Macbeth – The Scottish Play

Macbeth is a legendary work of literary drama written by William Shakespeare. It possibly is the most quintessential Scottish drama. Macbeth is dubbed, as a matter of fact, “the Scottish play” as the play is set in this territory.

Macbeth is a tragedy. Its central character is the troubled king whose greed for power leads him down a rabbit hole of murder and depravity. Both he and his wife descend into madness.

met-opera-macbeth_5156018Scottish general Macbeth is traveling back from a battle when he comes across three witches whose prophecy to him is that he will be king of Scotland. This spurs him on to a dangerous quest for power with his wife who encourages him further and he ultimately usurps Duncan, King of Scotland by committing regicide. His time as King, Macbeth is filled with feelings of guilt and paranoia. Soon he commits many more murders to cover up his ill doings and soon becomes a complete tyrant until he and Lady Macbeth eventually lose their minds.

The story of Macbeth is influenced by Holinshed’s Chronicles, first published in 1587. The historical Macbeth differs significantly from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. For instance, the historical figure ruled for 17 years whereas the fictional Macbeth’s events unfold over the course of around a year. The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 also had an influence on the play.

Macbeth is a work of fiction steeped in witchery and the context it was first performed in was rife with superstitious fear and myths, in the year 1605, to the point where it was banned at certain points in history (with numerous protests springing) as it was believed that uttering the name of the main character, Macbeth, would result in catastrophe. These myths persist today.

A bit of trivia: the word ‘rhinoceros’ is used by Shakespeare only in Macbeth. It is not found in any other play work of his.

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