Even before the witches appear Justin Kurzel's 2015 adaptation of Macbeth actually starts with Lord and Lady Macbeth and their household at the funeral of a child. From the looks on their faces and seeing how they place things on the child's eyes and incinerate the pyre, it seems to be their child.

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This child is picked up later in the film during Lady Macbeth's conscience-induced breakdown. When she holds her monologue about desperately cleaning her hands and not being able to deal with her guilt, it turns out she actually speaks (or imagines to speak) to her dead child.

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As to my knowledge this child does not seem to be an aspect from the original play or other adaptations I have seen. So my question first of all would be if there is any precedent for Macbeth having a child that died, be it in any other adaptation, or maybe in the actual history of the real Macbeth, or even faint allusions in the original play that I'm just unaware of. Or is this really a brand new invention of this adapation?

Based on that, primarily if it turns out to be an addition solely done in this adaptation, I'd like to know in which way it adds to the characterization of Lord and Lady Macbeth. In which way does it paint their deeds and attitudes towards those deeds in a possibly new light, if it does? Or is there any information from the filmmakers why they chose to add it and what they thought it would contribute to the story and its themes?

  • Interestingly enough, Italian director Damiano Micheletto has chosen this particular view for his staging of Macbeth, not the play but Giuseppe Verdi's opera based on it. The performance went on stage last Autumn at La Fenice in Venice. Most reviews found likely the idea, but reproached an excess of oddity. Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 14:06

1 Answer 1


The mention of Lady Macbeth once having a child is certainly not a new invention created by the filmmakers for this particular adaptation of Macbeth. Shakespeare's Macbeth mentions Lady Macbeth having a child at one point.


Lady Macbeth: I have given suck, and know how tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me.

Shakespeare based Macbeth on Mac Bethad mac Findlaíchenter (Macbeth) who reigned as King of the Scots 1040 - 1057. Lady Macbeth is based on Gruoch ingen Boite (Gruoch of Scotland). History informs us that Gruoch of Scotland did indeed have her one and only child, Lulach from a previous marriage to be adopted by Macbeth. Lulach does not die a child and actually reaches adulthood to inherit the throne from his stepfather in 1057.

The deterioration of Lady Macbeth's sanity has always been attributed to her guilt, primarily derived from the murder of Duncan. Various film adaptations as well as the play itself suggest guilt as the primary factor in which Lady Macbeth goes insane.

Justin Kurzel's adaptation of Macbeth provides the viewer with somewhat of a different understanding in regards to the psychological stability of both characters. It is apparent that the filmmakers are attempting to use the death of this child as the primary driving force behind the couple's descent into madness, namely Lady Macbeth. While there is still obvious guilt contributing to the madness of Lady Macbeth, the main focus for her insanity lies in the loss of her child. The viewer is forced to empathize with her and gives insight into her future deeds.

The Lord and Lady Macbeth that we see in this adaptation are vulnerable and benevolent as a result of the loss of this child. The loss of a child is certainly a tragic and despairing event in the life of any parent, particularly a mother. The psychological trauma which one inherits with the loss of a child can never be completely erased. The trauma can be suppressed, but never erased. The loss of this child and the effects on a parent due to said loss adds to the characterization of Lord and Lady Macbeth.


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