Macbeth (Folger Shakespeare Library)
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In 1603, James VI of Scotland ascended the English throne, becoming James I of England. London was alive with an interest in all things Scottish, and Shakespeare turned to Scottish history for material. He found a spectacle of violence and stories of traitors advised by witches and wizards, echoing James’s belief in a connection between treason and witchcraft.
In depicting a man who murders to become king, Macbeth teases us with huge questions. Is Macbeth tempted by fate, or by his or his wife’s ambition? Why does their success turn to ashes?
Like other plays, Macbeth speaks to each generation. Its story was once seen as that of a hero who commits an evil act and pays an enormous price. Recently, it has been applied to nations that overreach themselves and to modern alienation. The line is blurred between Macbeth’s evil and his opponents’ good, and there are new attitudes toward both witchcraft and gender.
The authoritative edition of Macbeth from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers, includes:
-Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play
-Newly revised explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play
-Scene-by-scene plot summaries
-A key to the play’s famous lines and phrases
-An introduction to reading Shakespeare’s language
-An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play
-Fresh images from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s vast holdings of rare books
-An up-to-date annotated guide to further reading
Essay by Susan Snyder
The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare’s printed works, and a magnet for Shakespeare scholars from around the globe. In addition to exhibitions open to the public throughout the year, the Folger offers a full calendar of performances and programs. For more information, visit Folger.edu.
describe a variety of blood relatives, close and not so close* (Duncan and Macbeth share a grandfather) 38 worthy gentleman = excellent* man of high birth* 39 as whence = just as occurs/is caused when (i.e., the syntactical movement runs:“Just as the sun beginning to shine [which is good] causes storms (which are bad), so too what had appeared to be a source of comfort [to the rebels] became a source of grief ”) 40 action, shining (reFLEKseeOWN) 41 source of flowing water (i.e., Macdonwald,
open 71 consecrated 72 from there (i.e., the “temple,” meaning the king)* 73 life, spirit, animating principle 74 draw near 75 monster the sight of which turns humans to stone (Medusa was a Gorgon) 62 act 2 • scene 3 exeunt Macbeth and Lennox ( loudly) Awake, awake! Ring the alarum bell. Murder and treason! Banquo and Donalbain! Malcolm! Awake! Shake off this downy76 sleep, death’s counterfeit, 75 And look on death itself ! Up, up, and see The great doom’s77 image!78 Malcolm!
affected/hurt/impaired 3 events/sequences that are to come 4 pronounced me = declared/proclaimed to me 5 over 6 unite, join 7 sybarites, gluttons (“fancy pants”) 8 am influenced/ruled/controlled 9 pronounced like modern “beer”: I have discussed some of the dramaturgical uses of rhyme in “Who Heard the Rhymes” 10 white as cream 11 rogue, idler 12 foolish, simpleminded 13 low rustic (“peasant”) 148 act 5 • scene 3 Servant Soldiers, sir. Macbeth Go prick14 thy face, and over red15
thick night, / And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell” (1.5.48‒49) is still resounding in our ears. Duncan may take her hand and graciously join her in entering the castle. But no audience whatever can be similarly taken in. Other than scene 3 and its fuller presentation of the witches, containing as well as a substantial introduction to Macbeth and xxxiv introduction Banquo, scene 7 is the longest of the first act.With the swift, jar-ring juxtapositions typical of the entire play, it
that,” “if not, why not,” and almost but not quite reaching “when.” Macbeth proceeds to discuss “assassination” and its consequences, making it plain that he fears the consequences,and not the assassination itself.He starts to probe himself in religious terms—“But in these cases / We still [always] have [receive] judgment here” (1.7.7–8)—which, after a brief consideration of loyalty and trust, he turns into what reveals itself as a concern for public relations.“[Duncan’s] virtues / will plead