Time Spent With the Harvard Classics: Shakespeare’s Macbeth

The full title of this work by William Shakespeare’s dramatic work is The Tragedy of Macbeth.  Rumor has it that its first performance was in 1606.  But, it’s hard to pin down any eyewitnesses to this.   This play speaks to the playwright’s relationship with his king, James I.  The damaging physical and psychological effects of seeking power for its own sake is set out in a way that has been emulated ever since.

In this story, a trio of witches prophesize to the brave, Scottish general that he will one day be king of Scotland.  Consumed with power lust and driven to it by his wife, Macbeth kills King Duncan and takes the throne.

And then.. the throne takes him.  Macbeth finds himself wracked with guilt and feeling paranoid.  These are not the best feelings to have when you are suddenly the king and living larger than maybe you should be.  So, naturally, he does what any murdering thug would do when put into the same circumstances.  That’s right, he commits more and more murders.  Forced into the type of corner only a maniacal painter can paint himself into he becomes an increasingly tyrannical ruler.  What better way to protect yourself from enemies and suspicion, right?

This sits so well with the people that soon enough there is a bloodbath in the name of peace.  Quite logically, this is the sort of peace found in civil war.  Macbeth and Lady Macbeth descent into madness and death.  All without passing go and a complete failure to collect the $200 for passing go. … My apologies, this isn’t quite the story is it?  Maybe I should put away the Monopoly game.  There is a passing resemblance….Or, maybe that’s only the way my little princesses play it?

Now we see why said princesses provide me with the best counsel when they advise that I should leave comedy to the professionals.  Besides I have to confess.  There is a real story behind this story.  It is Macbeth, King of Scotland; and the stories of Macduff and Duncan found in Holinshed’s Chronicles (1587).  The retelling in Macbeth differs substantially, however.  Shakespeare’s telling bears the influences that arise from Henry Garnet’s execution for his involvement in the 1605 Gunpowder Plot.

This accursed Scottish play consists of a number of acts.  Act 3, Scene 4 can be read here:


Alternatively, it can be heard read as an audiobook here:








About alohapromisesforever

Writer, poet, musician, surfer, father of two princesses.
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