introduction to Macbeth

An introduction to Macbeth
(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
Twins Hamnet and Judity born two years later, 1585
Hamnet dies age 11
Early Life
Not clear when he moved to London
His plays were on stage by 1592
His family stayed behind in Stratford
Shakespeare’s play won royal favour,
particularly of James I
• With a group of friends he built
the Globe Theatre
London Life
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
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
• 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
• Macbeth’s wife
• She is even more ambitious than
her husband
• She knows how to manipulate Macbeth
Lady Macbeth
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
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
• Scotland
• Inverness Castle, Macbeth’s home, and other
clammy places
• Time: the 11th century, Thursday, around tea
• 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
• Masculinity:
• What qualities make a man?
• How should a “real” man act?
• Can a woman act like a “man”?
• When would the assassination
of a political leader be
justified, if at all?
Quick Write

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