Our Macbeth study guide has four parts that answer all the questions you have about the Shakespear's play. The guide includes a detailed summary of the storyline with the list of acts and scenes. It introduces the significant play characters and provides the analysis of their tempers and motifs. You’ll also find a scrutiny of the thematic and symbolic range of the tragedy. Finally, we’ve gathered up the key quotes from Macbeth with the comments on their significance for the narrative.
Macbeth by Shakespeare: Study Guide
Macbeth is the shortest play among all the tragedies William Shakespeare has written, and one of the most famous ones, too. The play dramatizes the destructive consequences of political desires on people who seek power for the sake of it. The play is said to have been written in 1606, a period when King James I had just taken over power. King James also happened to be the patron of the acting company that belonged to Shakespeare. Macbeth is said to be reflective of the close relationship that Shakespeare enjoyed with King James I, even though he had written many other plays during that time. Since Macbeth was a figure from Scottish history, the play is thought to be a means of Shakespeare honoring the Scottish lineage that his king originated from.
We’ve prepared for you a four-part study guide the play. The first part is an extensive summary of the storyline reflecting all the events of the play and presented act-by-act. The second part is the list of main and supporting characters with their description and profound analysis. In the third part, you will find the review of the main themes and symbols of the play. And the fourth part presents the key quotes from the original text with the comprehensive comments.
Before you get down to business, read a short summary of Macbeth that will allow you to get familiar with the main events through quick and clear description.
A short Summary of Macbeth
The play is set in Scotland and fragmentarily in England of the 11th century. The title of the play indicates its main character. Macbeth is a famed Scottish general, who proves his loyalty to his king bravely fighting against the external enemies of the kingdom. With his friend and companion-in-arms Banquo, he encounters the three witches. The witches greet Macbeth as Thane of Glamis (his current status), as Thane of Cawdor and, finally as the King of Scotland. In other words, they prophesy him to become a king. At the same time, the witches tell Banquo that his descendants will be kings, but he refuses to trust the witches’ words. However, the prophecy touches Macbeth’s ambitious deeply and after he learns that he gains the Thane of Cawdor (one part of the prophecy comes true), he becomes eager to take the throne.
To become a king for Macbeth means to kill King Duncan, who is (and Macbeth admits that) a fair and generous ruler of Scotland. Pressured by his wife Lady Macbeth, as well as by his own selfish ambition, Macbeth makes up his mind to kill King Duncan. With the help and support of his wife, he murders Duncan and takes over the Scottish throne. However, the further events demonstrate us that the crown brings Macbeth everything but calmness and confidence. Shame, fear, suspicion, guilt and mistrust consume him during the time of his kingship. This leads him to kill more people so he can protect his authority overturn from the noblemen who are not fooled by his jiggery-pokery. The murder of his friend Banquo becomes a point of no return for Macbeth. He turns into a ruthless and oppressive ruler who leads the kingdom into civil war and unnecessary loss of many lives. Blinded by his power, he misinterprets the last witches prophecy and counts himself as undefeatable. Finally, the reality of the chaos he has created leads his wife to madness and him to the inglorious death.
This draft of the play’s storyline cannot reflect mysteriousness and symbolism of the narrative in all its depth. You can learn more about the plot twists, characters’ relationships and their soul feelings in the act-by-act summary of the play.