lunes, 8 de febrero de 2010



The Tragedy of Macbeth was written by William Shakespeare between 1603 and 1607 and it is, maybe, his shortest tragedy. It was first published in the Folio of 1623. The earliest account of a performance is April 1611, at the Globe Theatre. The mean plot of this play is the murdering of Duncan, King of Scotland, by one of his “best” servants: Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis – In fact, two of the most important topics of the tragedy are ambition and treason-. The characters are:

Duncan – King of Scotland

Malcolm – Duncan's eldest son

Donalbain – Duncan's youngest son

Macbeth – A general in the army of King Duncan, originally Thane of Glamis, then Thane of Cawdor and later King of Scotland

Lady Macbeth – Macbeth's wife, and later Queen of Scotland

Banquo – Macbeth's friend and a general in the army of King Duncan

Fleance – Banquo's son

Macduff – The Thane of Fife

Lady Macduff – Macduff's wife

Macduff's son

Ross, Lennox, Angus, Menteith, Caithness – Scottish Thanes

Siward – Earl of Northumberland, General of the English forces

Young Siward – Siward's son

Seyton – Macbeth's servant and attendant

Hecate – Chief witch/Goddess of Witchcraft

Three Witches – make the prediction of Macbeth becoming a King and Banquo's children being kings.

Three Murderers

Porter ( Messenger) – Gatekeeper at Macbeth's home

Scottish Doctor – Lady Macbeth's doctor

The Gentlewoman – Lady Macbeth's caretaker

As we can see, plot and characters (Macbeth, Macduff, and Duncan ) are based in the real history; the mean Shakespeare´s source was Holinshed´chronicles (1587).Some believe the play is cursed and will not mention its name aloud, referring to it instead as The Scottish play. The earliest account of a performance is in April 1611, by Simon Forman at the Globe Theatre. Scenes III.V and IV. I were added for performance at Blackfriards. And the play was performed by James L´sCourt.


We can find a lot of magic symbols and characters at the play which help us to understand the way in which fate and evil work. The waird sisters, the three witches, are the messengers, the prophetesses of Macbeth destiny and death. They are agents and witnesses and represent chaos, darkness and conflicto too. They are taken from the greek and roman mythology, where we can find sybils and the three Parcae. The three Witches are taken from norse mythology too and were very important in the british folklore (we can find contemporary treatises on witchcraft). Their dramatic force makes them very usefull for tales and drama. Another source that Shakespeare maybe used is Middleton´s The Witch. So Shakespeare's witches are prophetesses who hail Macbeth with predictions of his rise as king. When he begings to be the new king of Scotland, the sisters deliver ambiguous prophecies about how to conserve his crown. Their contradictory natures, as well as their intercourse with the supernatural set a conexion and coherence for the play. If we compare Shakespeare´s whitches with Holindster´s ones we can see that some characteristics of their appeareance like "chappy fingers," "skinny lips," and "beards," are not found in Holinshed. The Three Witches first appear in Act 1.1 where they agree to meet with Macbeth at “the set of sun”.Here we have some references of misteriously creatures that they invoke: Gray-malkin and Paddock. Both of them are spirits, but the first one has the shape of a gray cat –Malkin is a diminutive for Mary too- while Paddock is a frog. In 1.3, they tell Macbeth with a prophecy that he shall be king, and his companion, Banquo, with a prophecy that his children-not him- will be Kings too. They consider Bancuo “lesser than Macbeth, and greater” and they say he will be “Not so happy, yet much happier” because he is going to die, like Macbeth, but they wont lose his child or family and his honour will be untoched alter all. The Witches next appear in 3.5, where appears Hecate, who is angry with the sisters reacuse they deal with Macbeth without her participation. Hecate orders them to meet at a forbidding place where Macbeth will seek their art. In 4.1, the Witches do as Hecate ordered and produce visions for Macbeth that herald his downfall. The meeting ends with Banquo and his royal descendants. Then they vanish. Hecate is another character from classic mythology but here she is not a Godness, is more like a kind of fair, the witches´s boss. In this sense, We must observe that Witches meetings are always in stormy, windy and natural places like the heath or the pit of Acheron. The witches' words in the first act: "Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air" involve the reader or the spectator in confusion. Indeed, the play is filled with situations in which evil is depicted as good, while good is rendered evil. The sentence "Double, double toil and trouble," communicates the witches' intention of seeking to only trouble for the mortals around them.


This play was originally written in prose and verse. We could say that depending on the character Shakespeare uses an specific language. For instante, the witches uses spells which have a mystic effect in the spectator. In the first act, we can find a four feet verse with yambs and throqueos in witches´dialogue because Shakespeare used that kind of verse for unnatural creatures as he does at The Tempest or in A Midnight Summer´s dream. Another stylictic aspect is Lady Macbeth´s soliloquies which express the most evil deepness of mankind. Apart from Witches and lady Macbeth´s language we cand find another kind of language realtionated with nature, growth, natural order and humanity. For example, when Duncan thanks Macbeth and Banquo at the First act (scene IV), “I hace begun to plant thee…” or “There if I grow the Harvest is your own”, as Banquo says. So unnatural symbols are relaionated with evilness while natural references are relationated to goodness and kindness. Banquo and Duncan and McDuff, specially the second are worthy characters so they speak using this speach. Macbeth´s speech is always changing because that ´s the way he expresses dude and remorses. Lady Macbeth talk about maternity and milk to reforce her state of evil agent and describe mankind. As we can see, metaphores are very original at the play. Witches spells and Lady Macbeth agressive words (I.V) point that those female characters are essentials for the Plot´s developping.


If we compare Holyster´s chronicles and Shakespeare´s play we can observe that The king Duncan is presented at the second like a Peak and sensitive character. I think the reason is to underline Macbeth´s atrocity. Forthe couple, Macbeth and lady Macbeth, Ambition is an illness which have to be attended. Lady Macbeth supports her husband in his dark purpossses. Though the witches do not deliberately tell Macbeth to kill King Duncan, they use a subtle form of temptation when they inform Macbeth that he is destined to be king. By placing this thought in his mind, they effectively guide him on the path to his own destruction. This follows the pattern of temptation attributed to the Devil in the contemporary imagination: the Devil was believed a thought in a person's mind, which he or she may either indulge or reject. Macbeth indulges the temptation, while Banquo rejects it.

So, Macbeth turns to be a tyrant, fogetting his humanity ad thinking only in power and this ambition, which is too big turns him crazy. However, Duncan is presented like a insensible king in the way that he trusts Macbeth too much. So, perhaps, to be a good king, it´s necesssary to find some kind of equilibrium.


Orson Welles' stage production of Macbeth set the play in Haiti, and cast the witches as voodoo priestesses. As with earlier versions, the women are bystanders to the murder of Banquo, as well as Lady Macbeth´s sleepwalking scene. Their role in each of these scenes suggests they were behind Macbeth's fall in a more direct way than Shakespeare's original portrays. The witches' encroach further and further into his domain as the play progresses, appearing in the forest in the first scene and in the castle itself by the end. Directors often have difficulty keeping the witches from being exaggerated and overly-sensational.

Charles Marowitz created A Macbeth in 1969, a streamlined version of the play which requires only eleven actors. The play strongly suggests that Lady Macbeth is in league with the witches. One scene shows her leading the three to a firelight incantation. In Eugène Ionesco's satirical version of the play Macbett (1972), one of the witches removes a costume to reveal that she is, in fact, Lady Duncan, and wants to be Macbeth's mistress. Once Macbeth is King and they are married, however, she abandons him, revealing that she was not Lady Duncan all along, but a witch. The real Lady Duncan appears and denounces Macbeth as a traitor.

Drawings contained in Holinshed's Chronicles, one of the sources Shakespeare used when creating the characters, portray them as members of the upper class. They are wearing elaborate dresses and hairstyles and appear to be noblewomen as Macbeth and Banquo approach. Shakespeare seems to have diverted quite a bit from this image, making the witches (as Banquo says) "withered, and so wild in their attire, / That look not like th' inhabitants o' th' earth. . . each at once her choppy fingers laying / Upon her skinny lips. You should be women, / And yet your beards forbid me to interpret / That you are so."

At least fifteen operas have been based on Macbeth, but only one is regularly performed today. This is Macbeth, composed by Giuseppe Verdi and premièred in Florence in 1847. In the opera, the Three Witches became a chorus of at least eighteen singers, divided into three groups. Each group enters separately at the start of the opera for the scene with Macbeth and Banquo; after the men's departure, they have a chorus of triumph which does not derive from Shakespeare. They reappear in Act 3, when they conjure up the three apparitions and the procession of kings. When Verdi revised the opera for performance in Paris in 1865, he added a ballet (rarely performed nowadays) to this scene. In it, Hecate, a non-dancing character, mimes instructions to the witches before a final dance and Macbeth's arrival.

Orson Welles created a film version of the play in 1948, sometimes called the Übermensch Macbeth, which altered the witches' roles by having them create a voodoo doll of Macbeth in the first scene. Critics take this as a sign that they control his actions completely throughout the film. Their voices are heard, but their faces are never seen, and they carry forked staves as dark parallels to the Celtic cross. Welles' voiceover in the prologue calls them "agents of chaos, priests of hell and magic." At the end of the film, when their work with Macbeth is finished, they cut off the head of his voodoo doll.

Throne of Blood a Japanese version filmed in 1958 by Akira Kurosawa, replaces the Three Witches with the Forest Spirit, an old hag who sits at her spinning wheel, symbolically entrapping Macbeth's Japanese equivalent, Washizu, in the web of his own ambition. She lives outside "The Castle of the Spider's Web", another reference to Macbeth's entanglement in her trap.Roman Polanski's 1971 film version of Macbeth contained many parallels to his personal life in its graphic and violent depictions. His wife Sharon Tate had been murdered two years earlier by Charles Manson and three women. Many critics saw this as a clear parallel to Macbeth's murders at the urging of the Three Witches within the film.

Geoffrey Wright's 2006 Macbeth takes place in the midst of a modern Australian gang and drug culture. The Three Witches are replaced by three teenage goth schoolgirls who are knocking down headstones in a graveyard in the opening scene. They whisper their prophecies in Macbeth's ear as they dance in a deserted nightclub joined by his wife, urging him to murder in order to gain power.

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