The Tragedy of
The power of Shakespeare
Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
--Macbeth, Act 5; Scene V, The Tragedy of Macbeth
Globe Theatre: Home of
• 1599: Construction completed.
• Boggy ground, south bank of
• Finest Theatre in the land.
• Estimated Capacity: 3,000 with
1,500 standing in yard.
• Entrances: two, narrow,
allowing only one person
through at a time.
• 1613: Burnt to the ground
during Henry VIII performance;
sparks from a fired cannon set
fire to thatched roof. (Last play
authored by Shakespeare.)
• Company flag flies on each
performance day (advertise).
Globe Theatre: Home of
• Construction: Wood and thatch
on brick foundation.
• Shape: round polygon
(probably 20 sides).
• Overall diameter: 30 meters.
• Height: 12 meters to top of
gallery; 20 meters to top of
• Central Open Yard: 21 meters.
• Stage: 10-12 meters wide.
• Cheapest tickets (one penny)
for open yard (groundlings).
• Gallery tickets (two pennies)
for covered area.
• Gentlemen’s or Lord’s Rooms:
covered and screened near
stage. Most expensive.
The Business of Being
• Part-owner of Globe Theatre.
• Head of King’s Men.
• Playwright and actor.
• Must mix good business with
• Family lives away from city at
• Competition Tough: others try
to steal plays; no copyright
laws. Copy-cat plays.
• Actors received only their lines
(to prevent whole play from
• Scribes make all copies by
• Public officials don’t like
• Occasional plagues or civil
Martin Droeshout's engraving
trouble can shut down theatre. of Shakespeare, from First Folio, 1623.
The Business of Being an
• Only men could be an actor; disrespectable occupation for women.
• Young male teens played female roles.
• Actors played several parts in several plays during a single season.
• Each Season: 30 different plays some old, some new.
• All parts memorized.
• Actors speak in own accents and wear contemporary costumes.
• Colors in Costumes: hints to crowd about character (Ex: Macbeth
wears scarlet cloak over dark clothing; Lady Macbeth in black).
The Business of Being a
• Full Globe proceeds: 20
pounds British Sterling.
• Winter: Theatre closed—no
• Christmas Season: Royal
Productions for James I.
• Production for King Proceeds:
10 pounds British Sterling, but
chance of lavish gifts.
• Winter Season: Private
performances for rich patrons
in their mansions.
• Actor’s Troop needed big
endorsements to support
production—best came from
the Royal Court.
The Business of Being Number
(Macbeth at second
long line of kings.) set of prophesies.)
(William Blake, Portrait of Shakespeare, c. 1800-1803).
• James I: Liked and endorsed Shakespeare’s troop: became King’s Men
(formerly Lord Chamberlain’s Men).
• Queen Anne and their eldest son, Henry, are patrons of their own troops.
• Competition fierce from several acting troops (including all children groups).
• Endorsements Necessary for Costs: upkeep of theatre, fees, salaries, props,
costumes (second most expensive cost).
• Costumes purchased or rich patrons donated only to best productions.
Background of Play
(One of few original 1623 editions of First Folio.)
• Tragedy in five acts.
• 18,301 words: Shortest of all Shakespeare tragedies. No subplots. (King
James was an impatient audience member.)
• First performed in about 1606 at London’s Globe Theatre.
• First appeared in print in 1623 as part of Shakespearean anthology, First
• Shakespeare drew upon real Scottish-English history from 1577 edition of
Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland by Raphael Holinshed.
• Loosely based on King
Macbeth of Scotland.
• In Gaelic, Macbeth
means “Son of Life.”
• Military commander
under King Duncan I.
• 1040: Murdered the king
and assumed throne
• Reigned 14 years before
Duncan’s son, Malcolm,
• Malcolm became
Scotland’s Malcolm III.
Literary License with History
History Literary License
1. Macbeth and Duncan were 1. Duncan is older, a father
cousins and about same age. figure, no relation.
2. Each ruled adjoining kingdoms 2. Duncan is king of all Scotland;
until Duncan is crowned king. Macbeth is a nobleman and
3. Duncan killed in battle by his military commander.
Macbeth. 3. Duncan is murdered in his
4. Banquo took part in plot to kill sleep by Macbeth.
Duncan. 4. Banquo is innocent of murder
5. As king, Macbeth ruled plot.
successfully and well for 14 5. As king, Macbeth accelerates
years. his bloody and treacherous
6. Malcolm kills Macbeth in battle rule, destroying Scotland.
and assumes throne. 6. Macduff corners Macbeth in
his castle, at the foot of his
throne; and Malcolm is
The Center of Action:
Main Characters in Macbeth
• Macbeth: Military
commander and heralded
warrior of Scotland.
• Lady Macbeth: Wife of
Macbeth, who is an equal
in will and ambition to her
• Banquo: Military
commander and best
friend of Macbeth.
• Fleance: Son of Banquo.
Main Characters in Macbeth
• King Duncan: ruler of
Scotland who trusts his
kingdom to Macbeth.
• Malcolm: Oldest son of
• Donalbain: Youngest son
• Macduff: Like Macbeth, a
Scottish thane; unlike
Macbeth, a man of
• Three witches with their
Roman Polanski's Macbeth (1971)
Witches and Sorcerers Are
• During Shakespeare’s heyday,
James I is King of England.
• Previously, James I was King
of Scotland when Elizabeth I
ruled of England.
• 1591: Coven of witches and
sorcerers tried to murder
• At trial, their testimony
convinced James I of their
• 1597: James I authored
• 1486: Malleus Maleficarum
(The Witches’ Hammer).
Shakespeare plays it smart!
• 1603: James I is crowned King of England and Scotland. James loves the theatre,
becomes benefactor for Shakespeare troop; renamed “King’s Men” in honor of him.
• 1605: Gunpowder Plot; Roman Catholics, Guy Fawkes, plot to murder Parliament
and king; guy; November 5th
• James I is descended from Scottish nobleman, Banquo.
• Shakespeare makes murder of king the unpardonable sin; Banquo the innocent;
witches are real tempters—representing the temptation we all face.
• Play is hit with royalty and public alike.
• 1973: The Exorcist. Frightened viewers—made them sick.
Three Witches and Fate
• Shakespeare calls them “Wyrd
• Wyrd: Anglo-Saxon for “fate.”
• 8th Century B.C.: Hesiod, a
Greek Poet first called them
“three old hags”; goddesses.
• Clotho: Wove fabric of
• Lachesis: Determined
person’s lifespan and destiny.
• Atropos: Cut the threads of the
fabric of life when time to die.
• No god could change the
decisions of the three hags.
• Moirae: Greek for fate.
• Parcae: Latin for fate.
Themes of Macbeth
• The effects of unbridled
ambition and inordinate lust for
• Complications of mixing public
masks and private lives.
• Deception and reality often
disguise themselves; all things
are not as they appear.
• The eternal question of fate or
free will--who decides how we
• The self-consuming lust of
violence and mayhem.
• Shakespeare’s bloodiest play.
What is the blood symbolic of?
Bloody and Biblical Allusions
• 4-65 A.D.: Seneca, a dramatist and tutor to Nero.
• Descriptive, detailed and bloody.
• 1559: Seneca stories translated into English.
• Shakespeare borrowed descriptive bloody style from Seneca.
• Psychoanalysist Sigmund Freud: Lady Macbeth is Eve tempting her
Adam (Act One, Scene VII). Look for other Biblical allusions.
• Fear: 48 times as noun, verb
or root word.
• Blood: 40-plus times in play.
• Night: 40-plus times in play.
• Knocking within (stage
direction): 10 times.
• Dark Words: terrible, horrible,
black, evil, devil, etc.
• Spirits and ghosts.
• Various Birds of Prey
• Use of Antithesis: Fair is foul
and foul is fair.
The Tragedy of Macbeth Today
• Has remained one of
Shakespeare’s most popular
• Translated into several languages;
performed hundreds of times a
• Serious actors/actresses are
challenged by roles—hallmark of
their resume to play either of two
• Wonderful poetry; not a word is
• Actor lore: Reputation for being
unlucky, perhaps even evil.
• Lines are not quoted from play
except on stage.
• Never refer to play by name, only
“The Scottish Play.”
• Scholars debate over some of the
scenes that include witches. Is it
Castle of Glamis, Today