Macbeth is a play written by William Shakespeare which demonstrates how when one seeks power for one’s own sake, both physical and psychological consequences may occur. The work shows us how it is natural to desire selfish things and that these desires can often drive us to do awful things. However, it is also very likely that we will face deep grief and regret for the selfish actions we commit. Because this work holds such a deep and applicable meaning, it continues to shape and inspire our society today, over 400 years later.
Over time, this play has adapted with the changing of modern day theatre and cinema but the original meaning and values still hold true to the work today. It is most commonly believed that Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in 1606. At this point in time, James I had been the king of England for 3 years. It is highly speculated that Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in attempts to win the approval of the king, for it widely known that the king was fascinated by witchcraft. King James also symbolized the union of the Scottish and English crowns and both of these things are referenced in the play.
Because of the integration of these things, we can presume that King James had influence in the writing of the play but there is no textual proof of this. At the beginning of the play, a trio of witches appear. These witches make continuous appearances throughout the play and prophesy what events will later happen. Two generals, Macbeth and Banquo, encounter these three witches as they return from conquering two separate invading armies from Ireland and Normandy. These witches prophesy that Macbeth will rise to a position of power, but Banquo’s descendants will be the ones to become kings.
After hearing this, Macbeth begins to be filled with the desire to seek power for himself. This desire grows so strong that he begins to kill many different people around him and in order to make sure he obtains and maintains power. A lot of Macbeth’s ambition is inspired by his wife, Lady Macbeth, a women with a strong lust and ambition for power. Throughout the story, Lady Macbeth encourages and even urges her husband to kill for power. However, as the story progresses, Lady Macbeth begins to experience guilt for all the blood that has been spilled.
Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth experience this guilt but she experiences it to perhaps an even greater extent. Neither are comfortable with the violence they commit and suffer great psychological consequences for their actions. Eventually Lady Macbeth is even driven to the extent of suicide in order to free herself from her guilt. Macbeth is often considered the most evil of all Shakespearean plays. From the beginning of the play, the theme of evil in represented through witchcraft and the occurrence of supernatural events along constant bloodshed.
This theme is established at the beginning of the play by introducing witchcraft through the witches and is further intensified through the presence of not only one, but three witches who represent evil in the forms of darkness, conflict, and chaos. These witches can easily be viewed as the most evil characters in the play and constantly ruin other people’s lives for their own benefit. Although they do not directly tell Macbeth to kill, the manipulate him by tempting him with the possibility of obtaining power. The work illustrates the corruption of the human soul and shows how evil can manifest inside of us.
This evil influenced the events throughout the play and is consistent throughout the story and leads to the destruction of many individuals. Some people believe that because they play contains so much witchcraft and evil, that by speaking the name of Macbeth in the theatre on can actually become cursed. It is often considered unlucky to even produce the play. Because of these theatrical superstitions, many avoid speaking the name at all in theatre and instead refer to by a variety of other nicknames and commonly call it the “Scottish Play”. Many also believe that real itches should be cast as in order to prevent negative effects on the environment due to the spells that are cast in the three witches scene. These superstitions date back to the first production of the play where a real knife was accidentally mistaken for a prop thus causing the death of one of the actors. In order to prevent curses if one speaks the name in the theatre, there are certain cleansing rituals that must be performed if the name is spoken. If spoken, the one who said the name must leave the theatre then can only be invited back in after certain cleansing rituals have taken place.
Some of these rituals are spinning around three times, spitting over one’s shoulder, or reciting specific lines from other shakespearean plays. The play Macbeth was partially based on real life people and events. However, many of these events were altered in order to make it more entertaining for the audience and for one person in particular, the king. In real life, Macbeth was a king of the Scots who was known to be an efficient governor. Similar to the play, Macbeth killed the current ruler ,King Duncan, in order to obtain power and rise to the throne but was not the murderous and bloodthirsty man that is depicted in Shakespeare’s play.
In fact, at the time King Duncan was widely hated by the people because he was blamed for the death of. Many soldiers. Because of this, many were very thankful for what Macbeth did. Another difference between the two is that the play takes place over about a year but in real life, Macbeth ruled for 17 years. Although the play bears very few similarities to the real historical events, they definitely served as a source of inspiration for Shakespeare when writing the work. The earliest record that we have for Macbeth being performed is in 1611 although it was probably performed as early as 1606.
This eyewitness account of the 1611 play is written by Simon Forman and it is the only account of Macbeth written in Shakespeare’s lifetime. It is the believed that during the 18th century the play underwent various adaptations in order to fit the tastes of people at that time. Many of these changes were made by Sir William Davenant and included expanding the role of the witches along with adding songs and dances to the play. Another man named David Garrick further altered the play by cutting numerous scenes from the original work and adding speeches to the play.
The play has continued to be adapted in both the theatre and in film up to the present day. The work is also commonly referenced throughout art and literature. Many different adaptations and spin-offs have been written over Macbeth. Many different artists have also found inspiration from the play and have based works of art on characters and events from the play. As with any shakespearean play, the performance of Macbeth has drastically changed with the passing of time. Many of these changes have occurred simply because of the improvements of technology with the passing of time.
For example, it is speculated whether or not Macbeth was written with the intention of being performed inside because of the dark themes it contains. However, because most theatres of the time were outside, the play was instead performed at night which is part of the reason why it is much shorter than many of Shakespeare’s other plays. The technological aspects of the play were not the only part that changed with the passing of time. As society changed, so did the social structure of the play. Although it did not completely change it did to some degree.
Because the taste of people open general changed, some directors slightly altered the play in order to appeal to more crowds. Another part that changed was the cast. When the play was first written, women were not allowed to act in plays. Once the social view regarding women acting changed this did too. Eventually it became socially acceptable for women to perform so women became gradually more integrated into the theatre. In conclusion, Macbeth continues to be a very inspirational work even many years after it was written.
Nearly 400 years later, Macbeth is still very present in our society and appears is a wide variety of different areas. The play serves as a source of inspiration for art, cinema, and literature. It presented a new aspect to theatre through the witchcraft and evil that is represented in the play and perhaps even introduced a whole new type of drama. By examining the play we can see much about the social structure present at the time and compare it to what we see in our world today.