The Tragedy of Macbethby William Shakespeare English 12 Ms. Wymes
Settings • The action of the play takes place in northern Scotland and England. • In Scotland, the play is set at or near the following locations: • King Duncan’s castle at Forres, • Macbeth’s castle at Inverness, • Macduff’s castle at Fife, • Birnam Wood, or • Dunsinane Hill in the countryside. • A scene is also set at a castle in England.
Character List 1. Macbeth: protagonist; ambitious army general in Scotland; viewed as a hero at the onset of the play for his success in battle 2. Lady Macbeth: Wife of Macbeth; very persuasive and aggressive in her marriage 3. King Duncan: King of Scotland 4. Malcolm: Oldest son of King Duncan; Prince of Cumberland 5. Donalbain: Youngest son of King Duncan
Character List (Continued) 6. Banquo: Army general; good, loyal friend of Macbeth 7. Three Witches: Hags who can predict the future for Macbeth; also called the weird sisters; Weird is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word wyrd, meaning fate. The three witches are also a reference to the three goddesses of fate (Hesiod). 8. Hecate (Witch 4): Mistress of the witches’ charms and queen of Hades; referred to as the Queen of the witches
Character List (Continued) 9. Macduff: Scottish nobleman and Lord of Fife; known for his wisdom and integrity 10. Lady Macduff: Wife of Macduff 11. Son of Macduff 12. Lennox, Ross, Menteith, Angus, Caithness: Scottish noblemen 13. Fleance: Son of Banquo 14. Siward: Earl of Northumberland; general of the English forces 15. Young Siward: Son of Siward
Character List (Final List)! 16. Seyton: Officer attending Macbeth 17. Soldier 18. Porter 19. Doctor 20. Old Man 21. Three Apparitions: Three ghosts of great significance for Macbeth; symbolic
The Real Macbeth • Macbeth was an 11th Century Scot who took the throne in 1040 after killing King Duncan I, his cousin, in a battle. • The real Macbeth was believed to be a wise monarch who reigned over Scotland for seventeen prosperous years. • In 1057, King Duncan’s oldest son, Malcolm, ended Macbeth’s reign by killing him in battle and assuming the role as King Malcolm III.
Shakespeare’s Inspiration • Shakespeare got his idea for Macbeth from Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles, which tells a different tale using similar characters and references to husband-wife relationships, murder, deceit, and mutiny. • Shakespeare was also influenced by the Roman dramatist Seneca (4-65 A.D.), who wrote horrific plays about revenge and murder. Shakespeare appears to be inspired by some of the same themes as Seneca.
Witchcraft in Shakespeare’s Day • Many people believed in the power of witches in Shakespeare’s day, especially King James I. In 1591, when he was King of Scotland, King James was almost murdered by a group of witches and sorcerers. Their trial and testimony convinced King James that they were sources of evil (witches). • King James became the King of England in 1603. Shakespeare knew very well of King James’s superstition, and he also knew that a play about witchcraft would cause a stir and make a quick buck. Therefore, he wrote Macbeth, a play full of elements of evil!
Fascinating Fact • The words blood and night (or forms of them, such as bloody and tonight) occur more than 40 times each in Macbeth. • Other commonly occurring words that help maintain the mood of the play are terrible, horrible, black, devil, and evil.
References Cummings, Michael J. “Macbeth Study Guide.” http://www.cummingsstudyguides.net/xMacbeth.html#Real%20Macbeth. (27 Sept. 2006).