Whoever thought Shakespeare’s Macbeth could relate so heavily to our British MI6 agent, James Bond? There are certainly endless connections between Macbeth and Ian Fleming’s hero James Bond, but there is a very specific relationship between Bond’s first love interest Vesper, and Macbeth’s wife, Lady Macbeth.
TRIGGER WARNING: mention of suicide
As a lover of both written and performed works, only recently have I come to see the parallel between these two brilliant pieces. Let’s just say that when I finally made the connection, it felt like everything finally clicked. With Macbeth having been written in 1606 and James Bond: Casino Royale in 1953, both of these works favor the man, obviously. The women are presented as strong forces at the start, seemingly perfect matches for the men, but throughout both pieces, Vesper and Lady Macbeth lose themselves to guilt.
When both women are introduced into the plot, they are seen as a perfect pairing for the title characters, demonstrating a relationship that has no means to end. The significance of the Bond/Macbeth relationship can be seen more specifically in relation to the 2006 Bond film and the Macbeth play.
Vesper and James start their relationship with sarcastic banter, very attune to their characters. Vesper comes as a member of the bank to speak with Bond, but their relationship progresses to much more. Having any kind of relationship with Bond is going to involve blood, he is a trained killer after all.
At a climactic moment in the film, Vesper watches Bond kill a man. He comes back to the hotel room to find Vesper sitting on the floor of the shower, fully clothed and shaking. He sits next to her and she says, “It’s like there’s blood on my hands. It’s not coming off”. However, there isn’t blood on her hands. Bond’s response is to suck her fingers, ridding her of any remaining “blood”. He has no problem cleaning the blood off himself and moving on with his night, so he does the same for her, indifferent to how serious the events of the night were. Vesper visibly upset needs to be consoled by Bond, yet he is completely unphased.
The Macbeth’s relationship is introduced with more unity since they are married and Lady Macbeth is the one to encourage the murder of King Ducan. Though she is the driving force it doesn’t mean she is happy with what happened. The scene with Vesper directly mirrors Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene at the start of Act V.
A doctor and gentlewoman observe Lady Macbeth as she sleepwalks the halls kept awake by her murderous act. During this scene she exclaims, “Yet here’s a spot” (V.I. 31), “Out, damned spot” (V.I.34), and “What, will these hands ne’er be clean?” (V.I. 42). This is the scene that the James Bond movie was alluding to; she sees a spot of blood, a “damned spot”. that she can’t get rid of. Her guilt is eating her alive; she is asking out loud when her hands will be clean from their bloody crime.
The gentlewoman tells the doctor she has been washing her hands for 25 minutes, similar to how Vesper was drowning herself, fully clothed, on the floor of the shower. Lady Macbeth is washing her hands repeatedly for intervals of time, sure to have already rid her hands of the blood but it runs deeper than that. The blood both women speak of runs through their bodies, it is their own. Their minds, hearts, and veins are filled with guilt in a way that cannot be washed away, thus leading to their suicides.
As a woman brought up to love these films, they are not a great example of relationships or respect. James Bond has notoriously had a new woman in almost every film, adding to his very unemotional response to aspects of his life. As a Shakespeare lover as well, Macbeth is also a hard play to take relationship advice from. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth considered each other partners. However, the act of killing King Duncan was their marriage’s great intimacy, and once Macbeth decided to stop confiding in his wife, the structure they had built crumbled.
The men in both pieces so easily disregard the woman in their lives, not knowing just how much they need their guidance; this can be aggressively applied to even men today (when will they learn!?).
Without the determined natures of their woman, these seemingly strong men lose the ounce of goodness within them, making it very evident that men need women to be in control. As a woman myself, I appreciate the representation of strong women in texts and films, but it will never not be upsetting to watch a woman come to her demise at the hands of a selfish man.
Click here to read this meta Macbeth and James Bond convergence from us here at Bookstr!