Throne of Blood
by Akira Kurosawa
In his 1957 film Throne of Blood (titled Kumonosu-jō, "Spider Web Castle," in its domestic release in Japan), legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa transposes the plot of Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth from medieval Scotland to feudal Japan, incorporating stylistic elements drawn from Noh theater. As with the play, the film tells the story of a warrior who assassinates his sovereign at the urging of his ambitious wife.
Throne of Blood is an adaption, not an interpretation, of Shakespeare’s Macbeth: Kurosawa takes Shakespeare’s play as his point of departure, but creates a new autonomous work with a new text. Though Shakespeare’s Macbeth is based on events reported to have occurred in 11th-century Scotland, his play reflects thematic concerns of early 17th-century England. Like Shakespeare, Kurosawa creates a story that is set in the historical past (specifically the "Warring States Period" of the 16th century), but is completely symptomatic of Kurosawa's postwar Japan of the 1950s. Kurosawa mythologizes the past to make points about the present.
In this unit, students will analyze how Akira Kurosawa’s film Throne of Blood draws on and transforms source material from Shakespeare’s tragedy play Macbeth. Students will use textual evidence from the literary and cinematic texts to develop and support their positions.