Review: Macbeth

Macbeth Macbeth by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

This is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy. It is not the saddest of the tragedies — that one is probably King Lear — but it is bleak and disturbing. I read the Folger Library edition.

The first time I read Macbeth was in 2013. This is not my favorite Shakespeare play, but it would be a good one to start with if you haven’t read Shakespeare before. I plan to see it on stage later this year. I might want to watch a film version as well, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I did see Throne of Blood, Akira Kurosawa’s retelling of Macbeth, a few years ago, along with an adaptation of the film for the stage that was performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

The play takes place in the Scottish Highlands, beginning with the brief appearance of the three witches planning to meet with Macbeth. The scene moves to Duncan, king of Scotland, hearing an account of how his generals, Macbeth and Banquo, put down a rebellion against the king and an assault from Norway. Macbeth and Banquo enter, and meet the three witches, who predict that Macbeth will become the thane of Cawdor, and after that a king, and that Banquo’s children will be kings. Soon, it turns out that Macbeth is given the title of thane of Cawdor after the previous one rebels against the king and is sentenced to death.

Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, John Singer Sargent (1889)

When Duncan plans to visit the Macbeths, Lady Macbeth speaks with Macbeth and convinces him to kill Duncan and attempt to take his place as king. In case you did not know that already, I don’t think I am giving too much away here because it happens very early on, and the rest of the play is about the consequences of the murder.

I am fascinated with how Macbeth and Lady Macbeth switch places over the course of the play, with Lady Macbeth initially being the more determined and ruthless of the two. Ultimately, however, she is the one who falls apart, while Macbeth’s reaction to guilt is to become more ruthless over time.

I will be reading another Shakespeare play, As You Like It, later this year, and maybe I will fit in one more. I am thinking of Troilus & Cressida because I reread The Odyssey in February, so it would tie in with that.

This is the play I am reading for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2019.

Here are some of my favorite quotes, besides the one at the beginning of this review:

– Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it.

– I have done no harm. But I remember now
I am in this earthly world, where to do harm
Is often laudable, to do good sometime
Accounted dangerous folly. Why then, alas,
Do I put up that womanly defense
To say I have done no harm? (Lady Macduff)

– Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.

– Your cause of sorrow must not be measured by his worth, for then it hath no end.

Published by Beth @ Beth's Bookish Thoughts

This blog is for my thoughts on reading. A couple of my friends on GoodReads have blogs, so eventually I decided to start one myself. I hope to get involved in the book blogging community and become a better reader and writer! I am not accepting copies of new books for review, but I would be interested in new editions or new translations of classic authors. Find me on Upwork (as an editor) in the profile link. From September 2018 to October 2020 I blogged at Blogger.

2 thoughts on “Review: Macbeth

  1. This was my first Shakespeare in the original language. My kids and I read it last year. I admit, I struggled with the language. After finishing it, we watched several film and play versions. Next we read Twelfth Night, and I struggled keeping the characters straight. Now we are reading Othello, and I seriously find this one (so far) much easier to follow.


  2. Othello is really interesting! My favorite Shakespeare tragedy is probably Hamlet, or maybe King Lear. I have not read Twelfth Night yet, but from the plays I have read (Loves Labors Lost, A Midsummer Nights Dream) I have found that keeping the characters straight can be harder in the comedies. I have read A Midsummer Nights Dream twice, however, so I know that one better.


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