Macbeth

by: William Shakespeare

Key Facts

full title · The Tragedy of Macbeth

author  · William Shakespeare

type of work  · Play

genre  · Tragedy

language  · English

time and place written  · 1606, England

date of first publication  · First Folio edition, 1623

publisher  · John Heminges and Henry Condell, two senior members of Shakespeare’s theatrical company

tone  · Dark and ominous, suggestive of a world turned topsy-turvy by foul and unnatural crimes

tense  · Not applicable (drama)

setting (time)  · The Middle Ages, specifically the eleventh century

setting (place)  · Various locations in Scotland; also England, briefly

protagonist  · Macbeth

major conflicts  · The struggle within Macbeth between his ambition and his sense of right and wrong; the struggle between the murderous evil represented by Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and the best interests of the nation, represented by Malcolm and Macduff

rising action  · Macbeth and Banquo’s encounter with the witches initiates both conflicts; Lady Macbeth’s speeches goad Macbeth into murdering Duncan and seizing the crown.

climax · Macbeth’s murder of Duncan in Act 2 represents the point of no return, after which Macbeth is forced to continue butchering his subjects to avoid the consequences of his crime.

falling action  · Macbeth’s increasingly brutal murders (of Duncan’s servants, Banquo, Lady Macduff and her son); Macbeth’s second meeting with the witches; Macbeth’s final confrontation with Macduff and the opposing armies

themes  · The corrupting nature of unchecked ambition; the relationship between cruelty and masculinity; the difference between kingship and tyranny

motifs  · The supernatural, hallucinations, violence, prophecy

symbols  · Blood; the dagger that Macbeth sees just before he kills Duncan in Act 2; the weather

foreshadowing · The bloody battle in Act 1 foreshadows the bloody murders later on; when Macbeth thinks he hears a voice while killing Duncan, it foreshadows the insomnia that plagues Macbeth and his wife; Macduff’s suspicions of Macbeth after Duncan’s murder foreshadow his later opposition to Macbeth; all of the witches’ prophecies foreshadow later events.


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