Macbeth

Macbeth

Overview

The Tragedy of Macbeth (commonly called Macbeth) is a play by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 about a regicide
Regicide
The broad definition of regicide is the deliberate killing of a monarch, or the person responsible for the killing of a monarch. In a narrower sense, in the British tradition, it refers to the judicial execution of a king after a trial...

 and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy
Shakespearean tragedy
Shakespeare wrote tragedies from the beginning of his career. One of his earliest plays was the Roman tragedy Titus Andronicus, which he followed a few years later with Romeo and Juliet. However, his most admired tragedies were written in a seven-year period between 1601 and 1608...

 and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607. The earliest account of a performance of what was probably Shakespeare's play is April 1611, when Simon Forman
Simon Forman
Simon Forman was arguably the most popular Elizabethan astrologer, occultist and herbalist active in London during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and James I of England. His reputation, however, was severely tarnished after his death when he was implicated in the plot to kill Sir Thomas Overbury...

 recorded seeing such a play at the Globe Theatre
Globe Theatre
The Globe Theatre was a theatre in London associated with William Shakespeare. It was built in 1599 by Shakespeare's playing company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, and was destroyed by fire on 29 June 1613...

. It was first published in the Folio of 1623
First Folio
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio....

, possibly from a prompt book
Prompt book
The prompt book, also called promptbook, transcript, the bible or sometimes simply "the book," is the copy of a production script that contains the information necessary to create the production from the ground up...

.

Shakespeare's source for the tragedy are the accounts of King Macbeth of Scotland
Macbeth of Scotland
Mac Bethad mac Findlaích was King of the Scots from 1040 until his death...

, Macduff, and Duncan
Duncan I of Scotland
Donnchad mac Crínáin was king of Scotland from 1034 to 1040...

 in Holinshed's Chronicles
Holinshed's Chronicles
Holinshed's Chronicles, also known as Holinsheds Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, is a collaborative work published in several volumes and two editions, the first in 1577, and the second in 1587....

(1587), a history of England, Scotland and Ireland familiar to Shakespeare and his contemporaries.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Macbeth'
Start a new discussion about 'Macbeth'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Recent Discussions
Quotations

First Witch: When shall we three meet againIn thunder, lightning, or in rain?Second Witch: When the hurlyburly's done,When the battle's lost and won.

Scene i

Fair is foul, and foul is fair;Hover through the fog and filthy air.

Witches, scene i

The merciless Macdonwald(Worthy to be a rebel, — for, to that,The multiplying villainies of natureDo swarm upon him) from the Western IslesOf kerns and gallowglasses is supplied;And Fortune, on his damned quarrel smiling,Showed like a rebel's whore: but all's too weak:For brave Macbeth (well he deserves that name)Disdaining Fortune, with his brandish'd steel,Which smoked with bloody execution,Like valour's minion,Carv'd out his passage.

Captain, scene ii

A sailor's wife had chestnuts in her lap,And munched, and munched, and munched:Give me, quoth I:Aroint thee, witch! the rump-fed ronyon cries.

First Witch, scene iii

Sleep shall neither night nor dayHang upon his pent-house lid.

First Witch, scene iii

So foul and fair a day I have not seen.

Macbeth, scene iii

If you can look into the seeds of time,And say which grain will grow, and which will not,Speak.

Banquo, scene iii

The earth hath bubbles, as water has,And these are of them.

Banquo, scene iii

Or have we eaten on the insane rootThat takes the reason prisoner?

Banquo, scene iii
Encyclopedia

The Tragedy of Macbeth (commonly called Macbeth) is a play by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 about a regicide
Regicide
The broad definition of regicide is the deliberate killing of a monarch, or the person responsible for the killing of a monarch. In a narrower sense, in the British tradition, it refers to the judicial execution of a king after a trial...

 and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy
Shakespearean tragedy
Shakespeare wrote tragedies from the beginning of his career. One of his earliest plays was the Roman tragedy Titus Andronicus, which he followed a few years later with Romeo and Juliet. However, his most admired tragedies were written in a seven-year period between 1601 and 1608...

 and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607. The earliest account of a performance of what was probably Shakespeare's play is April 1611, when Simon Forman
Simon Forman
Simon Forman was arguably the most popular Elizabethan astrologer, occultist and herbalist active in London during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and James I of England. His reputation, however, was severely tarnished after his death when he was implicated in the plot to kill Sir Thomas Overbury...

 recorded seeing such a play at the Globe Theatre
Globe Theatre
The Globe Theatre was a theatre in London associated with William Shakespeare. It was built in 1599 by Shakespeare's playing company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, and was destroyed by fire on 29 June 1613...

. It was first published in the Folio of 1623
First Folio
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio....

, possibly from a prompt book
Prompt book
The prompt book, also called promptbook, transcript, the bible or sometimes simply "the book," is the copy of a production script that contains the information necessary to create the production from the ground up...

.

Shakespeare's source for the tragedy are the accounts of King Macbeth of Scotland
Macbeth of Scotland
Mac Bethad mac Findlaích was King of the Scots from 1040 until his death...

, Macduff, and Duncan
Duncan I of Scotland
Donnchad mac Crínáin was king of Scotland from 1034 to 1040...

 in Holinshed's Chronicles
Holinshed's Chronicles
Holinshed's Chronicles, also known as Holinsheds Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, is a collaborative work published in several volumes and two editions, the first in 1577, and the second in 1587....

(1587), a history of England, Scotland and Ireland familiar to Shakespeare and his contemporaries. However, the story of Macbeth as told by Shakespeare bears little relation to real events in Scottish history, as Macbeth was an admired and able monarch.

In the backstage world of theatre, some believe that the play is cursed, and will not mention its title aloud, referring to it instead as "the Scottish play
The Scottish play
The Scottish Play and the Bard's play are euphemisms for William Shakespeare's Macbeth. The first is a reference to the play's Scottish setting, the second a reference to Shakespeare's popular nickname. According to a theatrical superstition, called the Scottish curse, speaking the name Macbeth...

". Over the course of many centuries, the play has attracted some of the greatest actors in the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. It has been adapted to film, television, opera
Macbeth (opera)
Macbeth is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi, with an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave and additions by Andrea Maffei, based on Shakespeare's play of the same name...

, novels, comic books, and other media.

Characters


Listed below are the dramatis personæ
Dramatis personæ
Dramatis personæ is a phrase used to refer collectively, in the form of a list, to the main characters in a dramatic work —- commonly employed in various forms of theater, and also on screen. Typically, off-stage characters are not considered part of the dramatis personæ...

for Macbeth:
  • Duncan
    King Duncan
    King Duncan is a fictional character in Shakespeare's Macbeth. He is the father of two youthful sons , and the victim of a well-plotted regicide in a power grab by his trusted captain Macbeth...

    – King of Scotland
    Scotland
    Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

    • Malcolm
      Malcolm III of Scotland
      Máel Coluim mac Donnchada , was King of Scots...

      – Duncan's eldest son
    • Donalbain
      Donalbain (Macbeth)
      Donalbain is a character in Shakespeare's Macbeth . He is the younger son of King Duncan and brother to Malcolm, the heir to the throne. Donalbain flees Scotland after the murder of his father for refuge in Ireland. The character is minor, has few lines, and is sometimes completely cut in...

      – Duncan's youngest son
  • Macbeth – a general in the army of King Duncan; originally Thane
    Thegn
    The term thegn , from OE þegn, ðegn "servant, attendant, retainer", is commonly used to describe either an aristocratic retainer of a king or nobleman in Anglo-Saxon England, or as a class term, the majority of the aristocracy below the ranks of ealdormen and high-reeves...

     of Glamis
    Glamis
    Glamis is a small village in Angus, Scotland, located four miles south of Kirriemuir and five miles southwest of Forfar. It is the location of Glamis Castle, the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.-History:...

    , then Thane of Cawdor
    Cawdor
    Cawdor is a village and parish in Nairnshire, Highland council area, Scotland. The village is situated 5 miles south south west of Nairn, and 12 miles from Inverness.-History:The village is the location of Cawdor Castle, the seat of the Earl Cawdor....

    , and later King of Scotland
    Scotland
    Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

  • Lady Macbeth
    Lady Macbeth
    Lady Macbeth may refer to:*Lady Macbeth, from William Shakespeare's play Macbeth**Queen Gruoch of Scotland, the real-life Queen on whom Shakespeare based the character...

    – Macbeth's wife and later Queen of Scotland
  • Banquo
    Banquo
    Banquo is a character in William Shakespeare's 1606 play Macbeth. In the play, he is at first an ally to Macbeth and they are together when they meet the Three Witches. After prophesying that Macbeth will become king, the witches tell Banquo that he will not be king himself, but that his...

    – Macbeth's friend and a general in the army of King Duncan
    • Fleance
      Fleance
      Fleance is a figure in legendary Scottish history. He was depicted by sixteenth century historians as the son of Banquo and the ancestor of the kings of the House of Stuart. In reality both Banquo and Fleance are likely fictional. Fleance is best known as a character in William Shakespeare's play...

      – Banquo's son
  • Macduff – Thane of Fife
    Fife
    Fife is a council area and former county of Scotland. It is situated between the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth, with inland boundaries to Perth and Kinross and Clackmannanshire...

    • Lady Macduff
      Lady Macduff
      Lady Macduff, a character in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, is the wife of Macduff, the Thane of Fife, and the mother of an unnamed son and other children. Her appearance in the play is brief: she and her son are introduced in Act IV Scene II, a climactic and tragic scene that ends with both her and her...

      – Macduff's wife
    • Macduff's son
      Macduff's Son
      Macduff's son is a character in William Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth . His name and age are not established in the text, and, typical of Shakespeare's child characters, the boy is cute and clever...


  • Ross, Lennox, Angus, Menteith, Caithness – Scottish Thanes
  • Siward
    Siward, Earl of Northumbria
    Siward or Sigurd was an important earl of 11th-century northern England. The Old Norse nickname Digri and its Latin translation Grossus are given to him by near-contemporary texts...

    – Earl of Northumberland, General of the English forces
    • Young Siward – Siward's son
  • Seyton – Macbeth's servant and attendant
  • Hecate
    Hecate
    Hecate or Hekate is a chthonic Greco-Roman goddess associated with magic, witchcraft, necromancy, and crossroads.She is attested in poetry as early as Hesiod's Theogony...

    – Goddess of Witchcraft
  • Three Witches
    Three Witches
    The Three Witches or Weird Sisters are characters in William Shakespeare's play Macbeth . Their origin lies in Holinshed's Chronicles , a history of England, Scotland and Ireland...

    – make the prediction of Macbeth becoming a King and Banquo's descendants being kings
  • Three Murderers
  • Porter (or Messenger) – gatekeeper at Macbeth's home
  • Scottish Doctor – Lady Macbeth's doctor
  • The Gentlewoman – Lady Macbeth's caretaker


Plot


The first act of the play opens amidst thunder and lightning with the Three Witches deciding that their next meeting shall be with Macbeth. In the following scene, a wounded sergeant reports to King Duncan
King Duncan
King Duncan is a fictional character in Shakespeare's Macbeth. He is the father of two youthful sons , and the victim of a well-plotted regicide in a power grab by his trusted captain Macbeth...

 of Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 that his generalsMacbeth, who is the Thane
Thegn
The term thegn , from OE þegn, ðegn "servant, attendant, retainer", is commonly used to describe either an aristocratic retainer of a king or nobleman in Anglo-Saxon England, or as a class term, the majority of the aristocracy below the ranks of ealdormen and high-reeves...

 of Glamis
Glamis
Glamis is a small village in Angus, Scotland, located four miles south of Kirriemuir and five miles southwest of Forfar. It is the location of Glamis Castle, the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.-History:...

, and Banquo
Banquo
Banquo is a character in William Shakespeare's 1606 play Macbeth. In the play, he is at first an ally to Macbeth and they are together when they meet the Three Witches. After prophesying that Macbeth will become king, the witches tell Banquo that he will not be king himself, but that his...

have just defeated the allied forces of Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 and Ireland, who were led by the traitor Macdonwald. Macbeth, the King's kinsman, is praised for his bravery and fighting prowess.

The scene changes. Macbeth and Banquo enter, discussing the weather and their victory ("So foul and fair a day I have not seen"). As they wander onto a heath, the Three Witches enter, who have waited to greet them with prophecies. Even though Banquo challenges them first, they address Macbeth. The first witch hails Macbeth as "Thane of Glamis," the second as "Thane of Cawdor," and the third proclaims that he shall "be King hereafter." Macbeth appears to be stunned to silence, so again Banquo challenges them. The witches inform Banquo that he will father a line of kings, though he himself will not be one. While the two men wonder at these pronouncements, the witches vanish, and another thane, Ross, a messenger from the King, arrives and informs Macbeth of his newly bestowed title: Thane of Cawdor. The first prophecy is thus fulfilled. Immediately, Macbeth begins to harbour ambitions of becoming king.

Macbeth writes to his wife about the witches' prophecies. When Duncan decides to stay at the Macbeths' castle at Inverness
Inverness
Inverness is a city in the Scottish Highlands. It is the administrative centre for the Highland council area, and is regarded as the capital of the Highlands of Scotland...

, Lady Macbeth
Lady Macbeth (Shakespeare)
Lady Macbeth is a fictional character in Shakespeare's Macbeth . She is the wife to the play's protagonist, Macbeth, a Scottish nobleman. After goading him into committing regicide, she becomes Queen of Scotland, but later suffers pangs of guilt for her part in the crime...

 hatches a plan to murder him and secure the throne for her husband. Although Macbeth raises concerns about the regicide, Lady Macbeth eventually persuades him, by challenging his manhood, to follow her plan.

On the night of the king's visit, Macbeth hallucinates before entering Duncan's quarters, believing he sees a bloody dagger. Macbeth later reunites with his wife, having "done the deed." He is so shaken that Lady Macbeth has to take charge. In accordance with her plan, she frames Duncan's sleeping servants for the murder by placing bloody daggers on them. Early the next morning, Lennox, a Scottish nobleman, and Macduff
Macduff (thane)
Macduff, the Thane of Fife, is a character in William Shakespeare's Macbeth . Macduff plays a pivotal role in the play: he suspects Macbeth of regicide and eventually kills Macbeth in the final act...

, the loyal Thane of Fife
Fife
Fife is a council area and former county of Scotland. It is situated between the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth, with inland boundaries to Perth and Kinross and Clackmannanshire...

, arrive. A porter opens the gate and Macbeth leads them to the king's chamber, where Macduff discovers Duncan's corpse. In a feigned fit of anger, Macbeth murders the guards before they can protest their innocence. Macduff is immediately suspicious of Macbeth, but does not reveal his suspicions publicly. Fearing for their lives, Duncan's sons flee, Malcolm
Malcolm III of Scotland
Máel Coluim mac Donnchada , was King of Scots...

 to England and Donalbain
Donalbain (Macbeth)
Donalbain is a character in Shakespeare's Macbeth . He is the younger son of King Duncan and brother to Malcolm, the heir to the throne. Donalbain flees Scotland after the murder of his father for refuge in Ireland. The character is minor, has few lines, and is sometimes completely cut in...

 to Ireland. The rightful heirs' flight makes them suspects and Macbeth assumes the throne as the new King of Scotland as a kinsman of the dead king. Banquo reveals this to the audience, and while skeptical of the new King Macbeth, remembers the witches' prophecy about him.

Despite his success, Macbeth, also aware of this prophecy, remains uneasy about this, so Macbeth invites Banquo to a royal banquet
Banquet
A banquet is a large meal or feast, complete with main courses and desserts. It usually serves a purpose such as a charitable gathering, a ceremony, or a celebration, and is often preceded or followed by speeches in honour of someone....

, where he discovers that Banquo and his young son, Fleance
Fleance
Fleance is a figure in legendary Scottish history. He was depicted by sixteenth century historians as the son of Banquo and the ancestor of the kings of the House of Stuart. In reality both Banquo and Fleance are likely fictional. Fleance is best known as a character in William Shakespeare's play...

, will be riding out that night. He hires two men to kill them; a third murderer appears in the park before the murder. The assassins succeed in killing Banquo, but Fleance escapes. At the banquet, Macbeth invites his lords and Lady Macbeth to a night of drinking and merriment. Banquo's ghost enters and sits in Macbeth's place. Macbeth grows furious as the ghost is only visible to himself. The others panic at the sight of Macbeth raging at an empty chair, until a desperate Lady Macbeth tells them that her husband is merely afflicted with a familiar and harmless malady. The ghost departs and returns once more, causing the same riotous anger in Macbeth. This time, the lords flee.

Macbeth, disturbed, visits the Three Witches once more. They conjure up three spirits with three further warnings and prophecies: an armed head tells him to, "beware Macduff," a bloody child, that warns, "none of woman born / shall harm Macbeth," and a crowned child holding a tree, stating Macbeth will "never vanquish'd be until / Great Birnam Wood
Birnam, Perth and Kinross
Birnam is a town in Perthshire, Scotland. The town originated from the Victorian era with the coming of the railway in 1856, although the place and name is well known because William Shakespeare mentioned Birnam Wood in Macbeth.-Location:...

 to high Dunsinane Hill
Dunsinane Hill
Dunsinane Hill is near the village of Collace in Perthshire, Scotland. It is mentioned in Shakespeare's play Macbeth.It has the remains of two early forts. This is believed to be the site of a battle where Malcolm Canmore defeated Macbeth in 1054...

 / shall come against him". Macbeth is informed that Macduff is in exile in England. Macbeth, believing that he is safe, puts to death everyone in Macduff's castle, including Macduff's wife
Lady Macduff
Lady Macduff, a character in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, is the wife of Macduff, the Thane of Fife, and the mother of an unnamed son and other children. Her appearance in the play is brief: she and her son are introduced in Act IV Scene II, a climactic and tragic scene that ends with both her and her...

 and their young son.

Lady Macbeth becomes wracked with guilt from the crimes she and her husband have committed. She sleepwalks and tries to wash imaginary bloodstains from her hands, all the while speaking of the terrible things she knows she pressed her husband to do.

In England, Macduff is informed by Ross that his "castle is surprised; [his] wife and babes / Savagely slaughter'd." Macbeth, now viewed as a tyrant, sees many of his thanes defecting. Malcolm leads an army, along with Macduff and Englishmen Siward (the Elder), the Earl of Northumberland
Northumberland
Northumberland is the northernmost ceremonial county and a unitary district in North East England. For Eurostat purposes Northumberland is a NUTS 3 region and is one of three boroughs or unitary districts that comprise the "Northumberland and Tyne and Wear" NUTS 2 region...

, against Dunsinane Castle. While encamped in Birnam Wood, the soldiers are ordered to cut down and carry tree limbs to camouflage their numbers, thus fulfilling the witches' third prophecy. Meanwhile, Macbeth delivers a soliloquy
Soliloquy
A soliloquy is a device often used in drama whereby a character relates his or her thoughts and feelings to him/herself and to the audience without addressing any of the other characters, and is delivered often when they are alone or think they are alone. Soliloquy is distinct from monologue and...

 ("Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow") upon his learning of Lady Macbeth's death (the cause is undisclosed, and some assume that she committed suicide, as Malcolm's last reference to her reveals "'tis thought, by self and violent hands / Took off her life").

A battle culminates in the slaying of the young Siward and Macduff's confrontation with Macbeth. Macbeth boasts that he has no reason to fear Macduff, for he cannot be killed by any man born of woman. Macduff declares that he was "from his mother's womb / Untimely ripp'd" (i.e., born by Caesarean section
Caesarean section
A Caesarean section, is a surgical procedure in which one or more incisions are made through a mother's abdomen and uterus to deliver one or more babies, or, rarely, to remove a dead fetus...

) and was not "of woman born" (an example of a literary quibble
Quibble (plot device)
In literature, a quibble is a common plot device, used to fulfill the exact verbal conditions of an agreement in order to avoid the intended meaning. Its most common uses are in legal bargains and, in fantasy, magically enforced ones....

), fulfilling the second prophecy. Macbeth realizes too late that he has misinterpreted the witches' words. Macduff beheads Macbeth offstage and thereby fulfills the first prophecy.

Although Malcolm, and not Fleance, is placed on the throne, the witches' prophecy concerning Banquo ("Thou shalt get kings") was known to the audience of Shakespeare's time to be true: James VI of Scotland (later also James I of England
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

) was supposedly a descendant of Banquo.

Sources


Macbeth has been compared to Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra
Antony and Cleopatra
Antony and Cleopatra is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607. It was first printed in the First Folio of 1623. The plot is based on Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Lives and follows the relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony...

.
Both Antony and Macbeth as characters seek a new world, even at the cost of the old one. Both are fighting for a throne and have a 'nemesis' to face to achieve that throne. For Antony the nemesis is Octavius, for Macbeth it is Banquo. At one point Macbeth even compares himself to Antony, saying "under Banquo / My Genius is rebuk'd, as it is said / Mark Antony's was by Caesar." Lastly, both plays contain powerful and manipulative female figures: Cleopatra and Lady Macbeth.

Shakespeare borrowed the story from several tales in Holinshed's Chronicles
Holinshed's Chronicles
Holinshed's Chronicles, also known as Holinsheds Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, is a collaborative work published in several volumes and two editions, the first in 1577, and the second in 1587....

, a popular history of the British Isles known to Shakespeare and his contemporaries. In Chronicles, a man named Donwald finds several of his family put to death by his king, King Duff, for dealing with witches. After being pressured by his wife, he and four of his servants kill the King in his own house. In Chronicles, Macbeth is portrayed as struggling to support the kingdom in the face of King Duncan's ineptitude. He and Banquo meet the three witches, who make exactly the same prophecies as in Shakespeare's version. Macbeth and Banquo then together plot the murder of Duncan, at Lady Macbeth's urging. Macbeth has a long, ten-year reign before eventually being overthrown by Macduff and Malcolm. The parallels between the two versions are clear. However, some scholars think that George Buchanan
George Buchanan
George Buchanan may refer to:*George Buchanan , Scottish humanist*Sir George Buchanan , Scottish soldier during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms*Sir George Buchanan , Chief Medical Officer...

's Rerum Scoticarum Historia matches Shakespeare's version more closely. Buchanan's work was available in Latin in Shakespeare's day.

No other version of the story has Macbeth kill the king in Macbeth's own castle. Scholars have seen this change of Shakespeare's as adding to the darkness of Macbeth's crime as the worst violation of hospitality. Versions of the story that were common at the time had Duncan being killed in an ambush at Inverness
Inverness
Inverness is a city in the Scottish Highlands. It is the administrative centre for the Highland council area, and is regarded as the capital of the Highlands of Scotland...

, not in a castle. Shakespeare conflated the story of Donwald and King Duff in what was a significant change to the story.

Shakespeare made another revealing change. In Chronicles, Banquo is an accomplice in Macbeth's murder of King Duncan. He also plays an important part in ensuring that Macbeth, not Malcolm, takes the throne in the coup that follows. In Shakespeare's day, Banquo was thought to be a direct ancestor of the Stuart
House of Stuart
The House of Stuart is a European royal house. Founded by Robert II of Scotland, the Stewarts first became monarchs of the Kingdom of Scotland during the late 14th century, and subsequently held the position of the Kings of Great Britain and Ireland...

 King James I. The Banquo portrayed in historical sources is significantly different from the Banquo created by Shakespeare. Critics have proposed several reasons for this change. First, to portray the king's ancestor as a murderer would have been risky. Other authors of the time who wrote about Banquo, such as Jean de Schelandre
Jean de Schelandre
Jean de Schelandre , Seigneur de Saumazènes, was a French poet.-Biography:He was born about 1585 near Verdun of a Calvinist family, and studied at the university of Paris...

 in his Stuartide, also changed history by portraying Banquo as a noble man, not a murderer, probably for the same reasons. Second, Shakespeare may have altered Banquo's character simply because there was no dramatic need for another accomplice to the murder; there was, however, a need to give a dramatic contrast to Macbeth—a role which many scholars argue is filled by Banquo.

Date and text


Macbeth cannot be dated precisely owing to significant evidence of later revisions. Many scholars conjecture the likely date of composition to be between 1603 and 1606. As the play seems to be celebrating King James
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

's ancestors and the Stuart
House of Stuart
The House of Stuart is a European royal house. Founded by Robert II of Scotland, the Stewarts first became monarchs of the Kingdom of Scotland during the late 14th century, and subsequently held the position of the Kings of Great Britain and Ireland...

 accession to the throne in 1603 (James believed himself to be descended from Banquo
Banquo
Banquo is a character in William Shakespeare's 1606 play Macbeth. In the play, he is at first an ally to Macbeth and they are together when they meet the Three Witches. After prophesying that Macbeth will become king, the witches tell Banquo that he will not be king himself, but that his...

), they argue that the play is unlikely to have been composed earlier than 1603; and suggest that the parade of eight kings—which the witches show Macbeth in a vision in Act IV—is a compliment to King James
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

. Other editors conjecture a more specific date of 1605–6, the principal reasons being possible allusions to the Gunpowder Plot
Gunpowder Plot
The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in earlier centuries often called the Gunpowder Treason Plot or the Jesuit Treason, was a failed assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby.The plan was to blow up the House of...

 and its ensuing trials. The Porter's speech (Act II, scene III, lines 1–21), in particular, may contain allusions to the trial of the Jesuit Henry Garnet
Henry Garnet
Henry Garnet , sometimes Henry Garnett, was a Jesuit priest executed for his complicity in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Born in Derbyshire, he was educated in Nottingham and later at Winchester College, before moving to London in 1571 to work for a publisher...

 in spring, 1606; "equivocator" (line 8) may refer to Garnet's defence of "equivocation" [see: Doctrine of mental reservation
Doctrine of mental reservation
The doctrine of mental reservation, or the doctrine of mental equivocation, was a special branch of casuistry developed in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and most often associated with the Jesuits.- Secular use :...

], and "farmer" (4) to one of Garnet's aliases. However, "farmer" is a common word, and "equivocation" was also the subject of a 1583 tract by Queen Elizabeth
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

's chief councillor Lord Burghley
William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley
William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley , KG was an English statesman, the chief advisor of Queen Elizabeth I for most of her reign, twice Secretary of State and Lord High Treasurer from 1572...

, and of the 1584 Doctrine of Equivocation by the Spanish prelate Martin Azpilcueta, which was disseminated across Europe and into England in the 1590s.

Scholars also cite an entertainment seen by King James at Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

 in the summer of 1605 that featured three "sibyl
Sibyl
The word Sibyl comes from the Greek word σίβυλλα sibylla, meaning prophetess. The earliest oracular seeresses known as the sibyls of antiquity, "who admittedly are known only through legend" prophesied at certain holy sites, under the divine influence of a deity, originally— at Delphi and...

s" like the weird sisters; Kermode surmises that Shakespeare could have heard about this and alluded to it with the weird sisters. However, A. R. Braunmuller in the New Cambridge edition finds the 1605–6 arguments inconclusive, and argues only for an earliest date of 1603. The play is not considered to have been written any later than 1607, since, as Kermode notes, there are "fairly clear allusions to the play in 1607." The earliest account of a performance of the play is April 1611, when Simon Forman
Simon Forman
Simon Forman was arguably the most popular Elizabethan astrologer, occultist and herbalist active in London during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and James I of England. His reputation, however, was severely tarnished after his death when he was implicated in the plot to kill Sir Thomas Overbury...

 recorded seeing it at the Globe Theatre
Globe Theatre
The Globe Theatre was a theatre in London associated with William Shakespeare. It was built in 1599 by Shakespeare's playing company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, and was destroyed by fire on 29 June 1613...

.

Macbeth was first printed in the First Folio
First Folio
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio....

 of 1623 and the Folio is the only source for the text. The text that survives had been plainly altered by later hands. Most notable is the inclusion of two songs from Thomas Middleton
Thomas Middleton
Thomas Middleton was an English Jacobean playwright and poet. Middleton stands with John Fletcher and Ben Jonson as among the most successful and prolific of playwrights who wrote their best plays during the Jacobean period. He was one of the few Renaissance dramatists to achieve equal success in...

's play The Witch
The Witch
The Witch is a Jacobean play, a tragicomedy written by Thomas Middleton. The play was acted by the King's Men at the Blackfriars Theatre. It is thought to have been written sometime between 1609 and 1616; it was not printed in its own era, and existed only in manuscript until it was published by...

(1615); Middleton is conjectured to have inserted an extra scene involving the witches and Hecate, for these scenes had proven highly popular with audiences. These revisions, which since the Clarendon edition of 1869 have been assumed to include all of Act III, scene v, and a portion of Act IV, scene I, are often indicated in modern texts. On this basis, many scholars reject all three of the interludes with the goddess Hecate
Hecate
Hecate or Hekate is a chthonic Greco-Roman goddess associated with magic, witchcraft, necromancy, and crossroads.She is attested in poetry as early as Hesiod's Theogony...

 as inauthentic. Even with the Hecate material, the play is conspicuously short, and so the Folio text may derive from a prompt book that had been substantially cut for performance, or an adapter cut the text himself.

Themes and motifs


Macbeth is an anomaly among Shakespeare's tragedies in certain critical ways. It is short: more than a thousand lines shorter than Othello
Othello
The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1603, and based on the Italian short story "Un Capitano Moro" by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565...

and King Lear
King Lear
King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The title character descends into madness after foolishly disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological...

, and only slightly more than half as long as Hamlet
Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

. This brevity has suggested to many critics that the received version is based on a heavily cut source, perhaps a prompt-book for a particular performance. That brevity has also been connected to other unusual features: the fast pace of the first act, which has seemed to be "stripped for action"; the comparative flatness of the characters other than Macbeth; the oddness of Macbeth himself compared with other Shakespearean tragic heroes.

As a tragedy of character


At least since the days of Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

 and Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...

, analysis of the play has centred on the question of Macbeth's ambition, commonly seen as so dominant a trait that it defines the character. Johnson asserted that Macbeth, though esteemed for his military bravery, is wholly reviled. This opinion recurs in critical literature, and, according to Caroline Spurgeon, is supported by Shakespeare himself, who apparently intended to degrade his hero by vesting him with clothes unsuited to him and to make Macbeth look ridiculous by several nimism
Nimism
In aesthetics, nimism is a particular kind of trope or symbol characterized by exaggeration.The term is derived from Latin , "too much" and , excess. Unlike a hyperbole or paradox, it is not applied to linguistic or rhetorical phenomena only, but usually refers to other forms of disparity, e.g...

s he applies: His garments seem either too big or too small for him – as his ambition is too big and his character too small for his new and unrightful role as king. When he feels as if "dressed in borrowed clothes", after his new title as Thane of Cawdor, prophesied by the witches, has been confirmed by Rosse (I, 3, ll. 108–109), Banquo comments: "New honours come upon him, / Like our strange garments, cleave not to their mould, / But with the aid of use" (I, 3, ll. 145–146). And, at the end, when the tyrant is at bay at Dunsinane, Caithness sees him as a man trying in vain to fasten a large garment on him with too small a belt: "He cannot buckle his distemper'd cause / Within the belt of rule" (V, 2, ll. 14–15), while Angus, in a similar nimism, sums up what everybody thinks ever since Macbeth's accession to power: "now does he feel his title / Hang loose about him, like a giant's robe / upon a dwarfish thief" (V, 2, ll. 18–20).

Like Richard III
Richard III of England
Richard III was King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty...

, but without that character's perversely appealing exuberance, Macbeth wades through blood until his inevitable fall. As Kenneth Muir writes, "Macbeth has not a predisposition to murder; he has merely an inordinate ambition that makes murder itself seem to be a lesser evil than failure to achieve the crown." Some critics, such as E. E. Stoll, explain this characterisation as a holdover from Senecan or medieval tradition. Shakespeare's audience, in this view, expected villains to be wholly bad, and Senecan style, far from prohibiting a villainous protagonist, all but demanded it.

Yet for other critics, it has not been so easy to resolve the question of Macbeth's motivation. Robert Bridges
Robert Bridges
Robert Seymour Bridges, OM, was a British poet, and poet laureate from 1913 to 1930.-Personal and professional life:...

, for instance, perceived a paradox: a character able to express such convincing horror before Duncan's murder would likely be incapable of committing the crime. For many critics, Macbeth's motivations in the first act appear vague and insufficient. John Dover Wilson hypothesised that Shakespeare's original text had an extra scene or scenes where husband and wife discussed their plans. This interpretation is not fully provable; however, the motivating role of ambition for Macbeth is universally recognised. The evil actions motivated by his ambition seem to trap him in a cycle of increasing evil, as Macbeth himself recognises: "I am in blood/Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more,/Returning were as tedious as go o'er."

As a tragedy of moral order


The disastrous consequences of Macbeth's ambition are not limited to him. Almost from the moment of the murder, the play depicts Scotland as a land shaken by inversions of the natural order. Shakespeare may have intended a reference to the great chain of being
Great chain of being
The great chain of being , is a Christian concept detailing a strict, religious hierarchical structure of all matter and life, believed to have been decreed by the Christian God.-Divisions:...

, although the play's images of disorder are mostly not specific enough to support detailed intellectual readings. He may also have intended an elaborate compliment to James's belief in the divine right of kings
Divine Right of Kings
The divine right of kings or divine-right theory of kingship is a political and religious doctrine of royal and political legitimacy. It asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving his right to rule directly from the will of God...

, although this hypothesis, outlined at greatest length by Henry N. Paul, is not universally accepted. As in Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar (play)
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, also known simply as Julius Caesar, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1599. It portrays the 44 BC conspiracy against...

, though, perturbations in the political sphere are echoed and even amplified by events in the material world. Among the most often depicted of the inversions of the natural order is sleep. Macbeth's announcement that he has "murdered sleep" is figuratively mirrored in Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking.

Macbeth's generally accepted indebtedness to medieval tragedy is often seen as significant in the play's treatment of moral order. Glynne Wickham connects the play, through the Porter, to a mystery play
Mystery play
Mystery plays and miracle plays are among the earliest formally developed plays in medieval Europe. Medieval mystery plays focused on the representation of Bible stories in churches as tableaux with accompanying antiphonal song...

 on the harrowing of hell
Harrowing of Hell
The Harrowing of Hell is a doctrine in Christian theology referenced in the Apostles' Creed and the Athanasian Creed that states that Jesus Christ "descended into Hell"...

. Howard Felperin argues that the play has a more complex attitude toward "orthodox Christian tragedy" than is often admitted; he sees a kinship between the play and the tyrant plays
Herod the Great
Herod , also known as Herod the Great , was a Roman client king of Judea. His epithet of "the Great" is widely disputed as he is described as "a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis." He is also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including his...

 within the medieval liturgical drama.

The theme of androgyny is often seen as a special aspect of the theme of disorder. Inversion of normative gender roles is most famously associated with the witches and with Lady Macbeth as she appears in the first act. Whatever Shakespeare's degree of sympathy with such inversions, the play ends with a thorough return to normative gender values. Some feminist
Feminist literary criticism
Feminist literary criticism is literary criticism informed by feminist theory, or by the politics of feminism more broadly. Its history has been broad and varied, from classic works of nineteenth-century women authors such as George Eliot and Margaret Fuller to cutting-edge theoretical work in...

 psychoanalytic
Psychoanalytic literary criticism
Psychoanalytic literary criticism refers to literary criticism or literary theory which, in method, concept, or form, is influenced by the tradition of psychoanalysis begun by Sigmund Freud....

 critics, such as Janet Adelman, have connected the play's treatment of gender roles to its larger theme of inverted natural order. In this light, Macbeth is punished for his violation of the moral order by being removed from the cycles of nature (which are figured as female); nature itself (as embodied in the movement of Birnam Wood) is part of the restoration of moral order.

As a poetic tragedy


Critics in the early twentieth century reacted against what they saw as an excessive dependence on the study of character in criticism of the play. This dependence, though most closely associated with Andrew Cecil Bradley
Andrew Cecil Bradley
Andrew Cecil Bradley was an English literary scholar, best remembered for his work on Shakespeare.-Life:...

, is clear as early as the time of Mary Cowden Clarke
Mary Cowden Clarke
Mary Cowden Clarke was an English author.She was the eldest daughter of Vincent Novello...

, who offered precise, if fanciful, accounts of the predramatic lives of Shakespeare's female leads. She suggested, for instance, that the child Lady Macbeth refers to in the first act died during a foolish military action.

Witchcraft and evil


In the play, the Three Witches represent darkness, chaos, and conflict, while their role is as agents and witnesses. Their presence communicates treason and impending doom. During Shakespeare's day, witches were seen as worse than rebels, "the most notorious traytor and rebell that can be." They were not only political traitors, but spiritual traitors as well. Much of the confusion that springs from them comes from their ability to straddle the play's borders between reality and the supernatural. They are so deeply entrenched in both worlds that it is unclear whether they control fate, or whether they are merely its agents. They defy logic, not being subject to the rules of the real world.
The witches' lines in the first act: "Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air" are often said to set the tone for the rest of the play by establishing a sense of confusion. Indeed, the play is filled with situations where evil is depicted as good, while good is rendered evil. The line "Double, double toil and trouble," (often sensationalised to a point that it loses meaning), communicates the witches' intent clearly: they seek only trouble for the mortals around them.

While the witches do not tell Macbeth directly to kill King Duncan, they use a subtle form of temptation when they tell Macbeth that he is destined to be king. By placing this thought in his mind, they effectively guide him on the path to his own destruction. This follows the pattern of temptation many believed the Devil
Devil
The Devil is believed in many religions and cultures to be a powerful, supernatural entity that is the personification of evil and the enemy of God and humankind. The nature of the role varies greatly...

 used at the time of Shakespeare. First, they argued, a thought is put in a man's mind, then the person may either indulge in the thought or reject it. Macbeth indulges in it, while Banquo rejects.

According to J. A. Bryant Jr., Macbeth also makes use of Biblical parallels, notably between King Duncan's murder and the murder of Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

:

Superstition and "the Scottish play"


While many today would say that any misfortune surrounding a production is mere coincidence, actors and other theatre people often consider it bad luck to mention Macbeth by name while inside a theatre, and sometimes refer to it indirectly, for example as "the Scottish play
The Scottish play
The Scottish Play and the Bard's play are euphemisms for William Shakespeare's Macbeth. The first is a reference to the play's Scottish setting, the second a reference to Shakespeare's popular nickname. According to a theatrical superstition, called the Scottish curse, speaking the name Macbeth...

", or "MacBee", or when referring to the character and not the play, "Mr. and Mrs. M", or "The Scottish King".

This is because Shakespeare is said to have used the spells of real witches in his text, purportedly angering the witches and causing them to curse the play. Thus, to say the name of the play inside a theatre is believed to doom the production to failure, and perhaps cause physical injury or death to cast members. There are stories of accidents, misfortunes and even deaths taking place during runs of Macbeth (or by actors who had uttered the name).

One particular incident that lent itself to the superstition was the Astor Place Riot
Astor Place Riot
The Astor Place Riot occurred on May 10, 1849 at the now-demolished Astor Opera House  in Manhattan, New York City and left at least 25 dead and more than 120 injured...

. Because the cause of these riots was based on a conflict over two performances of Macbeth, this is often thought of as having been caused by the curse.

Several methods exist to dispel the curse, depending on the actor. One, attributed to Michael York
Michael York (actor)
Michael York, OBE is an English actor.-Early life:York was born in Fulmer, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, the son of Florence Edith May , a musician; and Joseph Gwynne Johnson, a Llandovery born Welsh ex-Royal Artillery British Army officer and executive with Marks and Spencer department stores...

, is to immediately leave the building the stage is in with the person who uttered the name, walk around it three times, spit over their left shoulders, say an obscenity then wait to be invited back into the building. A related practice is to spin around three times as fast as possible on the spot, sometimes accompanied by spitting over their shoulder, and uttering an obscenity. Another popular "ritual" is to leave the room, knock three times, be invited in, and then quote a line from Hamlet
Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

. Yet another is to recite lines from The Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice is a tragic comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. Though classified as a comedy in the First Folio and sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps most remembered for its dramatic...

, thought to be a lucky play.

Shakespeare's day


Apart from the one mentioned in the Forman document, there are no performances known with certainty in Shakespeare's era. Because of its Scottish theme, the play is sometimes said to have been written for, and perhaps debuted for, King James; however, no external evidence supports this hypothesis. The play's brevity and certain aspects of its staging (for instance, the large proportion of night-time scenes and the unusually large number of off-stage sounds) have been taken as suggesting that the text now extant was revised for production indoors, perhaps at the Blackfriars Theatre
Blackfriars Theatre
Blackfriars Theatre was the name of a theatre in the Blackfriars district of the City of London during the Renaissance. The theatre began as a venue for child actors associated with the Queen's chapel choirs; in this function, the theatre hosted some of the most innovative drama of Elizabeth and...

, which the King's Men acquired in 1608.

Restoration and 18th century


In the Restoration
English Restoration
The Restoration of the English monarchy began in 1660 when the English, Scottish and Irish monarchies were all restored under Charles II after the Interregnum that followed the Wars of the Three Kingdoms...

, Sir William Davenant
William Davenant
Sir William Davenant , also spelled D'Avenant, was an English poet and playwright. Along with Thomas Killigrew, Davenant was one of the rare figures in English Renaissance theatre whose career spanned both the Caroline and Restoration eras and who was active both before and after the English Civil...

 produced a spectacular "operatic" adaptation of Macbeth, "with all the singing and dancing in it" and special effects like "flyings for the witches" (John Downes
John Downes (17th-century prompter)
John Downes worked as a prompter at the Duke's Company, and later the United Company, for most of the Restoration period 1660—1700...

, Roscius Anglicanus, 1708). Davenant's revision also enhanced the role of Lady Macduff, making her a thematic foil to Lady Macbeth. In an 19 April 1667, entry in his Diary, Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys FRS, MP, JP, was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament who is now most famous for the diary he kept for a decade while still a relatively young man...

 called Davenant's MacBeth "one of the best plays for a stage, and variety of dancing and music, that ever I saw." The Davenant version held the stage until the middle of the next century. The famous Macbeths of the early 18th century, such as James Quin
James Quin
James Quin was an English actor of Irish descent.Quin was born in London. He was educated at Dublin, and probably spent a short time at Trinity College....

, employed this version.

Charles Macklin
Charles Macklin
Charles Macklin , originally Cathal MacLochlainn , was an actor and dramatist born in Culdaff, a village on the scenic Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal, part of the Province of Ulster in the north of Ireland. He was one of the most distinguished actors of his day, equally in tragedy and comedy...

, not otherwise recalled as a great Macbeth, is remembered for performances at Covent Garden
Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London. The large building is often referred to as simply "Covent Garden", after a previous use of the site of the opera house's original construction in 1732. It is the home of The Royal Opera, The...

 in 1773 at which riots broke out, related to Macklin's rivalries with Garrick and William Smith
William 'Gentleman' Smith
William Smith , known as "Gentleman Smith", was a celebrated English actor of the 18th century who worked with David Garrick, and was the original creator of the role of Charles Surface in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The School for Scandal....

. Macklin performed in Scottish dress, reversing an earlier tendency to dress Macbeth as an English brigadier; he also removed Garrick's death speech and further trimmed Lady Macduff's role. The performance received generally respectful reviews, although George Steevens
George Steevens
George Steevens was an English Shakespearean commentator.He was born at Poplar, the son of a captain and later director of the East India Company. He was educated at Eton College and at King's College, Cambridge, where he remained from 1753 to 1756...

 remarked on the inappropriateness of Macklin (then in his eighties) for the role.

After Garrick, the most celebrated Macbeth of the 18th century was John Philip Kemble
John Philip Kemble
John Philip Kemble was an English actor. He was born into a theatrical family as the eldest son of Roger Kemble, actor-manager of a touring troupe. His elder sister Sarah Siddons achieved fame with him on the stage of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane...

; he performed the role most famously with his sister, Sarah Siddons
Sarah Siddons
Sarah Siddons was a Welsh actress, the best-known tragedienne of the 18th century. She was the elder sister of John Philip Kemble, Charles Kemble, Stephen Kemble, Ann Hatton and Elizabeth Whitlock, and the aunt of Fanny Kemble. She was most famous for her portrayal of the Shakespearean character,...

, whose Lady Macbeth was widely regarded as unsurpassable. Kemble continued the trends toward realistic costume and to Shakespeare's language that had marked Macklin's production; Walter Scott
Walter Scott
Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet was a Scottish historical novelist, playwright, and poet, popular throughout much of the world during his time....

 reports that he experimented continually with the Scottish dress of the play. Response to Kemble's interpretation was divided; however, Siddons was unanimously praised. Her performance of the "sleepwalking" scene in the fifth act was especially noted; Leigh Hunt called it "sublime." The Kemble-Siddons performances were the first widely influential productions in which Lady Macbeth's villainy was presented as deeper and more powerful than Macbeth's. It was also the first in which Banquo's ghost did not appear on stage.

Kemble's Macbeth struck some critics as too mannered and polite for Shakespeare's text. His successor as the leading actor of London, Edmund Kean
Edmund Kean
Edmund Kean was an English actor, regarded in his time as the greatest ever.-Early life:Kean was born in London. His father was probably Edmund Kean, an architect’s clerk, and his mother was an actress, Anne Carey, daughter of the 18th century composer and playwright Henry Carey...

, was more often criticised for emotional excess, particularly in the fifth act. Kean's Macbeth was not universally admired; William Hazlitt
William Hazlitt
William Hazlitt was an English writer, remembered for his humanistic essays and literary criticism, and as a grammarian and philosopher. He is now considered one of the great critics and essayists of the English language, placed in the company of Samuel Johnson and George Orwell. Yet his work is...

, for instance, complained that Kean's Macbeth was too like his Richard III
Richard III (play)
Richard III is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1591. It depicts the Machiavellian rise to power and subsequent short reign of Richard III of England. The play is grouped among the histories in the First Folio and is most often classified...

. As he did in other roles, Kean exploited his athleticism as a key component of Macbeth's mental collapse. He reversed Kemble's emphasis on Macbeth as noble, instead presenting him as a ruthless politician who collapses under the weight of guilt and fear. Kean, however, did nothing to halt the trend toward extravagance in scene and costume.

Nineteenth century


The Macbeth of the next predominant London actor, William Charles Macready
William Charles Macready
-Life:He was born in London, and educated at Rugby.It was his intention to go up to Oxford, but in 1809 the embarrassed affairs of his father, the lessee of several provincial theatres, called him to share the responsibilities of theatrical management. On 7 June 1810 he made a successful first...

, provoked responses at least as mixed as those given Kean. Macready debuted in the role in 1820 at Covent Garden
Covent Garden
Covent Garden is a district in London on the eastern fringes of the West End, between St. Martin's Lane and Drury Lane. It is associated with the former fruit and vegetable market in the central square, now a popular shopping and tourist site, and the Royal Opera House, which is also known as...

. As Hazlitt noted, Macready's reading of the character was purely psychological; the witches lost all supernatural power, and Macbeth's downfall arose purely from the conflicts in Macbeth's character. Macready's most famous Lady Macbeth was Helena Faucit
Helena Faucit
Helena Saville Faucit, Lady Martin was an English actress.-Early life:Born in London, she was the daughter of actors John Saville Faucit and Harriet Elizabeth Savill. Her parents divorced when she was a girl, and her mother married William Farren in 1825...

, who debuted dismally in the role while still in her mid-20s, but who later achieved acclaim in the role for an interpretation that, unlike Siddons', accorded with contemporary notions of female decorum. After Macready "retired" to America, he continued to perform in the role; in 1849, he was involved in a rivalry with American actor Edwin Forrest
Edwin Forrest
Edwin Forrest was an American actor.-Early life:Forrest was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, of Scottish and German descent. His father died and he was brought up by his mother, a German woman of humble origins. He was educated at the common schools in Philadelphia, and early evinced a taste...

, whose partisans hissed Macready at Astor Place
Astor Place (Manhattan)
__notoc__Astor Place is a short two-block street in lower Manhattan, New York City, which runs from Broadway just below East 8th Street, through Lafayette Street, past Cooper Square and Fourth Avenue, and ends at Third Avenue and St. Marks Place. The name is also used for the neighborhood around...

, leading to what is commonly called the Astor Place Riot
Astor Place Riot
The Astor Place Riot occurred on May 10, 1849 at the now-demolished Astor Opera House  in Manhattan, New York City and left at least 25 dead and more than 120 injured...

.

The two most prominent Macbeths of mid-century, Samuel Phelps
Samuel Phelps
Samuel Phelps was an English actor and theatre manager...

 and Charles Kean
Charles Kean
Charles John Kean , was born at Waterford, Ireland, the son of the actor Edmund Kean.After preparatory education at Worplesdon and at Greenford, near Harrow, he was sent to Eton College, where he remained three years...

, were both received with critical ambivalence and popular success. Both are famous less for their interpretation of character than for certain aspects of staging. At Sadler's Wells Theatre
Sadler's Wells Theatre
Sadler's Wells Theatre is a performing arts venue located in Rosebery Avenue, Clerkenwell in the London Borough of Islington. The present day theatre is the sixth on the site since 1683. It consists of two performance spaces: a 1,500 seat main auditorium and the Lilian Baylis Studio, with extensive...

, Phelps brought back nearly all of Shakespeare's original text. He brought back the first half of the Porter scene, which had been ignored by directors since Davenant; the second remained cut because of its ribaldry. He abandoned the added music, and reduced the witches to their role in the folio. Just as significantly, he returned to the folio treatment of Macbeth's death. Not all of these decisions succeeded in the Victorian context, and Phelps experimented with various combinations of Shakespeare and Davenant in his more than a dozen productions between 1844 and 1861. His most successful Lady Macbeth was Isabella Glyn
Isabella Glyn
Isabella Glyn Dallas was a well-known Victorian-era Shakespearean actress.-Life:Isabella Glyn Dallas was born in Edinburgh on 22 May 1823. She made her first stage appearance in Manchester under her mother's maiden name of Glyn on 8 November 1847, where she appeared as Constance in Shakespeare's...

, whose commanding presence reminded some critics of Siddons.

The outstanding feature of Kean's productions at the Princess's Theatre
Princess's Theatre, London
The Princess's Theatre or Princess Theatre was a theatre in Oxford Street, London. The building opened in 1828 as the "Queen's Bazaar" and housed a diorama by Clarkson Stanfield and David Roberts. It was converted into a theatre and opened in 1836 as the Princess's Theatre, named for then Princess...

 after 1850 was their accuracy of costume. Kean achieved his greatest success in modern melodrama
Melodrama
The term melodrama refers to a dramatic work that exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions. It may also refer to the genre which includes such works, or to language, behavior, or events which resemble them...

, and he was widely viewed as not prepossessing enough for the greatest Elizabethan roles. Audiences did not mind, however; one 1853 production ran for twenty weeks. Presumably part of the draw was Kean's famous attention to historical accuracy; in his productions, as Allardyce Nicoll
Allardyce Nicoll
John Ramsay Allardyce Nicoll was an English literary scholar and teacher.Allardyce Nicoll was born and educated in Glasgow. He became a lecturer at King's College London in 1920 and took the chair of English at East London College John Ramsay Allardyce Nicoll (28 June 1894 – 17 April 1976) was an...

 notes, "even the botany was historically correct."

Henry Irving
Henry Irving
Sir Henry Irving , born John Henry Brodribb, was an English stage actor in the Victorian era, known as an actor-manager because he took complete responsibility for season after season at the Lyceum Theatre, establishing himself and his company as...

's first attempt at the role, at the Lyceum Theatre, London in 1875, was a failure. Under the production of Sidney Frances Bateman
Sidney Frances Bateman
Sidney Frances Bateman , daughter of Joseph Cowell, an English actor who had settled in America, was married to Hezekiah Linthicum Bateman and also an actor....

, and starring alongside Kate Josephine Bateman
Kate Josephine Bateman
Kate Josephine Bateman was an American actress. She was born at Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of Hezekiah Linthicum Bateman, an actor and theatrical manager. Her mother, Sidney Frances Bateman, was also an actress. With her sister, Ellen , she appeared on stage almost in infancy and exhibited...

, Irving may have been affected by the recent death of his manager Hezekiah Linthicum Bateman
Hezekiah Linthicum Bateman
Hezekiah Linthicum Bateman , known as H. L. Bateman, was an American actor and manager.Born in Baltimore, Maryland, his original goal was to be an engineer, but in 1832 became an actor, playing with Ellen Tree in juvenile leads...

. Although the production lasted eighty performances, his Macbeth was judged inferior to his Hamlet. His next essay, opposite Ellen Terry
Ellen Terry
Dame Ellen Terry, GBE was an English stage actress who became the leading Shakespearean actress in Britain. Among the members of her famous family is her great nephew, John Gielgud....

 at the Lyceum in 1888, fared better, playing for 150 performances. At the urging of Herman Klein
Herman Klein
Herman Klein was an English music critic, author and teacher of singing. Klein's famous brothers included Charles and Manuel Klein...

, Irving engaged Arthur Sullivan
Arthur Sullivan
Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan MVO was an English composer of Irish and Italian ancestry. He is best known for his series of 14 operatic collaborations with the dramatist W. S. Gilbert, including such enduring works as H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado...

 to write a suite of incidental music
Incidental music
Incidental music is music in a play, television program, radio program, video game, film or some other form not primarily musical. The term is less frequently applied to film music, with such music being referred to instead as the "film score" or "soundtrack"....

 for the piece. Friends such as Bram Stoker
Bram Stoker
Abraham "Bram" Stoker was an Irish novelist and short story writer, best known today for his 1897 Gothic novel Dracula...

 defended his "psychological" reading, based on the supposition that Macbeth had dreamed of killing Duncan before the start of the play. His detractors, among them Henry James
Henry James
Henry James, OM was an American-born writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sr., a clergyman, and the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James....

, deplored his arbitrary word changes ("would have" for "should have" in the speech at Lady Macbeth's death) and his "neurasthenic" and "finicky" approach to the character.

Twentieth century to present


Barry Vincent Jackson
Barry Vincent Jackson
Sir Barry Vincent Jackson, , was a distinguished theatre director and the founder of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.-Life and career:He was the son of George Jackson of Birmingham and was educated privately....

 staged an influential modern-dress production with the Birmingham Repertory
Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Birmingham Repertory Theatre is a theatre and theatre company based on Centenary Square in Birmingham, England...

 in 1928; the production reached London, playing at the Royal Court Theatre
Royal Court Theatre
The Royal Court Theatre is a non-commercial theatre on Sloane Square, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It is noted for its contributions to modern theatre...

. It received mixed reviews; Eric Maturin was judged an inadequate Macbeth, though Mary Merrall
Mary Merrall
Mary Merrall , born Elsie Lloyd, was an English actress whose career of over 60 years encompassed stage, film and television work.-Stage career:...

's vampish Lady was reviewed favourably. Though The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

 judged it a "miserable failure," the production did much to overturn the tendency to scenic and antiquarian excess that had peaked with Charles Kean.

Among the most publicised productions of the 20th century was mounted by the Federal Theater Project at the Lafayette Theatre
Lafayette Theatre (Harlem)
The Lafayette Theatre, also known as "the House Beautiful," was an entertainment venue located at 132nd Street and 7th Avenue in Harlem, New York. It was the first New York theater to desegregate, as early as 1912. Here, African-American theatergoers were allowed to sit in orchestra seats instead...

 in Harlem from 14 April to 20 June 1936. Orson Welles
Orson Welles
George Orson Welles , best known as Orson Welles, was an American film director, actor, theatre director, screenwriter, and producer, who worked extensively in film, theatre, television and radio...

, in his first stage production, directed Jack Carter and Edna Thomas, with Canada Lee
Canada Lee
Canada Lee was an American actor who pioneered roles for African Americans. A champion of civil rights in the 1930s and 1940s, he died shortly before he was scheduled to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He became an actor after careers as a jockey, boxer, and musician...

 playing Banquo, in an all African American production. It became known as the Voodoo Macbeth
Voodoo Macbeth
The Voodoo Macbeth is a common nickname for the Federal Theatre Project's 1936 New York production of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, featuring an all-African American cast directed by Orson Welles...

, because Welles set the play in post-colonial Haiti
Haiti
Haiti , officially the Republic of Haiti , is a Caribbean country. It occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Ayiti was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the island...

. His direction emphasised spectacle and suspense: his dozens of "African" drums recalled Davenant's chorus of witches. Welles later directed and played the starring role in a 1948 film adaptation of the play
Macbeth (1948 film)
Macbeth is a 1948 American film adaptation by Orson Welles of William Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth.-Pre-production:In 1947, Orson Welles began promoting the notion of bringing a Shakespeare drama to the motion picture screen. He initially attempted to pique investors’ interest in an adaptation of...

.

Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier
Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, OM was an English actor, director, and producer. He was one of the most famous and revered actors of the 20th century. He married three times, to fellow actors Jill Esmond, Vivien Leigh, and Joan Plowright...

 played Malcolm in the 1929 production and Macbeth in 1937 at the Old Vic Theatre in a production that saw the Vic's artistic director Lilian Baylis
Lilian Baylis
Lilian Mary BaylisCH was an English theatrical producer and manager. She managed the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells theatres in London, and ran an opera company, which became the English National Opera , a theatre company, which evolved into the English National Theatre, and a ballet company, which...

 pass away the night before it opened. Olivier's makeup was so thick and stylised for that production that Vivien Leigh
Vivien Leigh
Vivien Leigh, Lady Olivier was an English actress. She won the Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire , a role she also played on stage in London's West End, as well as for her portrayal of the southern belle Scarlett O'Hara, alongside Clark...

 was quoted as saying "You hear Macbeth's first line, then Larry's makeup comes on, then Banquo comes on, then Larry comes on". Olivier later starred in what is among the most famous 20th-century productions, by Glen Byam Shaw
Glen Byam Shaw
Glen Byam Shaw was an English actor and theatre director, known for his dramatic productions in the 1950s and his operatic productions in the 1960s and later....

 at Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon is a market town and civil parish in south Warwickshire, England. It lies on the River Avon, south east of Birmingham and south west of Warwick. It is the largest and most populous town of the District of Stratford-on-Avon, which uses the term "on" to indicate that it covers...

 in 1955. Vivien Leigh
Vivien Leigh
Vivien Leigh, Lady Olivier was an English actress. She won the Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire , a role she also played on stage in London's West End, as well as for her portrayal of the southern belle Scarlett O'Hara, alongside Clark...

 played Lady Macbeth. The supporting cast, which Harold Hobson
Harold Hobson
Sir Harold Hobson was an influential English drama critic and author.He was born in Thorpe Hesley near Rotherham in South Yorkshire, England and read History at Oxford University. He was an assistant literary editor for the Sunday Times from 1944 and later became its drama critic...

 denigrated, included many actors who went on to successful Shakespearean careers: Ian Holm
Ian Holm
Sir Ian Holm, CBE is an English actor known for his stage work and for many film roles. He received the 1967 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor for his performance as Lenny in The Homecoming and the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor for his performance in the title role of King Lear...

 played Donalbain, Keith Michell
Keith Michell
Keith Michell is an Australian actor, particularly noted for his television and film performances as King Henry VIII of England.- Early life :He was born in Adelaide and brought up in Warnertown, near Port Pirie...

 was Macduff, and Patrick Wymark
Patrick Wymark
Patrick Wymark , was a British, stage, film and television actor.-Early life:Born Patrick Carl Cheeseman in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, England...

 the Porter. Olivier was the key to success. The intensity of his performance, particularly in the conversation with the murderers and in confronting Banquo's ghost, seemed to many reviewers to recall Edmund Kean. Plans for a film version faltered after the box-office failure of Olivier's Richard III
Richard III (1955 film)
Richard III is a 1955 British film adaptation of William Shakespeare's historical play of the same name, also incorporating elements from his Henry VI, Part 3. It was directed and produced by Sir Laurence Olivier, who also played the lead role. The cast includes many noted Shakespearean actors,...

. Kenneth Tynan
Kenneth Tynan
Kenneth Peacock Tynan was an influential and often controversial English theatre critic and writer.-Early life:...

 asserted flatly of this performance that "no one has ever succeeded as Macbeth"—until Olivier.

Olivier's
Laurence Olivier
Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, OM was an English actor, director, and producer. He was one of the most famous and revered actors of the 20th century. He married three times, to fellow actors Jill Esmond, Vivien Leigh, and Joan Plowright...

 co-star in his 1937 Old Vic Theatre production, Judith Anderson
Judith Anderson
Dame Judith Anderson, AC, DBE was an Australian-born American-based actress of stage, film and television. She won two Emmy Awards and a Tony Award and was also nominated for a Grammy Award and an Academy Award.-Early life:...

, had an equally triumphant association with the play. She played Lady Macbeth
Lady Macbeth
Lady Macbeth may refer to:*Lady Macbeth, from William Shakespeare's play Macbeth**Queen Gruoch of Scotland, the real-life Queen on whom Shakespeare based the character...

 on Broadway opposite Maurice Evans
Maurice Evans (actor)
Maurice Herbert Evans was an English actor noted for his interpretations of Shakespearean characters. In terms of his screen roles, he is probably best known as Dr...

 in a production directed by Margaret Webster
Margaret Webster
Margaret Webster was an American-born theater actress, producer and director. Through her parents, she held dual US/UK citizenship.-Career:...

 that ran for 131 performances in 1941, the longest run of the play in Broadway history. Anderson and Evans performed the play on television twice, in 1954 and 1962, with Maurice Evans winning an Emmy Award
Emmy Award
An Emmy Award, often referred to simply as the Emmy, is a television production award, similar in nature to the Peabody Awards but more focused on entertainment, and is considered the television equivalent to the Academy Awards and the Grammy Awards .A majority of Emmys are presented in various...

 the 1962 production and Anderson winning the award for both presentations. A film adaptation in 1971 titled The Tragedy of Macbeth
Macbeth (1971 film)
Macbeth is a 1971 British-American drama film directed by Roman Polanski, based on William Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Macbeth, about the Highland lord who becomes King of Scotland through treachery and murder. It features Jon Finch as Macbeth and Francesca Annis as Lady Macbeth...

was directed by Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski is a French-Polish film director, producer, writer and actor. Having made films in Poland, Britain, France and the USA, he is considered one of the few "truly international filmmakers."...

 and executive-produced by Hugh Hefner
Hugh Hefner
Hugh Marston "Hef" Hefner is an American magazine publisher, founder and Chief Creative Officer of Playboy Enterprises.-Early life:...

.

A Japanese film adaptation, Throne of Blood
Throne of Blood
Throne of Blood is a 1957 Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa. Its original Japanese title is Kumonosu-jō , which means "Spider Web Castle". The film transposes the plot of William Shakespeare's play Macbeth to feudal Japan.-Plot:...

(Kumonosu jô, 1957), features Toshirô Mifune
Toshiro Mifune
Toshirō Mifune was a Japanese actor who appeared in almost 170 feature films. He is best known for his 16-film collaboration with filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, from 1948 to 1965, in works such as Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, and Yojimbo...

 in the lead role and is set in feudal Japan. It was well-received and, despite having almost none of the play's script, critic Harold Bloom called it "the most successful film version of Macbeth."

One of the most notable 20th-century productions is that of Trevor Nunn
Trevor Nunn
Sir Trevor Robert Nunn, CBE is an English theatre, film and television director. Nunn has been the Artistic Director for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theatre, and, currently, the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. He has directed musicals and dramas for the stage, as well as opera...

 for the Royal Shakespeare Company
Royal Shakespeare Company
The Royal Shakespeare Company is a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. The company employs 700 staff and produces around 20 productions a year from its home in Stratford-upon-Avon and plays regularly in London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and on tour across...

 in 1976. Nunn had directed Nicol Williamson
Nicol Williamson
Nicol Williamson is a Scottish-born English actor who was described by English playwright John Osborne as "the greatest actor since Marlon Brando".-Early life:...

 and Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren
Dame Helen Mirren, DBE is an English actor. She has won an Academy Award for Best Actress, four SAG Awards, four BAFTAs, three Golden Globes, four Emmy Awards, and two Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Awards.-Early life and family:...

 in the play two years earlier, but that production had largely failed to impress. In 1976, Nunn produced the play with a minimalist set at The Other Place
The Other Place (theatre)
The Other Place was a black box theatre on Southern Lane, near to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. It was owned and operated by the Royal Shakespeare Company....

; this small, nearly round stage focused attention on the psychological dynamics of the characters. Both Ian McKellen
Ian McKellen
Sir Ian Murray McKellen, CH, CBE is an English actor. He has received a Tony Award, two Academy Award nominations, and five Emmy Award nominations. His work has spanned genres from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction...

 in the title role and Judi Dench
Judi Dench
Dame Judith Olivia "Judi" Dench, CH, DBE, FRSA is an English film, stage and television actress.Dench made her professional debut in 1957 with the Old Vic Company. Over the following few years she played in several of William Shakespeare's plays in such roles as Ophelia in Hamlet, Juliet in Romeo...

 as Lady Macbeth received exceptionally favourable reviews. Dench won the 1977 SWET
The Society of London Theatre
The Society of London Theatre is an umbrella organization for West End theatre in London.- TKTS, Half-Price Theatre Ticket Booth:...

 Best Actress award for her performance and in 2004, members of the RSC voted her performance the greatest by an actress in the history of the company.

Nunn's production transferred to London in 1977 and was later filmed for television. It was to overshadow Peter Hall's 1978 production with Albert Finney
Albert Finney
Albert Finney is an English actor. He achieved prominence in films in the early 1960s, and has maintained a successful career in theatre, film and television....

 as Macbeth and Dorothy Tutin
Dorothy Tutin
Dame Dorothy Tutin DBE was an English actor of stage, film, and television.An obituary in The Daily Telegraph described her as "one of the most enchanting, accomplished and intelligent leading ladies on the post-war British stage...

 as Lady Macbeth. But the most infamous recent Macbeth was staged at the Old Vic in 1980. Peter O'Toole
Peter O'Toole
Peter Seamus Lorcan O'Toole is an Irish actor of stage and screen. O'Toole achieved stardom in 1962 playing T. E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia, and then went on to become a highly-honoured film and stage actor. He has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, and holds the record for most...

 and Frances Tomelty
Frances Tomelty
Frances Tomelty is a Northern Irish actress and the first wife of Sting. She is the daughter of Belfast actor Joseph Tomelty ....

 took the leads in a production (by Bryan Forbes) that was publicly disowned by Timothy West
Timothy West
Timothy Lancaster West, CBE is an English film, stage and television actor.-Career:West's craggy looks ensured a career as a character actor rather than a leading man. He began his career as an Assistant Stage Manager at the Wimbledon Theatre in 1956, and followed this with several seasons of...

, artistic director of the theatre, before opening night, despite being a sellout because of its notoriety." As critic Jack Tinker noted in the Daily Mail
Daily Mail
The Daily Mail is a British daily middle-market tabloid newspaper owned by the Daily Mail and General Trust. First published in 1896 by Lord Northcliffe, it is the United Kingdom's second biggest-selling daily newspaper after The Sun. Its sister paper The Mail on Sunday was launched in 1982...

: "The performance is not so much downright bad as heroically ludicrous."

On the stage, Lady Macbeth
Lady Macbeth (Shakespeare)
Lady Macbeth is a fictional character in Shakespeare's Macbeth . She is the wife to the play's protagonist, Macbeth, a Scottish nobleman. After goading him into committing regicide, she becomes Queen of Scotland, but later suffers pangs of guilt for her part in the crime...

 is considered one of the more "commanding and challenging" roles in Shakespeare's work. Other actresses who have played the role include Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies
Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies
Dame Gwen Lucy Ffrangcon-Davies, DBE was a British actress and centenarian. She was born in London of a Welsh family; the name "Ffrangcon" originates from a valley in Snowdonia...

, Janet Suzman
Janet Suzman
Dame Janet Suzman, DBE is a South African-born-British actress and director.-Early life:Janet Suzman was born in Johannesburg to a Jewish family, the daughter of Betty and Saul Suzman, a wealthy importer of tobacco....

, Glenda Jackson
Glenda Jackson
Glenda May Jackson, CBE is a British Labour Party politician and former actress. She has been a Member of Parliament since 1992, and currently represents Hampstead and Kilburn. She previously served as MP for Hampstead and Highgate...

, and Jane Lapotaire
Jane Lapotaire
Jane Lapotaire is a British actress.She studied at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in the 1960s. Her role in the title role of Marie Curie first brought her to wide attention...

.

In 2001 the film Scotland, PA was released. The action is moved to 1970s Pennsylvania and revolves around Joe Macbeth and his wife Pat taking control of a hamburger cafe from Norm Duncan. The film was directed by Billy Morrissette and stars James LeGros
James LeGros
James LeGros is an American film and television actor. He is known as a star of independent films with a diversified body of work in the early to mid 1990s.-Personal life:...

, Maura Tierney
Maura Tierney
Maura Therese Tierney is an American film and television actress, who is best known for her roles as Lisa Miller on NewsRadio and Abby Lockhart on the television medical drama ER.-Early life:...

 and Christopher Walken
Christopher Walken
Christopher Walken is an American stage and screen actor. He has appeared in more than 100 movies and television shows, including Joe Dirt, Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter, The Prophecy trilogy, The Dogs of War, Sleepy Hollow, Brainstorm, The Dead Zone, A View to a Kill, At Close Range, King of New...

.

A performance was staged in the real Macbeth's home of Moray
Moray
Moray is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland. It lies in the north-east of the country, with coastline on the Moray Firth, and borders the council areas of Aberdeenshire and Highland.- History :...

, produced by the National Theatre of Scotland
National Theatre of Scotland
The National Theatre of Scotland is a theatre company established in February 2006. The company performs in a wide range of venues including theatres, halls and found spaces across Scotland....

, to take place at Elgin Cathedral
Elgin Cathedral
Elgin Cathedral, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, sometimes referred to as The Lantern of the North is a historic ruin in Elgin, Moray, north-east Scotland. It was established in 1224 on an area of ground granted by Alexander II that was close to the River Lossie and outside of the burgh of...

. Professional actors, dancers, musicians, school children, and a community cast from the Moray area all took part in what was an important event in the Highland Year of Culture (2007).

In the same year there was general consent among critics that Rupert Goold
Rupert Goold
Rupert Goold is an English theatre director. He is the artistic director of Headlong Theatre and from 2010 he will be an associate director at the Royal Shakespeare Company.- Early years :...

's production for the Chichester Festival 2007, starring Patrick Stewart
Patrick Stewart
Sir Patrick Hewes Stewart, OBE is an English film, television and stage actor, who has had a distinguished career in theatre and television for around half a century...

 and Kate Fleetwood
Kate Fleetwood
Kate Fleetwood is an English actress. She was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in Chichester Festival Theatre's Macbeth which transferred to the West End and Broadway....

, rivalled Trevor Nunn's acclaimed 1976 RSC production. And when it transferred to the Gielgud Theatre
Gielgud Theatre
The Gielgud Theatre is a West End theatre, located on Shaftesbury Avenue in the City of Westminster, London, at the corner of Rupert Street. The house currently has 889 seats on three levels.-History:...

 in London, Charles Spencer
Charles Spencer (journalist)
Charles Spencer is a British journalist. He has been the drama critic of The Daily Telegraph since 1991. In 2006, Compton Miller of The Independent wrote in a profile: "This convivial ex-alcoholic is best remembered for his description of Nicole Kidman's nude scene in The Blue Room as 'pure...

 reviewing for the Daily Telegraph pronounced it the best Macbeth he had ever seen. At the Evening Standard Theatre Awards
Evening Standard Awards
The Evening Standard Theatre Awards, established in 1955, are presented annually for outstanding achievements in London Theatre. Sponsored by the Evening Standard newspaper, they are announced in late November or early December...

 2007 the production won both the Best Actor award for Stewart, and the Best Director award for Goold. The same production opened in the US at the Brooklyn Academy of Music
Brooklyn Academy of Music
Brooklyn Academy of Music is a major performing arts venue in Brooklyn, a borough of New York City, United States, known as a center for progressive and avant garde performance....

 in 2008, moving to Broadway (Lyceum Theatre) after a sold-out run. In 2009 Goold again directed Stewart and Fleetwood in an acclaimed film version of their production, which aired as part of PBS' Great Performances
Great Performances
Great Performances, a television series devoted to the performing arts, has been telecast on Public Broadcasting Service public television since 1972...

 series on 6 October 2010.

In 2003, the British theatre company Punchdrunk
Punchdrunk
Punchdrunk is a British theatre company, formed in 2000, the pioneer of a form of "immersive" presentation in which the audience is free to choose what to watch and where to go. This format is related to "promenade theatre"....

 used The Beaufoy Building in London, an old Victorian school to stage "Sleep No More", the story of Macbeth in the style of a Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood...

 thriller, using reworked music
Film score
A film score is original music written specifically to accompany a film, forming part of the film's soundtrack, which also usually includes dialogue and sound effects...

 from the soundtrack of classic Hitchcock films. Punchdrunk re-mounted the production, in a newly expanded version
Sleep No More (2009 play)
Sleep No More is an immersive theatre production created by British theatre company Punchdrunk. Based on Punchdrunk's original 2003 London production, the company reinvented Sleep No More in a co-production with the American Repertory Theatre , which opened at the Old Lincoln School in Brookline,...

, at an abandoned school in Brookline, Massachusetts
Brookline, Massachusetts
Brookline is a town in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States, which borders on the cities of Boston and Newton. As of the 2010 census, the population of the town was 58,732.-Etymology:...

 in October 2009 in association with the American Repertory Theatre
American Repertory Theatre
The American Repertory Theater is a professional not-for-profit theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1980 by Robert Brustein, the A.R.T. is known for its commitment to new American plays and music–theater explorations; to neglected works of the past; and to established classical texts...

.

In 2004, Indian director Vishal Bharadwaj directed his own adaptation to Macbeth, titled Maqbool
Maqbool
Maqbool , a 2004 Indian film directed by Vishal Bhardwaj and starring Pankaj Kapoor, Irfan Khan, Tabu and Masumeh Makhija is an adaptation of the play Macbeth by Shakespeare....

. Set in the contemporary Mumbai
Mumbai
Mumbai , formerly known as Bombay in English, is the capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is the most populous city in India, and the fourth most populous city in the world, with a total metropolitan area population of approximately 20.5 million...

 underworld, the movie starred Irrfan Khan, Tabu
Tabu (actress)
Tabu is an Indian film actress. She has mainly acted in Hindi films, though she has also starred in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Bengali language films, as well as one American film...

, Pankaj Kapur, Om Puri
Om Puri
Om Puri is an Indian actor who has appeared in both mainstream Indian films and art films. His credits also include appearances in British and American films. He has received an honorary OBE.-Early life:...

, Naseeruddin Shah
Naseeruddin Shah
Naseeruddin Shah is an Indian / Bollywood film actor and director. He is considered to be one of the finest actors of Indian cinema. In 2003, the Government of India honored him with the Padma Bhushan for his contributions towards Indian cinema.-Early life:...

 and Piyush Mishra
Piyush Mishra
Piyush Mishra is an Indian film and theatre actor, music director, lyricist, singer, scriptwriter.-Early life and education:He spent his early life in Gwalior, where he received his education...

 in prominent roles. The movie was highly acclaimed and brought fame to director Bharadwaj and to Irrfan Khan.

Sequels by other authors


In 2006, Harper Collins published the book Macbeth and Son by the Australian author Jackie French
Jackie French
Jacqueline Anne "Jackie" French is an award-winning Australian author. She writes mainly children's fiction and books on gardening....

. In 2008, Pegasus Books published The Tragedy of Macbeth Part II
The Tragedy of Macbeth Part II
The Tragedy of MacBeth Part II: The Seed of Banquo is a novel-cum-play published by Pegasus Books in 2008 and written by American author Noah Lukeman...

: The Seed of Banquo
, a play by American author and playwright Noah Lukeman
Noah Lukeman
Noah Lukeman is an American literary agent, actor, script-writer and author of works about writing and literature. A number of his books are widely used in creative writing programmes. Lukeman also contributes to a number of newspapers and journals, including The Wall Street Journal and The New...

 which endeavoured to pick up where the original Macbeth left off, and to resolve its many loose ends.

David Greig
David Greig (dramatist)
David Greig is a Scottish playwright and theatre director.Greig was born in Edinburgh in 1969 and was brought up in Nigeria. He studied drama at Bristol University. He has been commissioned by the Royal Court Theatre, the Royal National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company amongst others.His...

's 2010 play Dunsinane
Dunsinane (play)
Dunsinane is a 2010 play by David Greig. It premiered in a Royal Shakespeare Company production at the Hampstead Theatre from 10 February to 6 March 2010, directed by RSC Associate Director Roxana Silbert and with leads including Siobhan Redmond and Jonny Phillips.Its narrative is formed by the...

took Macbeth's downfall at Dunsinane as its starting point, with Macbeth's just-ended reign portrayed as long and stable in contrast to Malcolm's.

External links


Performances


Audio recording


Text of play


Commentary