Major Works – Macbeth

Themes The Corrupting Power of Unchecked Ambition
Moifs Hallucinations, Violence, Prophecy,
Plot Shakespeare’s shortest and bloodiest tragedy, Macbeth tells the story of a brave Scottish general (Macbeth) who receives a prophecy from a trio of sinister witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed with ambitious thoughts and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan and seizes the throne for himself. He begins his reign racked with guilt and fear and soon becomes a tyrannical ruler, as he is forced to commit more and more murders to protect himself from enmity and suspicion. The bloodbath swiftly propels Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to arrogance, madness, and death.
Context Macbeth was most likely written in 1606, early in the reign of James I, who had been James VI of Scotland before he succeeded to the English throne in 1603. James was a patron of Shakespeare’s acting company, and of all the plays Shakespeare wrote under James’s reign, Macbeth most clearly reflects the playwright’s close relationship with the sovereign.n focusing on Macbeth, a figure from Scottish history, Shakespeare paid homage to his king’s Scottish lineage. Additionally, the witches’ prophecy that Banquo will found a line of kings is a clear nod to James’s family’s claim to have descended from the historical Banquo.
Macbeth thane of Glamis, becomes thane of Cawdor, kills King Duncan, becomes king of Scotland, killed by Macduff
Lady Macbeth Macbeth’s wife, aids in the planning of the murder of King Duncan, sleep walks and talks out of guilt, commits suicide.
Duncan King of Scotland, first murder of Macbeth.
Banquo Macbeth’s best friend, all his sons will be kings, suspects Macbeth, killed by hired murderers.
Macduff Another thane, suspects Macbeth, plots with Malcom to kill Macbeth, kills Macbeth.
Three Witches Predict Macbeth’s ambitions will soon come true; later predict his downfall; sometimes referred to as the Weird Sisters (“weird” means “fate” in Old English).
Malcom The son of Duncan, whose restoration to the throne signals Scotland’s return to order following Macbeth’s reign of terror. Malcolm becomes a serious challenge to Macbeth with Macduff’s aid (and the support of England). Prior to this, he appears weak and uncertain of his own power, as when he and Donalbain flee Scotland after their father’s murder.
Hecate Goddess of witchcraft
Fleance Banquo’s son, who survives Macbeth’s attempt to murder him.
Lennox A Scottish nobleman
Ross A Scottish nobleman.
Donalbain Duncan’s son and Malcolm’s younger brother, flees to Ireland after the murder of his father.
Author and date written William Shakespeare, 1606