Macbeth – William Shakespeare


Macbeth is the first Shakespearean drama I studied. I first learnt it under Mr. Aloysius a lecturer at University of Rajarata and then under late Mr. Nimal Gunawardhana, a veteran English teacher.

Macbeth is a story woven around a man’s ambition and the repercussions of it. A brave and respected general, Macbeth wins a war against Norwegian and Irish allied forces that was led by the traitorous Macdonwald. When Macbeth returns to Scotland with his friend general Banquo, they meet three witches who prophesy that Macbeth will be the king and Banquo’s descendants will be kings. Macbeth starts to think over the prophesies and is disturbed in to a great extent. The prophesies could be his own feelings rather than witches’ prophesies as we too have seen instances where generals becoming kings or trying to become kings in the recent history.

With the pressure of the prophesies becoming too much to bear alone, he writes to Lady Macbeth about them while going to see the King of Scotland, King Duncan. Lady Macbeth, a vicious childless woman, put venom into the prophesies and plans to kill the ageing king and make Macbeth the King. Macbeth, being a kinder person, hesitates to kill the king after the latter pays a visit to the former’s castle but Lady Macbeth induces him not to lose the opportunity. With much uncertainty and hesitation, Macbeth kills King Duncan and his chamber guards and put the responsibility of the murder on the guards.

Macduff, the King’s loyal Thane of Fife suspects Macbeth but doesn’t show it. Duncan’s sons Malcolm and Donalbain flee to England and Ireland for fear of death as whoever killed the king could murder his sons as well. But Macbeth takes this as an opportunity to become the king as there is no heir to the throne. He also puts the blame of killing the king on his own sons.

Though Macbeth becomes the king as he aspires, he is still suspicious of Banquo, the general, as the prophesies mentioned that his sons will be kings. So, he invites Banquo and his son Fleance to a dinner and in the meantime hires two murderers to kill the father and the son. Banquo gets killed but his son flees the scene. Even though Banquo was killed his ghost haunts Macbeth’s castle and Macbeth is greatly disturbed.

Macduff also flees to England. Macbeth orders Macduff’s castle be seized and sends murderers to slaughter Macduff’s wife and children. Lady Macduff and her young son are murdered cold-bloodedly.

Meanwhile Lady Macbeth, who was the mastermind of the plot to kill the king becomes mad and sleepwalks at night. She feels the gravity of the crimes she was involved in and kills herself.

Kings sons and Macduff get together and raise armies and invade Macbeth’s castle and defeats Macbeth’s army and kill him.

(Malcom, the son of murdered king Duncan becomes the king. Although Malcolm, and not Fleance, is placed on the throne, the witches’ prophecy concerning Banquo (“Thou shalt get kings”) was known to the audience of Shakespeare’s time to be true: James VI of Scotland (later also James I of England) was supposedly a descendant of Banquo.

In the backstage world of theatre, some believe that the play is cursed, and will not mention its title aloud, referring to it instead as “the Scottish play“. – Wikipedia)

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