazing!” (from mhaid)

“Okay. I love Judi, but that cry at 4:13 was waaaaaay too much. Everything but that was beautifully done though.” (from pervertedpractices17)

“Gave me chills, and left me feeling like I’d just seen Lady Macbeth herself. Only Judi Dench could do that. Phenomenal.” (from maryliz98)

“that scream was probably the freakiest thing i have ever heard i have to do this scene for acting so this defiantly helped though i wish i could be that committed to my character” (from animebabe94)

These are just portions of the hundreds who saw this and commented for its amazing performance. Some are good but some are just totally ridiculous to consider like this one,

“Judy Dench is much better than that ridiculous Richard Burton was” (from 92af)

Richard Burton

and some were just skeptical,

“its’ not what i expected, i prefer Jane Lapotaire. The scream was useless and too long…=P but other than that she was ok” (from music4all92)

Well, this one was actually spammed.


The first time I encountered a Macbeth movie was in our English 23 class and that was a Roman Polanski film in 1971.

This is Francesca Annis, who I really don’t know at all but hey she is hot in this scene. Being psychotic and naked is something to consider in this performance. Roman Polanski did a good job in adaptation of this scene. I really admired how nakedness was juxtaposed to the spilling of a bloody truth.

Some YouTubers called this “creepy lady macbeth!” (from Minan3), “Lady Macbeth is fine as fuck.” (from th3Original1), and “christ all-fucking-mighty she’s been driven insane” (from thecultofjohnnybighead).

One even commented that “Lady Macbeth used to be the one with the guts and evil cunning and now she is reduced to nothing but insanity while her husband is also crazed, but is muc hmore fearsome and ruthless now than before. Shakespeare was a great writer and this movie is pretty good at telling his story. Francesca Annis is breathtaking in this.” (from balrog13571)


There was also another performance on British TV after Dame Judi Dench. That was Jane Lapotaire’s “Lady Macbeth” in 1983.

Well, she was preferred by one of the Dench skeptics in the previous comments. But, more people still loved teh Dench performance. Most of the YouTubers are open in their preferences and one even commented, “JUDI DENCH THE BEST <3” (from CityOniline).

There are more intelligent comments:

“I prefer Judi Dench’s performance. Jane has some really good points though, she is more active in this scene and utilizes the “stage” a lot more. Judi’s is just, I don’t know, it’s just frigging BRILLIANT! And the scream…o ma goodness! I was like, THAT is acting!!” (from UduVudoo)

“The comments on the performances are really about direction and filming. Dench’s brilliant performance was in extreme close up and she was the focus, Lapotaire’s is in a cheaper stagey television BBC Shakespeare – The director has focussed on the storytelling and panic of the Gentlewoman and the Doctor rather than the psychology of the sleepwalker. Both decent choices.  All good work.” (from peterobs)


There were also singing clips such as this one:

This was Shirley Verrett in a La Scala Production of Verdi’s Macbeth (Act IV) in their 75th/76th Season. 

She is definitely an opera Queen in this clip, even calling it by a YouTuber “Hair raising” (from ChristophePhilippe).

Operaddict, an avid fan on opera clips, intelligently comments on this video: “What is so wonderful about Miss Verrett is that she SINGS the role…full out…completely dramatic…and yet always in control and with bel canto, unlike so many who only punch at this role, hoping that merely their volume and frantic acting will disguise their lack of vocal technique. Those of us who know the difference can’t be fooled. Verrett had it all. What a great singing actress…the performance here is a document of a great artist.”


There is another Lady Macbeth opera clip in YouTube which gained nine thousand viewers.

This is from the Zurich Opera. It was indeed a crafty and very 21st century appropriation of the sleepwalker. Paoletta Marrocu, the Lady Macbeth here, is singing and at the same time holding a red lipstick while unconsciously writing inscriptions and drawings on a mirror. It was a witty way to remake the bloody handwashing scene.


Notice that Lady Macbeth always bring candles in each appropriations. In this next clip, we see how this was the only prop used.

This is Maria Guleghina in a La Scala production of Verdi’s Macbeth (December 7, 1997)

YouTubers commented not on how the sleepwalker seemed to haunt the scene but essentially in the vocal quality she produced.

“She is an excellent Lady Macbeth. Not the most solid and amazing voice, but it has a great metallic and penetrating warmth. Despite her large and vibrant voice, she has the ability of nuance and colouring that is essential in Verdi operas. Her acting is very powerful, both in vocal and physical terms.” (from ygorcs88)

“Shes far better in verismo. this is the only part of the opera where her voice is even semi suited to it. her earlier scenes of this where only so so. a great artist though, just not good with florid work. her queen of spades recording rocks though” (from moghedein13)

“She knows the style, she is an imaginative actres and has the right kind of voice for the role… but, she has poor discipline, specially in the low register, where she can produce a hole plethora of weird unfocused sounds…” (from andsou1979)


Here is another TV rendering by the RSC in 2001 of Lady Macbeth,

This is Harriet Walter holding only a candle and not naked.

Her portrayal of horror seemed to resonate a Judi Dench scene yet it seemed to look like another canonical Lady Macbeth performance. Her face twitched with the bloodwashing act wish made me shiver.

Sad to know that only a few saw it (about 660 views) and no one even dared to comment.


There are also appropriations done through computer cameras like this one:

and some were in the form of school project such as these:


Each renderings had something to say about how Shakespeare has entered the realm of cyberspace. In just one click, you could access a whole range of Lady Macbeths and shiver at all that the world of video streaming can offer.

Videos and Comments all from Youtube:

Dame Judi Dench – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOkyZWQ2bmQ&fs=1&hl=en_US

Francesca Annis – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4X8IgWWKpVw

Jane Lapotaire – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zyuB7JnHGs

Shirley Verrett – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qK0fBaH_gfE

Paoletta Marrocu – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2rBZTMXGic

Maria Guleghina – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO63evxlQxA

Harriet Walter – http://www.youtube.com/v/mRX2RvRj_NE

Other videos:




Categories: Multimedia Essays
  1. August 23, 2012 at 12:14 am

    Your picture which you labelled as Richard Burton, is in actuality, Peter O’Toole.

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