One night on the heath, the brave and respected general Macbeth encounters three witches who foretell that he will become king of Scotland. At first skeptical, he’s urged on by the ruthless, singled-minded ambitions of Lady Macbeth, who suffers none of her husband’s doubt. But seeing the prophecy through to the bloody end leads them both spiraling into paranoia, tyranny, madness, and murder.
This shocking tragedy – a violent caution to those seeking power for its own sake – is, to this day, one of Shakespeare’s most popular and influential masterpieces.
Macbeth, for being a centuries-old play, you have no good summaries that I could find. In fact, I have a lot of problems with the summary above but I promise that they all relate to my reasons why The Scottish Play is a story worth reading.
First, there is a lot more going on in this story than king-killing. Yes, that is the main plot point that spurns everything else that happens. But I think there’s a lot of question around whether Macbeth is an evil guy born evil or driven into it.
To his credit, killing King Duncan doesn’t come easy to him – certainly not as easy as the other deaths he orchestrates. In fact, he seems tortured and miserable afterward. Even when I had no sympathy left for him, I still found myself questioning why he behaved the way he did.
Lady Macbeth, for all her “ruthless, single-minded ambitions” is a lot more developed than I expected her to be. At the very least, she is disturbed by the murder they’ve committed to gain power – so much so that she’s obsessed with cleaning her dress of invisible blood and is herself driven into madness. Like a 17th century Tell-Tale Heart.
Shakespeare’s ambiguity make his work so hard for me to love but I did enjoy all the questions about good and evil that Macbeth inspired in me. Honestly, I can’t suggest that it’s a story all will love and I’ll even admit it took many readings for me to understand what’s going on here; but if you’re ever looking for a story you can read for free, Macbeth is a decent enough place to start.
Photo from Amazon
Synopsis from goodreads.com