William Shakespeare wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets. Amongst of his most famous tragedies is also Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy “Macbeth”. The plot follows up with the main character Macbeth, a strong and brave Scotland fighter who received many titles from the king. One day he met three witches who claimed he would become the next Scottish king and from that moment everything changed. From a brave hero, he became a power obsessed fighter for the throne. He was ready to do anything to fulfill the prophecy.
In the beginning, he wasn’t sure he is capable of killing to get what he wanted, but his wife convinced him he was. She called him a coward so he decided to become a murderer. After crossing that boundary, he lost his morals and just erased anything standing between him and the throne. One murder led to another and Macbeth thought all the murders were justified because he had to get all the people who were against him out of the way but he started committing unnecessary murders, for example, he killed Lady Macduff and her children who were no threat to him. We can ask ourselves would he kill the king if he hadn’t heard about the prophecy and did the witches see his future.
The plot is covered in a dark tone and the storms, and supernatural forces announced the bed events. Because of the genre, we could’ve anticipated many murders, but they weren’t described, just mentioned. For example, King Duncan’s murder is very important because it was a turn of events for Macbeth and the events before and after the murder are described, but the murder was only mentioned. Shakespeare only said that the murder was committed and the same thing happened with the other important murders. Just like the murders only get mentioned so does Macbeth’s coronation only get mentioned during a conversation.
The tragedy is divided into five acts during which the plot develops and, despite being exciting through all the acts, it reached its peak in the last act. The last act is divided into several little scenes in which the plot jumps from one place to another, from one perspective to another all the way to the tragic Macbeth’s end and the coronation of the new king.
Time: 11th century
On an abandoned place, in the middle of a storm, three witches appeared and agreed to meet again after a battle in which Macbeth will be. In the military camp, the Scottish King Duncan gets a report about the fight with the Irish from a wounded officer. He reported that the Irish were led by Macdonwal but that Macbeth and Banquo managed to beat him. The officer left and two Scottish noblemen, Ross and Angus, came to report the king that the traitor Cawdor is defeated alongside the Norwegian army. The king told them to kill the traitor and that his title should be given to Macbeth.
The three witches appeared again and soon came Macbeth and Banquo who were headed for the king’s castle. They were surprised to see the witches and Banquo asked himself if they even lived on Earth because they didn’t look like they did. He asked if they were even women because they had beards. They greeted Macbeth as the Thane of Gladis and then as Thane of Crawdor and Macbeth was surprised because he thought Cawdor was still alive. The witches also foretold that Macbeth will be a king one day and then they told Banquo he would never be king but that his children will be. Macbeth ordered the witches to explain themselves but they disappeared. Ross and Angus came and told Macbeth he was named Thane of Crawdor because Crawdor is getting executed thanks to Macbeth. Macbeth thought about the prophecy and his rise to the throne.
The plot goes to the king’s castle where Malcolm, the king’s son, tells the king the execution has been done and that the traitor repented, admitted the betrayal and asked for forgiveness. Macbeth, Banquo, Ross and Angus came, and the king starts praising the first two for their accomplishments. He lets everyone present know he will be proclaiming his son Malcolm, his heir. Macbeth expresses joy because of his decision, but he knew Malcolm was an obstacle between him and the throne.
In Macbeth’s castle in Inverness, Lady Macbeth read the letter sent to her by Macbeth in which he told her all about the witches and the prophecy. She came to a conclusion he was too good to do the necessary to obtain his goal, so she decides to help him become king. A messenger arrives and lets Lady Macbeth know that the king and Macbeth are arriving at the castle. She asked the spirits to fill her with the deepest cruelty so she could be able to do whatever it takes to make Macbeth king.
Macbeth told her the king was staying until tomorrow and she responds that he won’t be alive long enough to see tomorrow. Macbeth thinks about the murder and starts coming up with reasons not to do it. Macbeth says it would be best to kill the king without any consequences and he deep down knew he only did it because he was power hungry. In the end he decided not to kill the king and when he told Lady Macbeth about it she called him a coward because he wasn’t prepared to do what he had to do get the king out of the way. Lady Macbeth’s plan was to get the king’s servants drunk, kill the king and blame it on the servants. Macbeth cracked under the pressure and accepted her plan.
Banquo tells Macbeth he had a dream about three strange sisters and that the witches did reveal some truth about him. Macbeth lies by saying he didn’t even think about the prophecy. Macbeth was left alone and he thought he saw a dagger. When he tried to take it, it wasn’t there anymore. The blade was full of blood. He got more determined to kill the king. Macbeth waited for the bell to ring which was Lady Macbeth’s signal that everyone was asleep. When she gave him the signal he headed for the king’s chambers.
His wife waited for him to finish his job. When she heard Macbeth making some noise, she thought that someone woke up, but she was sure Macbeth would succeed because she left all the daggers for him to do it. Macbeth came saying he did it but before he had the chance to kill the king the servants woke up to pray and he prayed with them. In the end, he couldn’t say “Amen” and it was torturing him. His wife told him not to think about it, and she realized he came back with the daggers instead of planting them to the servants. She told him to go and fix his mistakes, but he rejected out of fear. She decided to do it herself calling him, once more, a coward. A knock is heard and they go to their chambers.
The doorman opens and Macduff and Lennox enter, the Scottish noblemen. Macbeth came and Lennox told him they came to the king who had ordered them to pick him up at a certain time. Macbeth said the king was asleep but he still takes him to his chambers. Macduff leaves the chambers after seeing the king dead. Lady Macbeth expresses outrage because the king was killed in her house. The king’s son, Malcolm and Donalbain, came. They were told that their father was probably killed by the servants who had bloody daggers. Macbeth states that in an act of rage he killed the servants to get his revenge. The sons come to a conclusion they weren’t safe there because whoever killed their father was coming after them as well. One ran away to England and the other one to Ireland. Their runaway made the weight of conspiracy fall on them and the next king in line was Macbeth.
In the palace, Banquo thought if the prophecy was coming true. He knew that if that prophecy is coming true it meant his sons will also become kings one day. King Macbeth, his queen, and servants came in. Macbeth was worried about the late king’s sons running away because he thought they were coming up with a plan against him. Macbeth was alone and he thought that Banquo was his bigger threat because of his sons, according to the prophecy, are the next kings. He hired two killers to get rid of Banquo and his sons. Near the palace, the killers attack Banquo and his children but one of them get away. Macbeth finds out all about it.
Macbeth went to a feast and Banquo’s spirit was sitting in his place, but only Macbeth could’ve seen him. He talks to the spirit, and his behavior is strange to everyone despite Lady Macbeth trying to explain him. The sprit disappeared, and Macbeth came back to reality and started acting normal again, but it didn’t last long. The spirit appeared again and Macbeth got crazy again. After the guests had left Macbeth told his wife he had to find the witches to find out his faith. He was ready to do anything necessary to keep his position and throne.
The three witches were with a goddess Hecate, and she was furious about their behavior towards Macbeth. She ordered them to give Macbeth a false sense of security the next day when he visits them. Hecate disappeared, and the witches went to prepare themselves.
Lennox talked to a lord about the events in Scotland. Banquo’s son was accused of his fahter’s murder because he ran away and the same thing happened to the late king’s sons. Lennox and the lord suspected that Macbeth was the responsible for the murders. MAcduff went to England to get Malcolm and they wanted to ask the king for help. Macbeth was getting ready to go to war because of the conspiracies.
In a dark cave, the three witches talk about different enchantments. Macbeth comes, as expected, and asks more details about the prophecy. Instead of an answer, they create a bunch of visions. The first vision warned him about Macduff. The second one tells him that no one who was born by a woman will harm him and he realizes he has nothing to worry about. The second vision told him he would be safe before he gets defeated on the mountain. The last vision was about eight kings and Banquo’s spirit, but the witches didn’t explain it, they just disappeared.
Lennox explained to Macbeth that Macduff ran awayto England and he sent killers to his castle to kill his wife and kids. In Macduff’s castle his wife talked to Ross and asked him to tell her why her husband ran away, but he told her she needed to have faith. A messenger interrupted their conversation to let them now they should start running because a great danger was coming their way. The killers come, and the child defends his father, but the killer stabs him. The boy asks his mother to run away, and he dies.
Outside the king’s castle in England Ross brought news to Malcolm and Macduff. He told them Macduff’s wife and children were okay and Malcolm is convinced he has to go back to England because bad things were happening since Macbeth sat on the throne. Malcolm states he will come back to Scotland with ten thousand soldiers. Ross in end admits Macbeth murdered Macduff’s family and him, completely devastated, promises to avenge them.
In the king’s palace in Scotland everyone’s talking about Lady Macbeth’s state. She was walking around in her sleep and she entered a chamber with a candle in her hand. She mumbled about Banquo’s and Lady Macduff’s murders and she thought she had blood on her hands which she couldn’t wash off. Outside the castle Lennox and other nobleman talk about Macbeth leaving the military. Macbeth was called a tyrant and they say he’s getting ready for the army’s arrival. Macbeth brags around the castle that he has nothing to be afraid off because no one could harm him as long as they were born by a woman. Macbeth gave the doctor orders to cure his wife. He keeps on bragging when he finds out his wife is dead. He is being told that an attack on his castle was starting.
He went to the battle without fear because he knew no one could hurt him. In the end, he faced Macduff and explained he couldn’t hurt him because no one born by a woman can hurt him. The only problem was Macduff wasn’t born in a traditional way. He was prematurely taken out of his mother’s womb. Macbeth was scared but still fought against him. Macduff killed him and declared Malcolm the new king and Malcolm invited everyone to be present at his coronation.
Characters: Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Banquo and his children, three witches, king Duncan, Macduff, Lady Macduff, Malcolm, Donaldbain, Hecate, Lennox, Ross, killers.
Macbeth was described as a Scottish hero and the king gave him numerous titles. His hero title doesn’t last long after his encounter with the three witches which tell them about the prophecy of him becoming the next king. He let his wife know all about it and she encouraged him to kill the king, even though he didn’t want to. She challenged him to show he has some character. After the murder he completely changes and becomes ready to do anything in order to keep the throne. He became a tyrant and a series of murders occurred. He got many people killed just because he thought they were a threat for his title. Macbeth was infatuated with power and even when his wife tries to stop him he ignores her. Despite crime being an everyday thing for him he was filled with guilt which made him go insane. In the end, certain of his safety, he goes to fight and dies.
Lady Macbeth was her husband’s complete opposite. When she found out about the prophecy she started planning the murder and when Macbeth shows a lack of courage she mocks him and calls him a coward just to get him to do what she wanted him to do. The monologue in which she asks the spirits to free her from femininity and release her cruelty is well known. She states that she could kill the king all by herself but that she didn’t want to so she would be like her father. Woman’s capability of being as strong, brave and ambitious as men is clearly described in the play. After the king’s death she changes and after all the other murders she, alongside her husband, starts falling apart mentally. By the end of the play we see her walking around in her sleep trying to wash the alleged blood off of her hands. She couldn’t put up with her own life so she committed suicide.
William Shakespeare Biography
Born the son of a glove maker and a rich landowner in 1564, William Shakespeare did not grow up in poverty. He attended good schools and learned all the basics a well rounded young man of means required. But, studying all the great play wrights led to the stage. He was one of eight children and the oldest surviving son, so turning to a career in the theater would not have been what was expected of a well brought up Englishmen, but, Shakespeare was a bit of a rebel.
At the age of 18, he suddenly married 26-year-old Anne Hathaway. Six months later they became parents of their first daughter, Susanna. Later they had twins, Judith and Hamnet, but young Hamnet died at the age of 11. Most scholars feel their marriage might not have been very happy. In his will, written days before his death, Shakespeare only left his wife his “second best bed”. Whether his marriage was ideal, or not, his career as a playwright, director, producer and actor of plays was auspicious.
By the age of 28, in 1592, Shakespeare had already advanced enough in his career to get billing at a London theater. Only two years later, 1594, his plays were only performed by “Lord Chamberlain’s Men”, a troupe on the rise in London. Until her death in 1603 Queen Elizabeth I was his patron. She was a great fan of his work, and although she never visited his theater, he and his troupe gave private performances for her at the palace. After her death, her heir King James I became his patron, and the troupe’s name was then changed to “The King’s Men”. “Lord Chamberlain’s Men” and later, “The King’s Men” were very popular and successful. In 1599 they built the “Globe Theater” by the River Thames (which was destroyed by fire in 1613 and rebuilt in 1614) and in 1608 went on to take over the “Blackfriars Theater”. Both theaters were closed in 1642 due to the start of the English Civil War.
Although some scholars question the complete authenticity of Shakespeare’s plays, he is responsible for some of the greatest plays in history, including, but no where near limited to, “The Comedy of Errors”, “Richard III”, “The Taming of the Shrew”, “As You Like It”, “Romeo and Juliet”, and “Julius Caesar” (rumored to be based on a Plutarch’s Parallel Lives, translated by Sir Thomas North in 1579).
As an actor, Shakespeare often took to the stage to perform in his plays. He is said to have played the ghost of Hamlet’s father and the part of Adam in “As You Like It.” In plays by Ben Johnson, he is also listed on the cast lists for “Every Man in His Humor” and “Sejanus His Fall,” among others.
The theater was Shakespeare’s life. He had a hand in every aspect of it, from designing the building to choosing props. Even during the years of frequent outbreaks of Bubonic Plague in London between 1603 and 1610, when the theaters were often closed, he kept writing and working. Then on the 23rd of April in 1603, purportedly after a drinking binge, the world lost one of the greatest playwrights of all time. He was only 52 years old and had signed his will only a month prior. He was survived by two married daughters and a wife. Most of his estate was left to his oldest daughter, Susanna, with the stipulation that it be given to the ‘first son of her body’. She had three children who all died without marrying, and his daughter, Judith one child who never had children, either. So, Shakespeare’s (legitimate) line ended. But, not his legacy.
To this day, the plays of Shakespeare have been and are being performed all over the world. His plays are one of the most unifying forces throughout history. Dictators, saints, scholars and dunces can almost all recite at least one line from his plays. Admirers tour his grave sight in Holy Trinity Church to read his epitaph or curse, depending on how it’s viewed, “Good Friend, For Jesus’ sake Forbear/ To dig the dust enclosed here./ Blessed be the man that spares these stones,/ And cursed be he that moves my bones”. When the restoration of the church was performed in 2008, his grave was not touched.