As in all other periods and cultures, the banquet reflects the ideological aspects of social and political order. The encoded discourses of order in the dramatic representation of a banquet are symbolic in that the feast implies internalized principles of order or power. The investment of symbolic order in banquets and feasts can be identified in both banquet scenes in the play and the film. The ceremonial and ritualized nature of Macbeth’s banquet and the reflected ideological discourse of social degree, royal power, and national order are doubly ironic. While the scene clearly establishes the orthodox inscriptions of a banquet, Macbeth has already contradicted the natural order through the radical and subversive act of regicide. Additionally, this particular banquet is disrupted by the arrival of the ghost, which inverts and dislocates the social ritual. In , the banquet on the eve of the Chrysanthemum Festival has also turned into a battlefield and acts of murder among family members. The result is the subversion of the ideology of order normally reflected in a royal banquet. Thus, both texts reveal “the symbolic context in which the banquet becomes an emblem of perverted ritual and ideology”. The rituals, as encodings of the discourses of order and power, become emblems of the ideological subversion inherent in vengeance.
In Shakespeare’s plays, feasting plays a crucial role in highlighting conflicts, characterizing relationships and exploring the nature of human society. How are these scenes transmitted in a cross-cultural context? In this paper, I will discuss the banquet scene (3.4) in and , which is a spin-off of Shakespeare’s plays. , directed by Zhang Yimou and released in 2006, is a Chinese epic film that is set during the turbulent Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms. Inspired by Shakespeare’s plays, the storyline of the film has obvious roots in his tragedies, namely the three siblings from and the jealous king from . I argue that the film also reformulates the banquet scene in as a feast held during the annual Chong Yang (Chrysanthemum Festival) in ancient China.
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While all the guests are seated, Macbeth does not immediately take his seat. In fact, he is on his feet for the whole of this scene, and is never seen as being united with or heading his countrymen. As the Lords are presumably settling into their seats, he moves around the table in order to “mingle with society and play the humble host.” (3.4.3–4) As Macbeth moves around greeting his guests, the most important seat at the table is thus vacant. The symbolism of this is powerful, for Macbeth is not the legitimate King of Scotland, and is therefore unqualified to preside at a state occasion.