(Un)sexing Lady Macbeth: gender, power, and visual rhetoric in her graphic afterlives.
Lady Macbeth's status as one of Shakespeare's most devious and fascinating characters has been recognized in the proliferation of criticism on and adaptive works of Macbeth over the past 400 years. Of particular concern has been how she achieves her ambitions and advances her and her husband's political interests while working within a stringently patriarchal society. One way critics have explained Lady Macbeth's relative success is through her associations with demonic forces and the fateful powers of the notorious three witches. Others have looked at how in the play she verbally manipulates gender values and expectations to suit her purposes. As Cristina Leon Alfar reminds us, "Lady Macbeth's 'evil' is ... an ideologically inscribed notion that is often linked in our literary tradition to strong female characters who seek power, who reject filial loyalty as prior to self-loyalty, and who pursue desire in all its forms--romantic, adulterate, authoritarian, and even violent." (2)
In Shakespeare's play, Lady Macbeth's portrayal begins with the powerful elements of her ambitious and successful plotting of Duncan's demise, effective rhetorical manipulation of her husband to "be a man" and take action, and her position-potentially--as Macbeth's equal in their relationship, his desired "dear partner of greatness." And yet, for the most part, these powerful moments are all in the service of disorder (of tyrannical usurpation of the monarchy and the usurpation of control within her marriage) and the unnatural (through her affiliations with the supernatural in the "unsex me here" speech). Her guilt-filled sleepwalking scene and later suicide register therefore as bodily signs of her corruption and as (self-)punishment for her transgressive, "evil" ways.
From the beginning, Lady Macbeth's cultural value has generally included the sense that she is monstrous--she not only has crossed the boundaries of appropriate behavior for a wife and subject, but she has called on demonic forces to help her achieve her goals. The play's narrative about her ambition to obtain position and fame collapses into a heavily gendered cautionary tale about tyrannical overreachers and their demise. Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth borrows from earlier "monstrous women" stereotypes but also provides an iconic model for later interpretations of her character.
Are there other productive ways of representing Lady Macbeth without rein-scribing her within traditional evil female stereotypes such as the witch and seductress? Many stage, film, and artistic works to date would seem to reply "no." Her stereotypical representation makes her immediately familiar and thus culturally recognizable. However, what signifies as culturally recognizable becomes more fluid as social stereotypes are challenged and altered, and as more roles for strong women become available. Graphic novel and manga editions of Shakespeare's Macbeth provide a newer critical arena that both places Lady Macbeth in a long artistic and literary tradition and opens the door to different interpretations available from other genres such as superhero comics and science fiction. In this way, illustrators elaborate on and modify the iconic meanings that have accrued around her over the years. (3)
To see how these graphic renditions figure Lady Macbeth's character and the key debates over the relationship between gender and power in the play, I will examine four adaptive works, two of which are graphic novels and two that are manga: William Shakespeare's Macbeth; Macbeth: The Graphic Novel; Shakespeare's Macbeth: The Manga Edition; and Manga Shakespeare: Macbeth. (4) Ultimately, most of these representations fall back into old, cliched stereotypes, thus reinforcing traditional gendered expectations about who is authorized to use power, express ambition, and pursue a wider range of desires. However, one of the manga editions, Manga Shakespeare: Macbeth drawn by Robert Deas, offers an interesting alternative reading of the play and her character--one which potentially destabilizes stereotypes and updates the story for the (post)modern reader. This last edition, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, presents Lady Macbeth as an action heroine, worthy of equal footing with her male counterparts. Deas's illustration of Lady Macbeth as a strong, heroic figure in her own right makes strides in breaking the play and her character free of years of visual representation that sought to make her ambitious grasps at power and personal fulfillment understandable and safe, or alternately, marginalized and ultimately contained. (5)
I. Illustrating Lady Macbeth: Past and Present
Looking back at earlier visual representations of Lady Macbeth, it is not difficult to see from where modern stereotypes for her character have come. Georgianna Ziegler's study of Lady Macbeth in Victorian portraiture, engravings, and prints reveals two trends in the way earlier artists and critics viewed this character: "as barbaric and passionate or domesticated and caring." (6) On the darker side, throughout the 1800s, Lady Macbeth is compared with witches, demons, viragos, snake-women (a la the Fall and Lamia stories), and iconic "evil women" like Medea. In this way, she becomes safely contained as a figure from the past and/or an "other," and thus alien from "normal" Victorian women. (7) Alternately, during this same period, critics like Anna Jameson, author of the popular Shakespeare's Heroines: Characteristics of Women, Moral, Poetical, and Historical, posit that while Lady Macbeth is an evil character, she still has passion, intellect, and drive--all admirable qualities. (8) The queen retains our sympathy and respect because her crimes are done in the service of being a good wife who wishes to advance her husband. Yet others try to explain away her behavior as the product of loneliness or sorrow at not having a child. (9) Whether offering us a dark or sympathetic Lady Macbeth, nineteenth-century artists and critics feel the need to categorize, contain, and explain this striking and complex character in terms that are relevant to their age and culture.
Ziegler concludes that these nineteenth-century stereotypes are still with us today in modern advertising and political commentary, as exemplified by the invective against Hillary Rodham Clinton, once described as "the Lady Macbeth of Little Rock." (10) "Lady Macbeth continues to figure our society's conflicted admiration for and fear of women's rights, power, and professional success. She frightens us, as she frightened our forebears, because of her perceived ability to empower the feminine while disempowering the masculine." (11) But modern advertising is not the only visual medium still playing with these gendered valuations. Stephen Orgel argues that "the most significant and far-reaching modern developments in Shakespearean illustration have surely been in cinema." (12)
While I do not have space here to fully address the film history of Lady Macbeth, it is worth mentioning a few more recent productions that seem to participate in this stereotypical reworking of her character. Shakespeare: The Animated Tales first came out as a BBC animated television series in 1992 and later in DVD format from Ambrose Video Publishing in 2004. Its version of Macbeth, designed and directed by Nikolai Serebriakov, offers a Lady Macbeth whose power relies on her bodily seductiveness to bring Macbeth to the conclusion that he must act against Duncan and seize the throne. After receiving his letter about the witch's prophecy, she welcomes him home with embraces and constantly strokes his shoulder as she discusses their next moves. Later, during the "unsex me here" speech, a skull-faced jester pounds a drum while flames burn high behind him. Lady Macbeth writhes in the shadows, clasping her hands to her face and smoothing them over her curves. Her hair whips around her face in snaky tendrils as well, all conveying a sense that power is a turn-on and that death and hellfire are only a small step away. As she cries out the lines "Come to my woman's breasts," she rips open her dress and both a horse and horned and toothed lizard creature spurt forth in a scene of unnatural birth. (13) These striking images conjoin female eroticism and demonic monstrosity as the foundations of her power and expressions of her ambition.
Another cinematic example of the extraordinary lengths to which Lady Macbeth's power is sexualized and linked to the transgressive can be found in director Andrzej Wajda's 1962 film Siberian Lady Macbeth. (14) While not a direct adaptation of Macbeth, the narrative translates Lady Macbeth's (here, Katerina's) desire for power into desire for love and freedom outside of her marriage and the confines of her father-in-law's household. And she is willing to kill for it. Alternately, Geoffrey Wright's 2006 Macbeth, set in the gangster world of Melbourne, Australia, envisions a Lady Macbeth in mourning for a lost child and pronounces on the advertising cover, "Something wicked this way comes," alluding to one of the witches' lines in Macbeth. (15) Wright's Lady seems suicidal and depressed from the beginning and turns to cocaine as an escape from her emotional prison. While these versions of the story creatively imagine Lady Macbeth in different settings and contexts, they still describe her empowerment as brief and fleeting, attaching it to sexual desire and in many cases, forms of psychological and/or emotional breakdown. These depictions therefore borrow heavily from earlier models of transgressive female behavior and its consequences.
If we look to the genre of comic books and graphic novels of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, these observations continue to hold true. By and large, the Lady Macbeths depicted in these works glorify the character's potential to embody power, desire, and ambition; yet ultimately any images of agency that are established earlier in the texts are undermined in rather traditional ways. Through visual rhetorical markers, Lady Macbeth's power is explained through old tropes of witchcraft and physical seduction, and once her plot is foiled and her position of wife is less central, she fades away into madness and eventually, suicidal death. Further, many of these graphic works insist upon links to the weird sisters/witches who tell Macbeth of the prophecy of his kingship. Depending on the work, they are either ambiguously gendered or ultra-feminine, but regardless, they are not seen as neutral parties to the plot.
As I discussed earlier, these choices may be attributed to the themes of the Shakespearean play text itself and the strong gender-biased conventions of the comics genre that for a long time targeted primarily young men. (16) Due to their length and complexity, later graphic editions rely even more on the power of the visual to encapsulate cultural values and judgments about the characters and actions they represent. In addition, they invite readers to participate in textual interpretation and collaborative meaning-making. As Will Eisner reminds us, "Comic book art deals with recognizable reproductions of human conduct. Its drawings are a mirror reflection, and depend on the reader's stored memory of experience to visualize an idea or process quickly." (17) To make this practice of social recognition and textual interpretation successful, he argues, comic art relies on stereotypes and symbolism to connect with the audience. I would contend, however, that while popular comic art certainly draws on contemporary culture's imaginative storehouse for its images and ideas, it is a medium that still allows room for the expansion and subversion of dominant tropes without sacrificing audience appeal. Increasingly, popular media, whether online, televised, broadcasted, or printed, are populated with multiple models for gendered and sexual behavior. "Norms" are being questioned and rewritten, despite pressures from established institutions governed by old stereotypes. (18)
While the graphic novels and manga I examine tend to represent Lady Macbeth in ways that rehearse negative female stereotypes, the last work, Manga Shakespeare: Macbeth by Robert Deas, allows the most interpretive space for a positively empowered reading of her. By working with more than one stereotype and set of genre conventions, Deas provides an intertextual Lady Macbeth who supersedes the limitations of her traditional roles and moves into the realm of the heroic. In this way, Lady Macbeth's iconic value continues to evolve and accrue meaning, as her culturally inflected renditions multiply.
II. (Un)sexing Lady Macbeth
Lady Macbeth's "unsex me here" speech in and of itself may be considered iconic for all the critical acclaim it has produced, both onstage and on the page. No production of Macbeth, to my knowledge, has gone without it. In the space of these roughly 14 lines in 1.5, she invokes the images of death, sex, maternal purgation, and wounding. A number of scholars, such as Janet Adelman, have pointed to this scene as evidence of Lady Macbeth's "evil" or "unnatural" behavior due to the invocation of the murderous spirits, which additionally resonates with the incantations of the supernatural "witches" (or fates) earlier in the play. (19) Others have used this to prove their cases about how she "violates the dictates of gender." (20) She clearly asks to have the feminized traits of pity and sympathy and bodily signs of motherhood removed ("Stop up th'access and passage to remorse," "Come to my woman's breasts / And take my milk for gall, you murd'ring ministers" [1.5.42, 45-46]). However, there has been some debate as to whether she is asking to be desexualized or masculinized when she invites the spirits to "unsex [her] ... / And fill [her] from the crown to the toe top-full / Of direst cruelty" (1.5.39-41). In either case, her avid rejection of the symbols of traditional womanhood--mercy and pity, the maternal breast--in favor of single-minded intent, murderous determination, and cruelty (often associated with excessive masculine violence) has made Lady Macbeth into a most memorable and troubling vision of female power.
It is not my goal here to fully rehash the discussions about this important speech's analytical value and its implications for the gender/power dynamic in the play. Rather, I rehearse the generalities of the debates over those particular lines because I believe they have catalyzed later dramatic and graphic representations of Lady Macbeth's character. Not surprisingly, many graphic editions make cuts to the play text, and although few that I've seen seriously truncate the "unsex me here" speech, those that do make cuts generally leave in these lines. They are, I would argue, the most suggestive and visual of the whole speech, so this choice makes good sense, both interpretively and artistically. As we will see, however, the issues this speech invokes come into focus not only in that textual moment, but in the portrayal of the weird sisters, and later in the play, during Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking scene.
One of the earliest graphic novel versions of the drama, William Shakespeare's Macbeth, illustrated by Von and first published in 1982, is billed as an illustrated play. As such, the primary goal of the illustrator is to bring Shakespeare's language to life and to preserve a large amount of that language; the drawings in theory accompany the text rather than make artistic substitutions for it. And yet, images do create a distinct narrative---one that can interpretively narrow the range of meanings available in the playscript. The "unsex me here" passage in Von's illustrated play brings stark attention to the ways in which Lady Macbeth's invocation parallels the witches' earlier ones. Through her positioning and dress, she becomes essentially a fourth witch. Her "witchy" portrayal in this scene does not appear later in the book, suggesting that with this speech Lady Macbeth becomes momentarily revealed as "other" through her quest for authority and advancement. She is powerful, clearly, but that power is dangerous and otherworldly She is even more threatening because she is able to mask her true nature from the court until the end of the play, when she drifts into madness.
The witches appear in the opening scene (1.1) as elementals of a sort--closely tied to the dark, stormy nature images around them. The sky is painted a dark violet with silver lightning and black smoke trailing across it. In the foreground of the "When shall we three meet again" panel (1, 1.1.1), a large screeching bat and black cat lurk among the roots of a spiky bare tree whose branches echo the long-nailed, gnarly fingers and grizzled facial features of the witches. Despite the witches' repeated naming of each other as "sister" and their lack of beards, Von's portrayal of these three figures still suggests the androgyny posited by Shakespeare's text in Banquo's line, "You should be women and yet your beards forbid me to interpret that you are so" (7, 1.3.43-45). They each wear a neutral-colored hooded robe--black, brown, and grey--and their bodies do not show stereotypical marks of gender such as rouged lips, breasts, huge biceps, facial hair, or defined abdominals seen elsewhere in graphic novels and in the comic genre in general.
The inconsistency of including Banquo's line but illustrating beardless individuals might encourage us to think of these figures as women, regardless of what the text bubble says. However, I would suggest that this slippage could also gesture to the witches' asexuality and otherworldly nature. (21) If markers like breasts and beards clarify a woman or man's physical maturity, the witches' depiction resists our efforts to place them easily in a tradition of powerful male antagonists or seductive, subversive women and further defines them as ambiguously human creatures of the night and occult spell-casters. This is especially evident when they fly in the air during the lines "Fair is foul, / And foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air" (1, 1.1.10-1 1) and appear consistently grouped together (three-as-one) with fog and lightning swirling about them as they chant and summon the visions later in the story. While the actions of the weird sisters undeniably count as stereotypical "witchy" behavior--spell-making, body part snatching, having familiars (bats, cats), conjuring Hecate and omens of the future--Von's illustrations stress the sisters' roles as elemental, otherworldly figures over and above their gender identity. This emphasis provides a helpful context with which to analyze the graphic novel's treatment of Lady Macbeth's character and motivations.
The "unsex me here" speech is contained in one large, page-long frame, and it is enclosed in a speech bubble rimmed with licking flames (15). Every sentence is punctuated by an exclamation mark. These two details immediately communicate the impassioned, forceful nature of the passage's content. Lady Macbeth stands in the backlit window of a castle tower; the golden glow behind her further fuels the fieriness of the moment and suggests a gateway to Hell. Filling the window, Lady Macbeth stands, arms upstretched with clenched fists. While we can only barely see them here, her nails are painted dark red and are sharp, almost like claws or talons. She faces the reader front-on, defiantly, and we only see the top two-thirds of her body. Her scarlet hooded cloak whips in the wind, and her heavy gold jewelry sets off her cut arm muscles. With her furled brow, angry wide eyes, and mouth opened in invocation, this Lady Macbeth means business. Her body posture projects aggression and incredible strength, and our eyes are immediately drawn to her figure before tracking down the page to the "enflamed" text of the speech. The text itself, while offering a narrative of Lady Macbeth's imagined actions, is also a part of the image presentation. This design merges image and meaning in a way that icons themselves do. As a result, we as readers are encouraged to experience this pagelong, arresting frame as a powerful, self-defining moment when speech and image combine to create Lady Macbeth's iconic value.
Notably, this is the only time in the illustrated play that Lady Macbeth wears a hooded robe. The only other characters who wear such an article of clothing are the three witches. The reader therefore is visually led to associate the supernatural figures with the potent queen. The red robe and red nails are also not incidental. Since we do not see much of her body's shape in this robe, I read the red color not as indicative of sexual power per se, but rather with regard to the bloody deeds she intends to carry out and the blood she is asking to stop up her "natural" pity. The red nails prefigure the bloody hands she will have later, as well as the "out damned spot" speech. Additionally, they resonate with the other fire-related details of the frame. The overall argument of the flame is that Lady Macbeth is allying herself with the dark supernatural, becoming witch-like if not a witch entirely. Her power is fueled by the flames of passionate ambition and desire, but this fire also will lead to her damnation. Von's version of the "unsex me here" speech does not leave room for Lady Macbeth to be anything but evil and dangerous, no matter how impressive or formidable her presentation.
This moment of power and assertiveness starkly contrasts the sleepwalking scene in 5.1. In fact, Von's illustrations are almost mirror opposites in terms of the color scheme, tone, and sartorial symbolism (not to mention the act-scene numeration). The several pages dedicated to 5.1 are washed in dark greys, blues, white, and black (74-76). Partly this is because the scene is set at night. However, the sickly pallor of Lady Macbeth, the doctor, and the female attendant lends an ominous and even ghostly quality to the passage. In contrast to the fiery red robe and contained hair of Lady Macbeth in 1.5, here her black glossy locks are unbound and fall in loose waves around her shoulders. This rendering of her long, lush hair signals a return to traditional (here, pretty and vulnerable) femininity, as well as the fact that we've caught her in a private moment. The panel depicting the "Out, damned spot" speech (75, 5.1.3034) shows Lady Macbeth staring wide-eyed and agape at her grey-blue claw-nailed hands while garbed in a long, flowing white robe open down the center.
Interestingly, her mouth is rouged in purple, and her ample cleavage and belly are exposed against the folds of her clothing. These illustrative choices define Lady Macbeth clearly as all woman and a sexualized one at that; but we are led to understand that point in the context of her "undoing"--physically, mentally, emotionally, and politically. Her undone hair, undone robe, and words indicating an undone mind and plot all signal her reduction into a cipher of madness and female victimhood. She is the object spoken about by the attendant and doctor. Her actions are watched, judged, and classified. She has a voice, but the voice is contained in opposition to her body, which has become an anxious spectacle of surveillance rather than the determined instrument of agency. Von's reading of the play gives us a Lady Macbeth whose power and desires are comprehensible only by her becoming an asexual, ambiguously gendered "other"; the woman divested of her purpose and success falls back into the compartment of sexualized object. The difference in treatments of her character here is unusual; as mentioned earlier, typically, witches are known for their sexual seduction powers and their physical orgiastic encounters with the Devil. Von's portrayal of Lady Macbeth separates out these elements and relegates the woman to a safer stereotypical role.
Classical Comics' Macbeth: The Graphic Novel (Original Text, 2008) similarly uses the unabridged play text as its core. The tag on the front cover claims that the play will be "brought to life in full color." Similar to Von's portrayal of Lady Macbeth, Jon Haward's Lady is allied with demonic spirits and hellfire. However, Haward does not closely connect up the weird sisters and Lady Macbeth through visual cues of dress and scenery. Rather, the witches fit more traditional visual stereotypes of evil conjurers, while this Lady Macbeth relies more on her wifely position and femininity to establish her power. The "unsex me" speech is the one moment in this illustrated play where her power seems grounded in aid from evil spirits; yet we as readers are encouraged to see this as related to her sexuality.
In 1.1 and 1.3 of the adaptation, Haward's witches are illustrated with both close up facially focused panels and several group panels featuring the three chanting or conjuring the wind (8, 12-15). The jagged bare tree and bat (signs of the "spooky") show up in the very first frame but not much thereafter. In this way, these two objects briefly set the tone but do not suggest, as in Von's portrayal, a continued reminder of the witches' affiliations with dark nature. And while the lightning and wind's presence in nearly every panel in these two scenes might seem to contradict my previous assertion, it is interesting to note that they, too, seem more atmospheric than symbolic, in providing stormy visual sound effects and a reason for the artist's repeated attention to the witches' blow-away stringy hair. The witches are not otherworldly elementals, but rather conjurers of disorder, which their actions throughout the adaptation highlight.
Many panels provide close-up shots of the weird sisters, and these emphasize their monstrous appearance: unruly grey hair, glowing red eyes, pointy teeth, warty green skin, scraggly beards, snout or hooked noses, tattered robes, and skull-and-bones accessories. Their humanity seems tenuous at best; they look more akin to the orcs in the Lord of the Rings movies or the typical monsters in a Scooby-Doo cartoon than anything else. Haward builds on these early sketches in 4.1, where he focuses the illustrations on the unusual arcane ingredients of the cauldron and the burning fires that surround the maid-mother-crone Janus-face of Hecate as she calls on the weird sisters (78-86). In the flame-ridden background, the reader can see fairies, eyeless dripping-jawed monsters, and horned beastmen--all with the telltale evil red eyes of the witches.
While there remains some gender ambiguity in these figures' appearances, and their natures do not seem at all sexual in nature, they clearly are affiliated with traditional female witch stereotypes. Still, their visual presence seems markedly distinct from that of Haward's Lady Macbeth. They all may call on the demonic, but they do this in very separate registers. In this way, it is hard to see a very strong connection between the weird sisters and the lady; however, we might understand them as similar in the sense that they present two different models of female agency. And both models rely on dark forces to underwrite their power.
The "unsex me" speech is split between two of three horizontal frames on the page, and notably, the "speech" occurs completely in thought bubbles (21). The series of thought clouds, in sets of three and two, creates an extended, devious internal monologue. This invocation exists completely in Lady Macbeth's mind, making the act seem an example of borderline madness or psychopathic design. The internalization of her deadly plans highlights the bad thoughts that lead to later bad deeds. To all appearances, she is not a witch; she is a sexy, clever woman. But this pretty facade barely disguises her thirst for power and domination, keeping her well within the realm of consideration for potential sorceress.
In the first frame of the speech, she stands in the shadow of a tower window, gazing outside at the misty night sky (complete with ominous full moon) and the interior walls of the fortress. We see her face in dark profile, as the thought bubbles cascade, like the mist, to the right of the frame. This establishes a strong contrast to the second frame, in which the speech culminates (see figure 1). Here, Lady Macbeth faces the reader front-on, with her eyes closed and her rosy lips parted. Her slightly claw-like hands grasp her own bulbous breasts, while her gold-bound long dark braids bounce off her shoulders. She seems to sway to the side, seductively entranced, with her dark crimson gold-edged gown flaring behind her. The backdrop is constructed of orange and yellow flames, with demonic howling horned faces drawn into them.
The arrangement of this flame makes the reader into a voyeur. Her bodily posture and expression suggest we are witnessing an autoerotic moment, as if the very thought of her calling on the spirits to unsex her has had the opposite effect--it turns her on and makes her orgasm. Two of the background spirits seem to reinforce this idea, as the one on the left is staring directly at her grasped breasts, and the one directly on the right glares menacingly at her waist and genital area (conveniently highlighted by a low-sitting gold girdle that has a knot at the V of her legs). One might see this as Haward's literal interpretation of the line "Come to my woman's breasts" (1.5.45), but I suspect it is a choice to present Lady Macbeth's body as titillating and her power as sexually driven and sexually available to characters and readers alike. Such buxom, sexualized women ate no strangers to the pages of many graphic novels, comics, and cartoons; they seem to be stock figures attractive to a male target audience. (22) Haward's Lady Macbeth thus falls back into stereotypical female power roles as well. While at her zenith, Von's Lady manifests her power as a kind of asexual fourth witch, Haward's appears as a succubus who dances with the fires and denizens of hell.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
We strongly get a sense of this through its contrast in the 5.1 sleepwalking scene (104-107). The panels are washed in the grey-blue of a nighttime scene, and Lady Macbeth is constantly illuminated with a single taper she carries and then sets down on a table. Gone are the fires, the confidence, and the focus on her sexuality. The Lady Macbeth in this scene is unadorned, unbound by crown or belt or robe, and wanders distractedly through the halls of the castle (104-105). While her breasts are softly outlined in the dress in 5.1, no skin or marked cleavage is revealed. Rather, we as readers are encouraged to focus on her now unbraided shiny jet black hair and her anxious face, with pinched brows and wide eyes. All of these signs create the sense that she is emotionally vulnerable and untethered to the power, ambition, and sexual energy that once anchored her. Her unraveling is further communicated via the uneven wavy boundaries of her speech bubbles, in contrast to the uniform oval lines surrounding those of the doctor and attendant. She stares into a wall mirror during the "out damned spot" speech, providing a unique moment of self-reflection, self-accusation, and reflexive judgment; she is criminal, judge, and jury in the dream state she occupies. The scene has turned Lady Macbeth into an object of her own surveillance, even as the doctor, the attendant, and we as readers continue to look on. Haward's depiction of Lady Macbeth seems to operate in a nearly opposite manner to that of Von's--she begins as a powerful, sexualized agent of change and ends up a desexualized, unbounded subject-object.
Turning now to the manga editions of Macbeth, it is worth briefly reviewing the key traits of the art style and examining its differences from traditional American comics. Manga originated in Japan, and many of its techniques were influenced by the work of a 1940s artist named Osamu Tezuka. (23) Today, manga is more popular than ever in the U. S. and a number of its stylistic techniques have worked their way into American comics and graphic novels (particularly the latter). Scott McCloud explains how the use of "iconic characters," "sense of place," "variety of character designs," and "subjective motion" (among other techniques) contribute to manga's success in making readers feel more like they are a part of the action versus watching it from afar. (24) Whereas North American comics focus on character positioning--a physical expression--to convey emotion, manga represents the internal self and its emotions often through "a montage of floating, expressive faces, cascading down the page" or "the exaggerated transformations of entire bodies." (25) Will Eisner also notes that in comic art "The reader is expected to participate. Reading the imagery requires experience and allows acquisition at the viewer's pace. The reader must internally provide sound and action in support of the images." (26) Like graphic novels, manga works call on their audience to be active participants in the creation of the experience and the interpretation of meaning.
In many ways, therefore, this "experiential" vs. observer approach to artistically rendering the text may equal or even exceed the performative nature of a stage production, where the actors often attempt to involve the audience in what they're watching but audience participation is not required for the production to be successful. The manga reader may identify more with the characters represented and hence be more involved in unpacking their words and actions. In the introductory essay to Shakespeare's Macbeth: The Manga Edition (2008), Adam Sexton, one of the co-creators, states that
Perusing a Shakespeare manga, the reader can linger over speeches, rereading them in part or altogether... this allows for an appreciation of the playwright's craft that is difficult if not impossible as those soliloquies move past us during a performance. Overall, turning the pages of a mango version of one of Shakespeare's plays is something like reading the text of that play while attending a performance, but at one's own pace. (27)
Sexton reminds us of the benefits of the textual and artistic fixity of this medium, while also celebrating its potential performativity. Mango thus has the dual benefit of graphically performing actions while more deeply involving the reader in the interior lives of Shakespeare's characters. (28)
Shakespeare's Macbeth--The Mango Edition presents the play primarily in the shojo style, with its intense focus on the characters' bodies, facial expressions, and positions in each frame. As a result, the play's plot becomes much more psychological in nature, and readers are invited into the minds and emotions of the characters in an intimate way. The visual cues attached to the characters and their interactions with one another thus can seem overdetermined and dramatic in order to convey the strength of emotion in any given scene. This manga edition of the play openly argues that the power of women is located in seduction and manipulation. The witches are unequivocally portrayed as scheming women who tease and tempt Macbeth, and Lady Macbeth becomes a black widow figure, luring her husband into her ambitious plans with smiles and embraces only to eventually destroy him. While this reading of the play certainly ascribes significant power to women, it also falls back on uncomplicated notions of their characters, demonizing their sexuality and lumping them together under the stereotype of the femme fatale.
The focus on the witches' bodies in the mango edition strikes one from the start. On page 8, during the "Where the place... Fair is foul and foul is fair" passage (1.1.101 1), the reader finds three long rectangular inset boxes on a page-long panel, each featuring the hair, lower face, and neck of a weird sister. Their beady, malicious eyes are blanked out, though, covered instead by a speech bubble ("See no evil"?). Immediately, we are encouraged to think of the archetypal female model of maid-mother-crone, as each witch is successively older moving left to right. Age is visually marked by hair consistency and style, skin wrinkles, and dress model. The youngest, "maid," sister has long, thick, luscious hair that curls around her face and shoulders; the artist calls on familiar symbolism of curly, lush hair to indicate sexiness and seductiveness. Her face is without blemish, and she wears a clingy strapless dress with a tendril-wave pattern on the top bust-line, echoing the curves of her hair. The second, "mother," sister's hair is upswept into a bun with a few strands escaping to brush her face. She has age lines under her cheeks and around her mouth, and her slim long dress is made more modest by a wrap that drapes around her back and across her front, concealing any cleavage. Finally, the "crone" sister shows her significant age with long stringy hair that maintains a slight wave but not nearly the snaky waves of her younger companions. Her figure is hidden in a shapeless robe, and wrinkles extend vertically all over her face.
There are enough visual similarities between the figures that we might consider them aspects of one evil superwoman, which makes the connections to Lady Macbeth later in the work much more appreciable. But it is not just looks that ally the four; additionally, the witches' bodily positioning to Macbeth in later cauldron vision scenes suggests the parallel (118-13 5). File scene opens with a fully hooded and cloaked Macbeth entering a cave mouth dripping with spiderwebs and moss. The interior of the cave adds teeth-like stalactite details, making the cave into, effectively, a vagina dentata. The witches circle him, touch him, seduce him with eye and lip and tongue (which features are highlighted in inset box panels within larger scenes). Since this behavior so closely mimics that of Lady Macbeth's in the "unsex me here" speech and beyond, the artists' renderings argue that to be a powerful woman is to use one's sexual wiles and clever tongue to seduce and entrap.
The "unsex me here" speech occurs in two closely placed frames but is followed by three small blocked frames, which are significant for understanding these illustrators' take on Lady Macbeth's power (26-27). In all but one, we get a tight focus on a part of Lady Macbeth's body, tracking us through her emotions. In the first, we view a closeup of her long-fingered, long-nailed hand trailing across her dark lips (26). Her brow is knitted and her gaze off to the side of the page. She wears a dress with a modesty veil above the relatively low neckline, casting a seemly aura about her person. As she calls on the spirits to unsex her and come to her breasts in two successive speech bubbles, we witness her distracted gaze and pensive pose. The emotional intensity is heightened in the bottom frame, however, as we see only her dark-pupiled eye and disheveled dark locks. We, as readers, look directly into her eye as she calls on the night. The effect is one of introspection and singular focus. We are invited to dive into her thoughts here, which seem to swirl about. Lady Macbeth's power appears to be in her plotting--not in her supernatural connections and not in a hypersexualized body and clothing. Lady Macbeth, while not a sexual object per se in this manga edition, does not evade the power/sex dynamic completely. In the following three frames at the top of the next page, we get close-ups of Lady Macbeth staring back toward a bare-chested and finely muscled young Macbeth (27). This is followed by a shot of her seemingly lipsticked bow-shaped mouth drawn up in a smile. (Notably, this smile resembles those of the witches earlier in the play adaptation.) The final frame at the top contains
Lady Macbeth enthusiastically planting a kiss on a wide-eyed and shocked Macbeth. He seems to be holding his hands up in surprise, while her hands cradle his face. This would appear innocuous enough--the lady is happy to see her husband and greets him with a loving kiss--except that we have just heard of her dark plans. The successive frames show her pulling him in tighter and tighter to the point of touching foreheads as she asks in pieces about Duncan's arrival and proposes that she'll take care of the plan to do away with him. Her "loving" hands and arms thus act on this page as winches to wind him into her embrace and plot. The Macbeth in these images looks surprised at best, and even more, dubious and wary. The illustrators Sexton, Grandt, and Chow, instead of making Lady Macbeth into a witch or sex kitten, place her into a different, still sexualized power category: the "black widow"/man-eater. We even get a visual clue of this portrayal, for Lady Macbeth's relatively modest gown is covered in a spiderweb pattern. Her body becomes the widow amidst the webs, and in these frames she pulls in her mate to consume him.
The widow seems to have lost all her energy and power, though, by the time she reaches the sleepwalking scene. At first glance, the manga edition appears very similar to Haward's rendition. Lady Macbeth wanders the castle's stone halls carrying a taper and delivers her ruminations and self-condemnations near a mirror (158-61). However, some of these features work a bit differently than the previous edition's. First, Lady Macbeth's dress is far more somber and shapeless--a black shift and formless thick robe--and this reminds us more of the garb of the crone witch than anything else, as if Lady Macbeth has run her political and life courses to their ends. It also may portend her forthcoming suicide. Her hairstyle remains essentially the same--partly upheld in a bun, partly left long to frame her face and shoulders. What the illustrations most draw our attention to are her wide, narrow-pupiled eyes with wrinkly bags under them (a sign of sleeplessness, but also a sign of age) and long, slim-fingered hands she continually waves and clenches as she speaks. These elements fit nicely with the associated "out damned spot" passage and Lady Macbeth's neurotic need to wash clean phantom blood and moral sin. Instead of using the mirror to give Lady Macbeth one more moment of agency (being the looker), the artists instead have it in the background, prop-like, perhaps to signal to readers simply that this is a reflective moment. She keeps her back to the mirror the whole scene, and this suggests her inability to face her own deeds. The visual cues of this passage completely erase the seductive, poisonous power of Lady Macbeth and reduce her to nothing more than an anxious babbler with one foot in the grave. The femme fatale poses a threat no longer. (29)
Of the four editions treated in this essay, Manga Shakespeare: Macbeth (2008), illustrated by Robert Deas, provides the most provocative treatment of Lady Macbeth. In some ways it adheres to the hypersexualized female power stereotypes described earlier. However, Deas's casting of Lady Macbeth as an action heroine challenges an easy and monolithic reading. I would argue that this presentation best captures the gender complexities of her role and offers a vision of female empowerment that is more inclusive of women's range of physical and emotional qualities.
This version of Macbeth is set in a futuristic Japanese techno-world "of post-nuclear mutation."(30) Aside from the visual dramatis personae section, the majority of the manga is printed in black and white, creating a bleak tone for the piece and emphasizing the shapes and patterns of lines and dots constituting each image. Interestingly, this stark contrast in style carries over into the characters' portrayals; they vary in their dress between traditional Japanese garb (kimonos, obi sashes, samurai armor) and modern, more Western-style clothing (tank tops with track pants, army fatigue pants with utility belts, army dress uniforms). The conscientious juxtaposition of past, present, and future dress is somewhat disorienting visually but indicates that the issues the play grapples with are grounded in the past (Shakespeare's seventeenth-century England) yet continue and will continue to be critical ones across time and cultures. (31)
Further complicating and enriching the interpretive value of this adaptation are the characters that appear inhuman or differently figured. The witches, whom I will discuss in more detail shortly, are depicted as serpentine humanoids that hover above the ground in fiery red kimonos. Alternately, Macduff is a hulking, muscular man with blue skin and two sets of arms, one set of which is extensively tattooed. The overall effect of these narrative and illustrative choices is to make the adaptation into a superhero sci-fi rendition of Macbeth. Both superhero comics and science fiction have for many years served as important platforms for writers and artists to explore cultural assumptions about social and political norms, as well as to imagine alternative realities.
Deas nods to the Japanese heritage of manga, while engaging two other key genres to provide ample proving ground for his examination of the play's subject matter. In particular, Deas's choices of venue and character dress highlight the complex gender and power dynamics surrounding the alien witches and heroic Lady Macbeth.
Jeffrey Brown contends that action heroines are critically important precisely because they are boundary-straddlers:
She [the action heroine] does muddy the waters of what we consider masculine and feminine, of desirable beauty and threatening sexuality, of subjectivity and objectivity, of powerful and powerless. Rather than replicating the simplistic binary logic that our society all too often resorts to for interpreting the world around us, the contestability of the action heroine challenges our basic assumptions and may force a new understanding of cultural norms. (32)
Deas's Lady Macbeth, who takes control of her own destiny, claims her desires, and works alongside her husband to achieve power in a world turned strange by previous conflicts, is just such a figure. His Lady Macbeth may be highly sexualized in form, but she possesses the visual props of a powerful dominatrix; her striking appearance is simply a part of her, not a blatant tool of seduction in the world of the story. Further, her suicide is portrayed in more detail and somewhat ambiguously, opening up the possibility that it wasn't simply a result of her mental breakdown but was more of a "death before dishonor" effort. While the landscape and some characters may seem startlingly alien to the Macbeth story and our own expectations of it, Deas uses these various juxtapositions to question the norms themselves and offer a more sympathetic and heroic vision of Lady Macbeth.
The narrative opens with a two-page spread showing a bleak, ashy landscape littered with toppled skyscrapers and in the foreground, heaps of fallen samurai soldiers with arrows and swords sticking out of their dead bodies. Lightning cracks across the sky. The three "witches" hover off to the right of the right-hand page, staring at the destruction and human carnage before them (12-13). Their long white hair ripples in waves behind them and their kimonos drape to points, almost like tails. They have no discernible legs, but they do not require them as they hover above the earth. Their large, oblong faces possess sharply angled features and slitted, upturned eyes with extended wavy eyebrow tendrils. The notches on their throats and brows suggest reptilian scales. While they seem to possess the shadow of a slight bustline in their robes, they are not decidedly female or male in appearance. Casting the witches as snaky aliens and establishing the play's heath as a post-apocalyptic wasteland contribute to the tumultuous and anxious mood that the opening scenes establish. The sense of "otherness" is pervasive.
Those choices also resonate more deeply with particular lines. "When the hurlyburly's done, when the battle's lost and won" (12, 1.1.3-4) references fighting between warlords, but it also reminds the reader of the nuclear fallout of a previous war that ended in the mutation and annihilation of countless people and parts of civilization itself. Banquo's remark to Macbeth about the weird sisters, "What are these, so withered and so wild in their attire, that look not like the inhabitants of the earth?" (28, 1.3.37-39), draws our attention to the fact that these are not women at all, but aliens, and makes their encounter even more unpredictable and potentially frightening. Did the aliens have anything to do with the nuclear holocaust? Are they here to take over now that humanity has suffered a blow? Or are they simply eerie observers and forecasters of humanity's failings? Regardless, these otherworldly creatures are not arcane but extraterrestrial, and thus the thematic and gendered connections to Lady Macbeth's character in this manga edition would seem tenuous at best. (33)
Deas's portrayal of Lady Macbeth's "unsex me here" speech is similarly a dramatic two-page spread with two inset panels on the right-hand page (50-51). A huge communications tower rises to Lady Macbeth's back left. She stands on a rocky and somewhat phallic precipice, legs spread in an aggressive stance, one hand cut and bleeding while the other is raised aloft clutching a bloody dagger (see figure 2). Her clothing blends the dominatrix with the geisha: thigh high boots connected by garter straps to a mini-skirt; a tight, ribbed bodice with an inverted v hemline accentuating the creased v of fabric at her crotch; an off-the shoulder geisha robe with trailing sleeves and neckline exposing her unnaturally large and round breasts. Her face is angular and sharp, eyes wide and furious, mouth open and screaming the lines, hair in a large clubbed bun that could be geisha or samurai in style. Around her swirl three shadowy dragon spirits and four small speech bubbles with brief lines from the speech. Notably, this is the most truncated form of the speech out of the four editions.
It would be easy to dismiss this image as quasi-pornographic and crafted for male titillation. The clothing leaves nothing to the imagination, and Lady Macbeth's sexual ity is apparent in her plenteous bosom and the v-patterned emphases on her genital area. She is clearly in control here, not represented as a sexualized victim, but rather as a woman who is both sexually potent and dominant. Her dominance comes out in a number of ways, though, which makes this image particularly arresting. While she comes across as sexually provocative, she is also the one standing tall and firm on the cliff and controlling the phallic dagger. Her confident possession of both the space and weapon are reflected in her stature and aggressive stare directly at the reader. She reads as a combination of a geisha-dominatrix-samurai. (34) Lady Macbeth is dressed to entice and entertain; she owns that attraction and uses it powerfully; she takes control and becomes the woman-warrior, a rival to the male soldiers of the play.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
The dragon spirits are an additionally interesting feature to this reading. While there is a loose parallel to the three reptilian witches, the resemblance here is not nearly as strong as to make the parallel obvious or sure. She calls on them with the blood sacrifice from her hand, but they don't seem to be interested in attacking her or staring at her body lasciviously. They swirl in the background with sharp-toothed jaws, echoing the open-mouthed rage she expresses. Dragons have a number of meanings in Japanese culture, but most of them do not connote evil nor mark the creatures as harbingers of hell. Most often dragons are water spirits or avatars of the ancestors, particularly emperors. (35) Perhaps then, these dragon spirits are included to empower Lady Macbeth with warrior knowledge, confidence, and divine aid and purpose from past generations. If we go a step further and take them as imperial avatars, their invocation signals a kind of spiritual and political investiture that foreshadows her role as queen. Lady Macbeth's apex of power would be symbolized by the visual imagery of the dragons, the tower, the cliff, and her sexualized, angry, aroused body.
Despite the edgy dress it portrays, Deas's illustration ultimately provides a less misogynistic (if not unproblematic) vision of Lady Macbeth's power and motives. She participates in the physical and political life of her world and uses all of the qualities she possesses to succeed in it. Her beauty and sexuality are but two of these weapons. She wields a dagger and her words with just as much skill. In this way, Deas refashions Lady Macbeth's iconography to appeal to a generation of readers more comfortable with and excited by the idea of an ambitious, sexually powerful woman doing what it takes to obtain her desires.
But does Deas's depiction of the sleepwalking scene change her into a cipher or sexualized object and rob her of the power she claims in the "unsex me here" moment, as occurs in the other graphic editions of the play? At first, the answer appears to be yes; but again, Deas complicates such an easy conclusion. The sleepwalking passage here, similar to those described earlier, shows Lady Macbeth in her robe wandering the hails of the castle. Her robe is parted down the middle to the navel, exposing ample cleavage. Her hair has come slightly undone, with wisps sticking out from the bun. She seems upset and unaware of the onlookers (154-58).
Gone, however, are the candles, mirrors, and fearful looks. The panels switch between facial shots and close-ups of her hands and mouth. Her face appears to swing between concern and anger: pursed lips or open screaming mouth, tension lines on her forehead, eyes open and thin-pupiled but not exaggerated (156-57). The different emotions portrayed here, as well as the illustrative focus on hands and mouths, keeps our attention on how, even in sleep, Lady Macbeth is a woman of action--both in words and deeds. She is worried and angry but fears nobody. The cuts to Shakespeare's text help reinforce this image: gone are the nervous repetitive phrases, the cries of "O!," the query about Lady Macduff. Deas's Lady Macbeth speaks in declarations: "Out, damned spot! Out I say!"; "Wash your hands, put on your nightgown."; "Come, give me your hand." We can conclude that this Lady Macbeth offers an alternative reading of her character--that in her last moments, she is defeated politically but maintains her willful spirit and agency.
In a departure from the play and the previous graphic editions discussed, Deas does not end Lady Macbeth's illustrated presence with that scene. Intercut with panels of Macbeth discussing the possibilities of a siege with Seyton are several showing Lady Macbeth actually jumping from the edge of a building and plummeting to her death (176-77, 5.5). Her cry during the fall is recognized by Macbeth's query and Seyton's response that "It is the cry of women, my good lord" (177, 5.5.8). Whether Lady Macbeth was, in this edition, supposed to be truly "mad" or not, her suicide suggests that she wanted to take control of the one thing she knew she absolutely could--her life. We can conjecture whether her suicide was initiated out of illness or a purposeful decision to escape dishonor and capture or death at the hand of the enemy. Yet the fact that Deas includes those scenes heightens our sympathy with her and sets up the fateful climax that follows.
[FIGURE 3 OMITTED]
Several panels later, Macbeth is brought news of his wife's death and we see him rushing to her fallen corpse (179). Her body is splayed out, with collision cracks radiating out from her head and her eyes, nose, and mouth oozing blood. Macbeth delivers his "Out, out, brief candid" speech kneeling, clutching a sword in his right hand and Lady Macbeth's broken body to his chest with his left one (180, 5.5.22-27). Against the backdrop of destroyed skyscrapers, lightning arcs down from the sky (see figure 3). We know that Macbeth is about to die at the hands of Macduff, so this brief interlude in some ways foreshadows the sense that just as the Macbeths were united in life, so they shall be in death. It additionally reminds us, however, that Macbeth thought of his wife as his "dear partner of greatness" and while overly ambitious, the couple may have had a more caring and equal relationship than many.
By showing Lady Macbeth's suicide and Macbeth's physical and emotional response to it, both characters are humanized and recognized as complex beings, rather than reduced to tyrannical villain-types. Lady Macbeth doesn't disappear into silence either; she holds a place by her husband's side and chooses her end. These elements ally her with other woman warrior figures from ancient and modern popular cultures, who fight hard and are acknowledged by men not just for their beauty, but for their intelligence and talents: the Greek goddesses Athena and Artemis; the Amazons; Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni; Xena, Warrior Princess; Starbuck in Battle-star Galactica; Selene in the Underworld series; Buffy the vampire slayer; and even Disney's Mulan (their G-rated cousin).
Deas's renderings of Lady Macbeth allow her to become a new world tragic hero. She is no less ruthless in this incarnation, but instead of being reduced to an evil or deranged cipher, her power rises, explodes, and dies with her. As Brown aptly notes, "... the tough action heroine is a transgressive character not because she operates outside of gender restrictions but because she straddles both sides of the psychoanalytic gender divide. She is both subject and object, looker and looked at, ass-kicker and sex object." (36) Straddling past and present genres, gender norms and transgressions, and empowered and powerless positions, Lady Macbeth continues to stand firm as one of Shakespeare's most provocative iconic figures.
I would like to thank the members of the 2010 Shakespeare Association of America conference seminar, "Shakespeare's Female Icons," for their helpful feedback on and encouragement of this essay in its early stages. Particular thanks go to Francesca Royster for her leadership of the seminar and editorial efforts for this special journal issue.
(1.) Linda Hutcheon, A Theory of Adaptation (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), 22.
(2.) Cristina Leon Alfar, "'Blood Will Have Blood': Power, Performance, and Lady Macbeth's Gender Trouble," Journal x: A Journal in Culture and Criticism 2.2 (Spring 1998): 180.
(3.) We might also think about how these illustrated works function as "palimpsests" in the ways in which they reenvision and often reset the play. As Hutcheon reminds us, "inherently 'palimp-sestuous' works [are] haunted at all times by their adapted texts. If we know that prior text, we always feel its presence shadowing the one we are experiencing directly" (6-22). And vet this experience does not preclude us evaluating the adaptive works on their own critical terms. My epigraph also speaks to this idea, as the reader/viewer/audience requires prior remembrance and knowledge of the original text in order to recognize familiar character and plot patterns in the adaptation but also to be able to discriminate its departures and their significance.
(4.) See William Shakespeare (w) and Von (i), Macbeth, Cartoon Shakespeare/Graphic Shakespeare Library (New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc., 1982); William Shakespeare (w) and Jon Haward (i), Macbeth: The Graphic Novel Original Text (Litchborough, Towcester, UK: Classical Comics, Ltd., 2008); William Shakespeare (w) and Adam Sexton, Eve Grandt, and Candice Chow (i), Shakespeare's Macbeth: The Manga Edition (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2008); and William Shakespeare (w) and Robert Deas (i), Manga Shakespeare: Macbeth (New York: Amulet Books, 2008).
(5.) In this way, I see Deas's manga edition potentially doing some important cultural work. As Julie Sanders offers, "The adaptation of Shakespeare invariably makes him 'fit' for new cultural contexts and different political ideologies to those of his own age." See Julie Sanders, Adaptation and Appropriation (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), 46. It is notable that more recent films, graphic novels, and manga have not reenvisioned Lady Macbeth in a significantly progressive manner. While Deas's work may not fully count as gender progressive, I do think it provides a more empowered vision of Lady Macbeth than is traditionally offered in popular media.
(6.) Georgianna Ziegler, "Accommodating the Virago: Nineteenth-Century Representations of Lady Macbeth," in Shakespeare and Appropriation, ed. Christy Desmet and Robert Sawyer (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), 137.
(7.) Ibid., 122-29.
(8.) Anna Jameson, Shakespeare's Heroines: Characteristics of Women, Moral, Poetical, and Historical (London: Bell, 1909). Ziegler notes that Jameson's work was so popular that it went through approximately forty reprints between its first publication in 1832 and 1911. See Ziegler, 121.
(9.) Ziegler, 129-35.
(10.) Ibid., qtd. on 138.
(11.) Ibid. For a fascinating study examining theatrical portrayals of Lady Macbeth and their connections to attitudes about America's First Ladies, see Gay Smith, Lady Macbeth in America: From the Stage to the White House (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). As Smith rightly notes, "Just as Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth posed dramatic questions about women in power in his own time, the actors interpreting Lady Macbeth in America have reflected audience's questions about powerful political wives in their times" (185).
(12.) Stephen Orgel, "Shakespeare Illustrated," in The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Popular Culture, ed. Robert Shaughnessy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 91. Orgel sees film as essentially the successor to a long tradition of illustrated print adaptations of Shakespeare, and one that is particularly sensitive to shifts in cultural values. While I agree with him to a point, this essay demonstrates that graphic novels and manga continue a lively illustrated history for Shakespeare's texts and are increasingly being granted critical attention as complex Shakespearean adaptations and as worthy literary-artistic works in their own right. Douglas Lanier also discusses how "the graphic novelization of Shakespeare takes up and extends the conversion of Shakespeare to visual form so central to film Shakespeare of the nineties." See Lanier, "Recent Shakespeare Adaptation and the Mutations of Cultural Capital," Shakespeare Studies 38 (2010): 110. Lanier is especially interested in the transfer of popularity, "cultural capital," and critical investment from 1990s Shakespearean film adaptations to the growing industry of graphic novel and manga editions of the plays.
(13.) Macbeth, directed by Nikolai Serebriakov, Shakespeare: The Animated Tales, vol. 4 (1992; New York: Ambrose Video Publishing, Inc., 2004), DVD; 1.5.45. All citations from the play may be found in William Shakespeare, Macbeth, in The Norton Shakespeare: Volume 2, The Later Plays, 2nd ed., ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al. (New York: W.W Norton & Company, 2008), 845-98.
(14.) Siberian Lady Macbeth, directed by Andrzej Wajda (1962; Kino Video, 2002), DVD.
(15.) Macbeth, directed by Geoffrey Wright (2006; United States: Starz/Anchor Bay, 2009), DVD.
(16.) The exception here would be manga, which offers shojo style works for girls and "ladies'" books for adult women.
(17.) Will Eisner, Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist (New York and London: WW. Norton & Company, 2008), 11.
(18.) For examples of this trend, we can look to the increase (however gradual) of women writers and illustrators in the comic arts field who are subtly pushing back on dominant gender ideology, as well as language usage trends in Japanese manga. As Ueno's study shows, the female characters in shojo and ladies' manga tend more often to use nontraditional language inflections and vocabulary; in other words, they are appropriating inflections and words usually reserved only for men. These works demonstrate, in effect, an expansion of girls' and women's range of emotional and intellectual expression. For more on this, see Junko Ueno, "Shojo and Adult Women: A Linguistic Analysis of Gender Identity in Manga (Japanese Comics)," Women and Language 29.1 (Spring 2006): 1625, and Wendy Siuyi Wong and Lisa M. Cuklanz, "Critiques of Gender Ideology: Women Comic Artists and Their Work in Hong Kong," Journal of Gender Studies 11.3 (Fall 2002): 253-66.
(19.) Janet Adelman, "'Born of Woman': Fantasies of Maternal Power in Macbeth," in Cannibals, Witches, and Divorce." Estranging the Renaissance, ed. Marjorie Garber (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), 97. See also Ziegler, 126, and Dympna Callaghan, "Wicked Women in Macbeth: A Study of Power, Ideology, and the Production of Motherhood," in Reconsidering the Renaissance, ed. Mario Di Cesare (Binghamton, NY: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1992): 355-69.
(20.) Alfar, 180.
(21.) Akira Kurosawa's film adaptation of Macbeth, Throne of Blood (1957), notably also adopts this approach to representing the weird sisters (in the figure of the Old Ghost Woman).
(22.) Women increasingly are an audience for these genres; however, most critics agree that the primary target audience remains male. It is interesting to consider whether such representations of women will remain hypersexualized or change as more women become part of the reading audience. Given the prevalence of idealized body image in women-targeted magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Glamour, I would guess that graphic works will not change unless the illustrators and creators make a concentrated effort to differentiate their female figures.
(23.) "Manga" in Japanese translates roughly to "whimsical pictures." See Adam Sexton, "Suiting the Action to the Word: Shakespeare and Manga," in Sexton, Grandt, and Chow, 2. While the word itself gestures to the imaginative and fanciful image style of the genre, it is important to note that manga often take on quite serious and adult subject matter.
(24.) Scott McCloud, Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels (New York: HarperCollins, 2006), 216.
(25.) Ibid., 220. "Ihis style choice is intrinsic to "shojo," manga works targeted for young women. "Shonen," male-targeted manga, tends to represent emotion through striking facial gestures and frames with "subjective motion and dizzying p.o.v, framing" (221). The two manga editions of Macbeth that I will discuss have qualities of each.
(26.) Eisner, 69. See also the discussion of this issue in Kevin J. Wetmore, ""1he Amazing Adventures of Superbard': Shakespeare in Comics and Graphic Novels," in Shakespeare and Youth Culture, ed. Jennifer Hulbert, Kevin J. Wetmore, and Robert L. York (NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 173.
(27.) Sexton, 3.
(28.) While I do not have space here to fully explore the connection, it is worth mentioning that this reading practice parallels the kind of audience involvement demanded from other modern media, such as multiplayer online video games and social media sites like Facebook. Users are similarly asked to digest visual and textual content, interpret character/friend interactions and plot/news elements, make decisions about their narrative and spatial paths through the material, and determine what that material "means." This emphasis on audience-media interaction may recognize and mark a shift in the way we read and interpret information as a whole.
(29.) This manga therefore seems to be borrowing pretty heavily from a film character type. As Jeffrey Brown notes, "The highly sexualized and villainous femme fatale of film noir challenges the masculine presumption of looking. She dares to assume a powerful position--to pursue her own pleasures and desires, to assume her own right to look, and to manipulate the male gaze for her own purposes. The femme fatale ruthlessly and manipulatively goes after whatever she wants ... [b]ut, by the film's end, she is thoroughly punished for her transgressive behavior." See Jeffrey A. Brown, Dangerous Curves: Action Heroines, Gender, Fetishism, and Popular Culture (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2011), 211.
(30.) Deas, 3.
(31.) Lanier discusses manga editions' shift to new and sometimes unusual settings as "consolidating the mobility of Shakespearean narrative" and "extending Shakespeare tales to pop contexts once thought incompatible with the Bard." Part of the novel setting may be attributed to the primary audience for these works, what he terms "hip geek culture" (110-11). While I tend to agree with Lanier here, I suspect as these works increasingly are mass marketed as educational texts for school use that their novelty and potential "geek factor" may decrease. As I mention earlier in this essay, I also think that the use of alternative settings is in large part a function of genre crossover. Graphic novels and manga regularly borrow from romance, science-fiction, and superhero models, just to name a few, for their characterizations and narratives.
(32.) Brown, 10.
(33.) The choice of the science-fiction framework for Macbeth is rather unusual. I am aware of only two other adaptations of Macbeth that employ it. The first is an issue called "Ray Bradbury's The Exiles" (1986) in the Alien Encounters comic series. Here, the witches of Macbeth, along with other literary characters and authors, try to prevent astronauts from destroying the last copies of any non-scientific texts on Earth. (They are unsuccessful.). The other adaptation is a short film created by a group of high school students, called Star Wars." Macbeth (2001). Shakespeare's play is only a very loose setting for the plot that develops. Descriptions of both these works may be found in Shakespeares After Shakespeare: An Encyclopedia of the Bard in Mass Media and Popular Culture, ed. Richard Butt, vol. 1 (Westport, CT and London: Greenwood Press, 2007), 35, 102.
(34.) While I would like to leave the possibilities for queer sexuality open in my analysis of Deas's Lady Macbeth, I find Jeffrey Brown's definition of"dominatrix" critically useful to interpreting her: "a complex symbol that combines and exploits power (both physical and social) along the axis of gender (both masculine and feminine)" (59).
(35.) For more on this subject, see Carol Rose, Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2000); Anne C. Petty, Dragons of Fantasy (Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Press, 2004); and Joe Nigg, Wonder Beasts: Tales and Lore of the Phoenix, the Griffin, the Unicorn, and the Dragon (Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1995).
(36.) Brown, 47.
Catherine E. Thomas, College of Charleston
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|Author:||Thomas, Catherine E.|
|Publication:||The Upstart Crow|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2012|
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