How has Banquo’s ghost been represented and staged?
When Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost, it changes the course of the play. In the text, Macbeth seems to be the only one that can see the ghost of Banquo as his guests and wife claim there is nothing there. In some productions this means the audience doesn't see the ghost either and in some the audience will only see Banquo's ghost in certain moments.
Take a look at the Things to Consider and investigate the different ways we’ve portrayed Banquo's ghost. There is also an opportunity to Investigate Act 3 Scene 4.
Investigate Act 3 Scene 4
As you look through the photographs from past productions of Macbeth, think about:
- How you can tell that Banquo is a ghost and what his relationship to Macbeth is. In the 2004 production, you can see Banquo’s ghost is played by an actor, illuminated with a red light. He is sat behind Macbeth. What does this tell you about what Macbeth is seeing?
- What the scene would be like if Banquo was invisible to the audience as well as thanes at the banquet. Do you think it would be more or less terrifying? What would this do to the meaning of the scene? How would it change our reaction to Macbeth?
- In the text, Banquo’s death is the only death to happen onstage. Would you keep it this way, or would you choose to show other deaths? In Polly Findlay’s 2018 production, the other deaths happen offstage but can be seen by the audience in a tally that is chalked up on the wall at the side of the stage. What effect do you think it has when the audience cannot see the deaths but are aware they are happening?
How would you choose to portray Banquo’s ghost in a production? How could your visual choices make this moment more terrifying for Macbeth?