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William Shakespeare. An introduction to Macbeth. 1564-1616: (Elizabeth I dies 1603, succeeded by James I) Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, north of London Educated at a “grammar school” in Latin and classical studies At 18, he married Anne Hathaway aged 26

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william shakespeare

William Shakespeare

An introduction to Macbeth

early life


  • (Elizabeth I dies 1603, succeeded by James I)
  • Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, north of London
  • Educated at a “grammar school” in Latin and classical studies
  • At 18, he married Anne Hathaway aged 26
  • First child, Susanna born 6 months later… do the math!
  • Twins Hamnet and Judith born two years later, 1585
  • Hamnet dies age 11
Early Life
london life

Not clear when he moved to London

  • His plays were on stage by 1592
  • His family stayed behind in Stratford
  • Elizabeth I was queen
  • Shakespeare’s play won royal favour,

particularly of James I

  • With a group of friends he built

the Globe Theatre

London Life
the globe theatre

Constructed on the south bank of the Thames

  • An open-air amphitheatre
  • The higher the seats, the pricier the ticket
  • The common folk stood on the ground
  • Beer and snack were served – it got quite rowdy at times!
The Globe Theatre

Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s tragedies

  • A tragedy to Shakespeare involves a man of high rank who falls due to a personal flaw
  • Written between 1603 and 1607
  • Based on the history of the murder of King Duncan of Scotland
  • However, in reality Macbeth was a respected king of Scotland
  • Theatre superstition: it’s called the “Scottish Play”
characters macbeth

A capable general at the service of King Duncan

  • His title is Thane (Earl) of Glamis
  • Rewarded with new title:

Thane of Cawdor

  • He has a tragic flaw: ambition
Characters – Macbeth
lady macbeth

Macbeth’s wife

  • She is even more ambitious than

her husband

  • She knows how to manipulate Macbeth
Lady Macbeth
king duncan

The well respected king of Scotland

  • He is older than Macbeth
  • Macbeth’s kinsman (“cousin”)
  • Macbeth is very loyal to him – at the beginning
  • Two sons: Malcolm and Donalbain
King Duncan

Macbeth’s great friend

  • Also a general in Duncan’s army
  • Son: Fleance
  • Prophecy: he will give rise to

many kings of Scotland

  • James I of England was also

James VI of Scotland,

said to be a descendant of


  • A character foil to Macbeth

Another thane (of Fife) and general

  • Becomes important in the final act
  • Has a wife and son
the three witches

People believed that witches caused misfortune

  • had “familiars” or animal spirits to assist them
  • represented a challenge to the established order
  • James I had written a book on how to detect and try witches
  • Many witches were burned during

his reign

The Three Witches

Shakespeare follows a formula for most of his plays

  • Act I: exposition
  • Act II: rising action
  • Act III: climax
  • Act IV: falling action
  • Act V: resolution




  • Inverness Castle, Macbeth’s home, and other clammy places
  • Time: the 11th century, Thursday, around tea time
  • Atmosphere: dark, gloomy, foreboding, generally nasty

Deceit and equivocation

    • Deceit: the act of deceiving; concealment or distortion of the truth
    • Equivocation: the use of ambiguous, vague expressions; misleading or hedging
  • Masculinity:
    • What qualities make a man?
    • How should a “real” man act?
    • Can a woman act like a “man”?