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Macbeth is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, based loosely on the historical King Macbeth of Scotland. Scholars think it an archetypal Jacobean play with plenty of references to the reign of James I, and place its composition around 1608.

There is considerable evidence that the text of the play as we have it incorporates later revisions by Thomas Middleton, which insert popular passages (notably extra scenes involving the witches, for such scenes proved highly popular with audiences) from his own play The Witch (1615).

Actors often consider this play to be 'unlucky', and usually refer to it as 'the Scottish play' rather than by name. To say the name of the play inside a theatre is considered to doom the production to failure.

On the stage Lady Macbeth is seen by many as one of the most challenging roles in Western theater for women. She is driven mad for her part in the king's crimes and dies off stage in the final act.

Table of contents
1 The story of Shakespeare's play
2 Shakespeare's sources
3 Film versions
4 Opera versions
5 External link

The story of Shakespeare's play

Macbeth, Thane of Glamis and a general of the army of Duncan, King of Scotland, quickly rises through the ranks after a great victory over the rebel Macdonwald. Inspired by the witches' prediction that he would become king and by a lust for power, he and his wife murder the king, and he becomes King of Scotland himself. The heir, Malcolm, flees to England, where he is joined by Macduff, the loyal Thane of Fife.

His friend Banquo, who, the witches have predicted, will be the ancestor of future kings, begins to suspect him, and Macbeth, becoming more evil every day, orders Banquo's murder in order to prevent the prediction from coming true. However, Banquo's son, Fleance, escapes the assassins. Macbeth is haunted by Banquo's ghost, whilst Lady Macbeth also suffers pangs of remorse, and constantly sleep-walks.

Urged on by Macbeth, the witches conjure spirits which tell him that he will not "vanquish'd be until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come" and that "none of woman born shall harm Macbeth," but also to "fear Macduff". Since Macduff is in exile, Macbeth orders the murder of his wife and children. Macduff, spurred into seeking revenge, leads an army camouflaged by boughs from Birnam wood to Dunsinane, where in a battle with Macbeth he reveals that he was ripped from his mother's body (ie, by Caesarean section) and therefore is not "of woman born."

Macduff vanquishes and beheads Macbeth, and Duncan's son, Malcolm, takes the throne.

Shakespeare's sources

Film versions

Opera versions

External link

Macbeth is also a Scottish clan.