The Tragedy of MacBeth by Jill Allison

Jill Allison

Professor Taylor


2010 November 11

The Tragedy of Macbeth

            While The Tragedy of Macbeth was written over 400 years ago it still captivates readers with its intense and dark storyline. It opens with three witches speaking of Macbeth. They tell of his future, first becoming Thane to Glamis and then Thane of Cawdor and completing his destiny as King of Scotland. Macbeth, aided by his greedy wife, the Lady Macbeth, begins to plot to hasten his future along. While Lady Macbeth poisons King Duncan’s servants and encourages her husband to commit regicide, it becomes obvious that Macbeth is not as strong willed as his wife. With Duncan dead and his sons scattered, Macbeth takes the crown. There are a few more details to the prophecy but Macbeth destroys what he perceives are the threats. When he revisits the three witches, they tell him more prophecies to heed. One is to beware Macduff, an ally of the king. The play continues and reveals that Lady Macbeth racked with guilt, now wanders wringing her hands as if to wipe the stain of blood from them all the while mumbling of the sins she committed. As the play comes to an end, Macduff tells Macbeth of the slaughter of his wife and children. He swiftly puts an end to Macbeth as well. The three witches tale did indeed come true. Shakespeare’s use of prophecies, ghosts and witches instills a thrill to the reader and captures the imagination immediately and keeps it.

Macbeth. This title by William Shakespeare conjures the thoughts of betrayal, brutality and guilt. The plot of Macbeth is based on his ambition to rise to King. His wife goads him relentlessly challenging his manhood. While his protagonists can be considered Banquo, Macduff and even Macbeth himself, the climax is actually at the very end with Macbeth’s realization of his impending death. Shakespeare draws out the supernatural events with glee. The witches are three-dimensional characters full of life that jump from the pages. The ghost of Banquo makes us writhe as it does Macbeth. The downward spiral of Lady Macbeth is reminiscent of a guilty conscience gone awry. This theme, of self-destruction, seems common in Shakespeare’s plays. One could consider Romeo and Juliet self destructive as well as Julius Caesar. The actions of the main characters and their resulting doom are tragedy at it’s best.

The richness of tone that Shakespeare uses throughout the play may seem distracting at first, but as the play continues you begin to hear the words as they should sound. As the letter “e” is dropped it brings a resonant accent of the Scottish style. His use of weather conditions such as lightening and rain as background to the supernatural forces of the witches lends credence to the violence to come. This play, as well as other works by William Shakespeare is available via your local bookstore and by purchase through the Internet.

While not the wordiest of Shakespeare’s plays, it certainly is worth the time to read and contemplate. Your reaction to the underlying themes of ambition, greed and karma should prepare you for self-examination. I find the book to be an exception read and one I recommend to all. There is much to be said about a book that continues to hold our imagination long after it is read the first time.


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