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Shakespeare & Beyond

Leading ladies, missing characters, and singing witches: Three differences between Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' and William Davenant's adaptation

Kate Eastwood Norris
Kate Eastwood Norris

Not your father’s Macbeth….but maybe your great-great-great-great-grandfather’s? Adapted by William Davenant and first performed in 1664, the version of the Scottish play taking to the Folger stage in September was the most popular one well into the 18th century despite—or perhaps because of—the numerous departures from Shakespeare’s original text. To get you ready for this unique production, here are three key differences audiences should watch for once performances begin on September 4.

We hardly knew yee

If Young Siward, Lady Macbeth’s doctor, or the old man are your favorite characters, prepare yourself—you won’t find them here. A number of roles in Shakespeare’s play are missing from Davenant’s adaptation, which leaves room in the narrative for a number of additional scenes and musical performances…but more on that in a second. Most notably absent is the Porter, whose role is sometimes performed for comic relief.

So what has taken the place of these fine Scottish folk? Read on, Macduff!