Weapons of Macbeth

"The Scottish Play"


Rick Pazziol, Weapons of Choice

Those with a superstitious bent might refer to Macbeth that way, but by whatever name, it is always a powerful experience for an audience. Naturally, it has a special place in our hearts because of the number of shows we outfit each year. Interestingly, we only send broadswords to about half of the productions, since this is one of those wonderful shows that respond so well to different settings. We thought you might enjoy seeing some of the different weapons which we have sent out in order to match some very imaginative recent productions.

The most common request is for "period" swords, although that usually requires a few follow up questions. Macbeth's period (1040-1057 AD) is, of course, much different from Shakespeare's, (who never worried about historical accuracy) and well researched productions set in this period use a mix of Scottish and Viking single hand edged weapons, with short spears doing the brunt of the fighting.

[Spear heads, Ballock daggers, Catheness ax, Thor and Berserker swords]

The swords of Shakespeare's day were quite different, anachronisms really, but when the costume plot is set in the 1500's, the corresponding weapons match the dialogue exactly.

Big two handed broadswords, halberds, maces, all of the fun bashing stuff for the final scene, with some light swords for the more Anglicized nobles.

[Halberd, Hospitaller dagger, mace, Caledonia and Black Prince broadswords, Venetian 5word, Spanish ax]

Always a delight to perform and watch is the Caribbean Macbeth, with voodoo priestesses instead of witches from the heath, and the ghost of Banquo is of course a true Zombie. Buccaneers and privateers involved in intrigue with petty local governor/mayors, and a blend of swashbuckling cutlasses and rapiers.

[Blunderbuss, Scottish baskethilt, Gossamer rapier, Long John Sliver cutlass, percussion pistol, Marauder dagger, Simba cutlass, leg irons, barbed cat'o'nine tails]

The most challenging for us are the post-Apocalyptic styles. Each will have it's own spin on what might be acquired after the big one drops (mostly found objects turned into bashing implements) or after society simply implodes on its own (a mix of weapons: low-tech, high-tech, and futuristic). Bag-ladies with shopping carts as witches? Shown are some fantasy weapons which we have created to fit different productions.

[Spike-knuckle falchion, cleaver, punch dagger, forearm sword, Phoenix ax, Mithras dagger, spike club, fantasy ax]

Our favorite? Not done often enough is the Victorian/Edwardian setting. All of those great drawing room suits and smoking jackets, fabulous gowns and jewelry, doughboy uniforms and WWI-style rifles for the soldiers, pistols and dress sabres for the officers. The use of the gothic and morbid themes in art and literature, the toying with spiritualism so prevalent among the upper class can add a seance feel to all of the witches' scenes.

[Mauser pistol, bayonet, Grenadier sabre, Mauser rifle, Skean Dhu boot knife, Tornado revolver, "Russian" S&W revolver]

A unique spin to the above was to set the play in the Empire/Napoleonic style of Europe. The witches were a band of Gypsies. Flintlock muskets to outfit an army attacking Dunsinane, and curved sabres for the final two fights.

[Waterloo sabres, Catalonian dog pistol, Scottish dirk, Napoleon pistol, hunting knife, flintlock musket]

Speaking of curved blades the "Shogun Macbeth" is a very powerful approach to the text. The Noh style movement merely adds to the grandeur of power and the depths of despair, and makes the fantastical elements of the script more, not less, plausible.

Fantastical witches can be at once awe inspiring and repulsive; geisha witches both beautiful and terrifying. Assassins could be ninjas or peasants.

[Spear, 2 kwaiken, tanto, 2 katana]

Modern dress productions now seem to take their cue from television news coverage of Bosnia (Cuba used to be the model). Battle fatigues and business suits meet the shattered refugees of war on the heath, who slip a hallucinogenic brew to help Macbeth "see" the future.

[AK47, M-11 pistol, Ingram assault pistol, hand grenade, combat knife, semi-auto pistol, Uzi assault rifle]

No matter how it is performed, we always feel sorry for our poor Macbeth, who by all contemporary accounts succeeded to the throne by accepted and legal means. He ruled wisely and well, led his country through 17 years of prosperity, and then was overthrown by a usurper, who allowed the English to dominate the Scots by influence within the court, which they never would have been able to do by force of arms alone. By the way, uttering "Macbeth" has always seemed to bring us good luck, with no major injuries, and considering that the title character has two demanding fights at the end of two and a half emotionally exhausting hours, that's no small tribute!

Macbeth Timeline:

  • 1040 Macbeth kills Duncan; named king of Scotland by legal vote of thanes
  • 1042 Edward the Confessor becomes king of England
  • 1054 Macbeth defeated by Malcolm and Siward at Dunsinane
  • 1057 Macbeth is murdered by Malcolm, but Macbeth's stepson Lulach is voted by thanes as king of Scotland
  • 1058 Malcolm murders Lulach and becomes king of Scotland; all thanes re-titled as earls, no longer have any vote in rights of succession

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Weapons of Choice provides fight-worthy and costume weapons for rent and sales to the theatrical community nation-wide. We cover the weapons needs for over 1,000 shows each year. The grips on many of our swords are unit-cast plastic for maximum durability. All steel welds are guaranteed for the life of the weapon, but blades are not.

Our swords are designed for stage use, not Renaissance Fairs nor for the SCA. Our swords are light, tough, flexible, durable and affordable, but to do all of that we must use modern materials, construction and design not permitted by recreationists. Do you have our latest catalogue? It's free! Call today and let us help you. (707) 226-2845

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Last updated January 26, 1998. For questions on this site contact Cecily M. McMahan, Media & Marketing Director for Skirmishers.

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