Shakespeare's Macbeth and Kurosawa's Throne of Blood

analytical Essay
2045 words
2045 words

Throne of Blood, the 1957 filmed translation of Macbeth by William Shakespeare, was made in Japan, written in Japanese by Shinobu Hashimoto, Ryuzo Kikushima, Akira Kurosowa and Hideo Oguni and directed by Akira Kurosawa. It has many times been called an adaptation of Macbeth, however it is not. As storytellers have done since time began, Kurosawa took a story and made it his own: translating a play text into another medium; a separate setting; a differing culture in a completely different style and for a completely contrasting audience.

The film wasn't even intended to be an adaptation of Macbeth. When composing Throne of Blood, the writing team involved did not even consult Shakespeare's script, as Stuart Galbraith details in his book, The Emperor and the wolf.

Kurosawa and co-writers Hideo Oguni, Shinobu Hashimoto, and Ryuzo Kikushima didn't bother to bring copies of Macbeth with them to the ryokan when they began writing the film in early 1956. "We had already read Macbeth when we were young," Hashimoto said, "so we didn't refer to it...when we wrote the script."

Although Shakespeare's script was not followed when writing Throne of Blood, it is amazing how closely the main story line of the plot is so similar to that of Macbeth, Anthony Davies comments on the similarities of plot line between the two: `the dramatic rise and fall in Throne of Blood bears a remarkably close relationship with the dynamics of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Dramatic peaks in the play are consistently reflected in the film.' It is with a very deep understanding of Macbeth's plot and attributes as a powerful work of dramatic literature that Kurosawa and his team of writers translated its story into a cinematic piece that captured no...

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...rone of Blood' in Filming Shakespeare's plays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988). pp. 143-166

Stuart Galbraith, The Emperor and the Wolf (New York: Faber and Faber, 2002).

James Goodwin, `Tragedy without Heroes' in Akira Kurosawa and Intertextual Cinema (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1994), pp. 165-216

Akira Kurosawa, `Throne of Blood', trans. By Hisae Niki, in Seven Samurai and Other Screenplays (London: Faber and Faber, 1992), pp. 227-266 (p. 253).

Web sites

Sir Thomas Elyot, The Book of the Governor, (1531), in

Sri Swami Sivananda, Shintoism, at

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that throne of blood, the 1957 filmed translation of macbeth by william shakespeare, was made in japan, written in japanese by shinobu hashimoto, ryuzo kikushima, akira kurosowa
  • Explains that throne of blood wasn't intended to be an adaptation of macbeth, as stuart galbraith details in his book, the emperor and the wolf.
  • Explains that kurosawa and co-writers hideo oguni, shinobu hashimoto, and ryuzo kikushima didn't bother to bring copies of macbeth with them to the ryokan when they began writing the film.
  • Analyzes how kurosawa and his team of writers translated macbeth's story into a cinematic piece that captured not only the story, but the powerful imagery, and ideology behind the text.
  • Compares how shakespeare and kurosawa write for their audiences. shakespeare wrote macbeth for james i of england, a scottish king, who was an ancestor of banquo.
  • Analyzes how kurosawa uses his setting in a similar way to that of shakespeare, who uses various examples of imagery concerning the idea of imbalance.
  • Narrates how the sore night has trifled former knowings and strangled the travelling lamp.
  • Narrates how duncan's horses, wild and swift, broke their stalls and flung out.
  • Analyzes how the sun has been eclipsed, allowing no light or goodness to shine on the awful deed committed, and shadows macbeth's act of regicide.
  • Describes god's order in all his creatures, beginning at the most inferior or base, and ascending upward. where there is any lack of order, needs must be perpetual conflict.
  • Opines that macbeth's actions have changed the course of the natural world, threatening chaos upon the world. kurosawa should have shown ultimate respect for his lord as his elder.
  • Explains that absolute loyalty to the sovereign emperor, who represents the highest god, respect for ancestors, piety towards the parents, and love for children form the fundamental structure of the great universal way.
  • Explains that kurosawa uses japanese influences, images, and dramatic tradition to show the universal themes inherent to any production of macbeth.
  • Analyzes how kurosawa borrowed shakespeare's imagery from macbeth to tell the story of washizu and the throne of blood. the low, dark chanting of the chorus, is made even more haunting by the chilling flute playing over the lyrics.
  • Analyzes how the forest is one of the three locations within which kurosawa sets his film, and holds special importance in relation to the japanese.
  • Analyzes how kurosawa's use of dark and light in throne of blood and in macbeth shows the inevitability of his fate.
  • Analyzes how the horses in the scene are scared, and as natural subjects, can sense danger. this image foreshadows washizu's boast when he returns to cobweb forest to find the witch.
  • Analyzes kurosawa's use of horses to show the disbalance of nature that washizu causes with his actions.
  • Analyzes how asaji's lack of movement reflects her determination and single-minded thinking, contrasting with washizu’s frantic pacing, reflecting his struggle.
  • Analyzes how the repetition of bird cries is used in these scenes as an omen of the dark balance of nature.
  • Analyzes how asaji washes her hands as her husband sits dumbfounded, his own covered in blood, and washizu kills the guards in complete equality to shakespeare's scene with macbeth.
  • Analyzes how the murder of tsuzuki is followed by images of a camp of soldiers in absolute chaos, showing again this theme of order and disorder and how washizu has changed the order of all things with his actions.
  • Analyzes how washizu proposes to make miki's son his heir, fulfilling the prophecy and ending the chain of events, until asaji tells him that she is pregnant.
  • Analyzes how washizu committed treason and died at the hands of his own men in throne of blood. asaji, the lady macbeth character, did not commit suicide.
  • Describes the primary sources of shakespeare's macbeth and akira kurosawa’s throne of blood.
  • Analyzes james goodwin's tragedy without heroes' in akira kurosawa and intertextual cinema, trans. hisae niki in seven samurai and other screenplays.
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