Lord Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis, is the title character and titular main protagonist turned primary antagonist of William Shakespeare's Macbeth (c. 1603–1607). The character is based on the historical king Macbeth of Scotland, and is derived largely from the account in Holinshed's Chronicles (1587), a history of Britain.
|Created by||William Shakespeare|
Macbeth is a Scottish noble and a valiant military man. After a supernatural prophecy, and at the urging of his wife, Lady Macbeth, he commits regicide and becomes King of Scotland. He thereafter lives in anxiety and fear, unable to rest or to trust his nobles. He leads a reign of terror until defeated by his former ally Macduff. The throne is then restored to the rightful heir, the murdered King Duncan's son, Malcolm.
In the playEdit
The tragedy begins amid a bloody civil war in Scotland, where Macbeth is first introduced a valorous and loyal general in with the title of Thane of Glamis (which he inherited from his father Sinel) serving under the elderly King Duncan, who gives a colourful and extensive exaltation of Macbeth's prowess and valor in battle. When the battle is won, largely due to Macbeth and his lieutenant Banquo, the Thane of Lochaber, Duncan honours his generals with high praise and sends the messenger Ross to deliver Macbeth his reward: the title of Thane of Cawdor, since its previous holder was to be executed for betraying Scotland and siding with the enemy.
Macbeth and Banquo wander onto a heath following the conflict, where they encounter three witches who greet them with prophecies. They address Macbeth first, hailing him as Thane of Glamis and Cawdor, and that he shall be King afterwards, while Banquo is hailed as a father to a line of kings, though he himself will never rule. As the witches disappear, Ross arrives and presents Macbeth with his new title, but it becomes apparent that Macbeth has already begun to consider murdering Duncan and taking his place as king. (In medieval times and in the Elizabethan era, plans to murder royalty were punishable by death). He states that the kingship will fall into his lap by luck alone and that he will not have to take any action to fulfil the witches' last prophecy: “If chance may have me king, why chance may crown me without my stir”. Macbeth becomes fixated on the prophecy, ignoring Banquo's advice that “oftentimes to win us to our harm these instruments of darkness tell us truths…to betray us in deepest consequence”.
When he returns home, Lady Macbeth tries to convince him to kill Duncan. Macbeth at first refuses but changes his mind when she accuses him of cowardice. Giving in to his ambition, he kills Duncan and plants evidence of the regicide on two guards, whom he also kills. He hears voices that say "Macbeth shall sleep no more. Macbeth does murder sleep". He acknowledges that only the innocent sleep and that sleep is "the balm of hurt minds". The king's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, fear they will be blamed for Duncan's death and flee the country. Macbeth is then crowned king.
Macbeth becomes a tyrant, brutally stamping out any real or perceived threats to his power. He believes himself to be beyond redemption, "in blood stepp'd in so far, that, ... returning were as tedious as go o'er". Macbeth decides to hire two murderers to kill Banquo and his son Fleance, with a Third Murderer sent later to assist. Banquo is murdered, but Fleance survives. Macbeth goes to the witches for counsel, and they tell him that he will not be defeated "until Birnam wood move to high Dunsinane", and that "no man of woman born" may harm him. Macbeth takes this to mean that he is invincible. Nevertheless, Macbeth decides to get rid of Macduff and sends assassins to kill him and his entire family. Macduff escapes harm, but his wife, her young son and their entire household are brutally murdered. Macduff swears revenge and joins forces with Malcolm to overthrow Macbeth.
In Act V, Lady Macbeth is overcome with guilt; she dies and it is later postulated that she committed suicide. Now completely alone, Macbeth laments that life is a "tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." By the end of the play Macbeth learns that the witches' second set of prophecies have hidden meanings: Malcolm's army carries shields made from Birnam wood to Macbeth's fortress in Dunsinane, and Macduff reveals that he was prematurely removed from his mother's womb, meaning that he technically was not "of woman born". Beaten but still defiant, Macbeth declares, "Lay on Macduff, and damned be he who first cries, hold, enough!" In the ensuing duel, Macduff kills Macbeth and cuts off his head.
In the comic book series Kill Shakespeare, Macbeth is a minor character. In the story, he is in a power struggle with Richard III, but he does not realise that his wife Lady Macbeth is plotting with Richard behind his back. Lady Macbeth eventually kills Macbeth to gain control of his armies to aid Richard in his plot to kill William Shakespeare.
In the 1991 film Men of Respect, the character of Macbeth is transported from the Scottish Highlands to the Mean Streets of New York. Macbeth; now called Mike Battaglia (John Turturro) is a low-ranking member of a crime family run by a Duncan-esque character and he plans a mob styled hit.
In The Simpsons episode "Four Great Women and a Manicure", Homer embodies Macbeth, a reluctant husband who follows Marge's commands to kill Sideshow Mel and assumes Macbeth's role. However, his performance receives unfavorable reviews compared to the more seasoned actors and even those with no lines. So with more reluctance, Homer kills off the other actors until he's the only one left. Even after performing well, he's fed up with Marge's attempts to make him audition for more Shakespearean plays and kills himself so he doesn't need to audition any more.
On stage and film, Macbeth has been portrayed by many notable actors, including Sean Connery, Laurence Olivier, Christopher Eccleston, Alan Cumming, Sam Worthington, Orson Welles, Ian McKellen, Toshiro Mifune, Nicol Williamson, Jon Finch, Daniel Day-Lewis, James McAvoy, Jeremy Brett, Patrick Stewart, Dwij Vasavada, Alec Baldwin, Ethan Hawke, Michael Fassbender and Kenneth Branagh.
- Bevington, David. Four Tragedies. Bantam, 1988.
- Brantley, Ben (21 November 2013). "'Macbeth,' With Ethan Hawke at the Vivian Beaumont". Retrieved 9 April 2018 – via NYTimes.com.