Macbeth: Analysis and Themes

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

Macbeth is, along with the character of Iago in Othello and his earlier portrayal of Richard III, William Shakespeare’s most powerful exploration and analysis of evil.

Although we can find precursors to Macbeth in the murderer-turned-conscience-stricken-men of Shakespeare’s earlier plays – notably the conspirator Brutus in Julius Caesar and Claudius in Hamlet Macbeth provides us with a closer and more complex examination of how a brave man with everything going for him might be corrupted by ambition and goading into committing an act of murder.

Read more

Macbeth: A Short Plot Summary of Shakespeare’s Play

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s shortest plays, so we’ll keep the ensuing plot summary fairly brief, too, summarising the main plot points and keeping an eye on how they all fit together. Some critics and editors believe that Macbeth, the play as we have it, is a drastically edited-down or cut version of a longer play which would have been performed in Shakespeare’s time.

Read more

Five Fascinating Facts about Macbeth

A short introduction to the classic play Macbeth in the form of five interesting facts

Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s very best plays. Here are some of our favourite bits of trivia about ‘the Scottish play’. (Those who wish to learn more about Shakespeare might like our list of the top ten best books about Shakespeare.)

1. Lady Macbeth’s real name was Gruoch and Macbeth’s real name was Mac Bethad mac Findlaích. Many people know the story of Macbeth: the ambitious Thane of Cawdor, egged on by his wife who taunts him with jibes about his (insufficient) manliness and encouraged by the prophecy imparted to him by three witches, kills the Scottish king, Duncan, while Duncan is asleep in Macbeth’s own castle. Macbeth takes the crown for himself, and tyrannically rules Scotland until Macduff defeats him, killing Macbeth and enabling Duncan’s son Malcolm to be crowned King. But the story as told by Shakespeare is somewhat different from the historical truth. The real Macbeth killed Duncan in battle in 1040 and Macbeth (or Mac Bethad) actually went on to rule for 17 years, until he was killed and Macbeth’s stepson, known as Lulach the Idiot, became king (though he only ruled for less than a year – then Malcolm, as Malcolm III, took the crown). Unsurprisingly, the historical record is rather lacking in witches, and the idea of killing Duncan while the king was a guest in Macbeth’s own home was Shakespeare exercising his artistic licence.

Read more