Essays on Macbeth: John Boe, The Tragedy of Macbeth
Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s best-known plays, despite being supposedly cursed: in theatrical circles its name is taboo, and it is referred to simply as ‘the Scottish play’. It is also one of the shortest plays, at just over half the length of Hamlet. Drawing on material from the chronicles of Raphael Holinshed, the play displays the temptation and hubristic downfall of Macbeth, one of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters. In addition to Macbeth, we see in his wife one of Shakespeare’s famous ‘strong women’ placed on the side of evil. Medieval Scotland provides an eerie background for the tragedy and also acts as a homage to the king at the time, Scottish James I. The king acceded to the throne, thus unifying England and Scotland for the first time, in 1603, the date of Macbeth‘s first performance, and he was thought to be a descendant of Macbeth’s opposite, Banquo, who resists the tempting prophecies of the play’s three witches. The play’s powerful themes of murder, wilderness and the supernatural have influenced horror films today and the witches’ famous lines “Hubble bubble, toil and trouble” are now a Halloween stockpiece. Macbeth is a stunningly ghoulish example of Shakespeare’s dramatic art.
Contributed by Colette Sensier