Review: Macbeth

Posted 15 May, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 8 Comments

By: William Shakespeare
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

No dramatist has ever seen with more frightening clarity into the heart and mind of a murderer than has Shakespeare in this compelling tragedy of evil. Taunted into asserting his “masculinity” by his ambitious wife, Macbeth chooses to embrace the Weird Sisters’ prophecy and kill his king–and thus, seals his own doom. Fast-moving and bloody, this drama has the extraordinary energy that derives from a brilliant plot replete with treachery and murder, and from Shakespeare’s compelling portrait of the ultimate battle between a mind and its own guilt.

I first read this play back in my final year of high school. Power, murder, and madness is pretty ripe in this play, along with a strong supernatural element int he form of the three witches and prophecies abound. I decided to revisit it again recently; I think I’m slowly working through the plays we studied in high school, haha, but I think it was from reading a review of one of the many Macbeth productions out there that prompted me to pick up the book again.

I was initially a little sceptical about the claims that Macbeth was the shortest of Shakespeare’s tragedies–years ago it felt long enough, lol–but re-reading it, I found myself marvelling at how short the scenes were, especially in Act V where it was like boom-boom-boom-done! It keeps up the level of tension storywise, but at the same time it felt like at times we could’ve used another scene or two, or a longer soliloquy/monologue fleshing out the characters’ backstories a bit. I could’ve used a bit more stage time between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth in happier times before they plunge in and plot against Duncan, or maybe some more insight into their respective unravelling of conscience and character, but what’s in the play as is works.

The play is pretty dark, from the Macbeths’ crime to the aftermath and the eerie presence of the supernatural throughout the play, but there were a few “Err, not suspicious at all” moments in this play, notably Malcolm and Donalbain taking off after hearing of their father’s murder. I know they were thinking that they were going to be targeted next, but of course people will also suspect you of being behind the crime. Macduff taking off to join Malcolm’s forces and leaving his family behind without thinking of reinforcements of retaliation was also one of those “WTF are you doing? Macbeth is obviously going to get back at you through your family.” But anyway…

I remember reading a conversation on Tumblr (or was it a review comment?) about England’s role in the story. Malcolm goes and gets help from England to depose Macbeth and the person asked what does England get out of such a request? Reading the play, I found myself wondering about it as well, as we don’t get a English voice in the play to explain their help. I haven’t read the commentary yet in my copy of the play about the time that Shakespeare wrote it, but I reckon it had to do with James I becoming king and that dynastic connection between England and Scotland rather than a plot detail that should’ve been fleshed out a bit.

I appreciated revisiting Macbeth and reacquainting myself with the complexities of the story. And okay, I’m a firm believer now that it is a pretty short play too 😛

Rating: ★★★★★

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8 Responses to “Review: Macbeth”

    • There’s certainly something about it! The story, the character drama… xD

      On a related note, I really wish they would release a proper trailer for the new adaptation with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard! Those 20-30 second clips are not enough 😛

  1. After Twelfth Night, Macbeth is my favorite Shakespeare play because of its various complexities, questions on morality, and the great characterization. However, you’re right – I would have liked more monologues explaining the characters’ motivations and back story. I think Lady Macbeth or Banquo would have benefited from one.

    Great review, Lianne! 🙂

    • Alas, Banquo, we hardly knew ye. He definitely would’ve benefited from some monologues (or even more stage time) before his end.

      Thanks Kayla! 🙂

  2. I love ‘Macbeth’ because of its haunting, gothic atmosphere, all of that drama, and the characters of Macbeth and his wife (love them or hate them, you have to admit that they’re fascinating!) It isn’t my favourite of the Shakespeare tragedies though. I prefer ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Othello’; mostly because of the way that Shakespeare handles that whole “No man born of a woman” conclusion in this one. I just find it so… underwhelming. Apparently J.R.R. Tolkien thought so as well. I read somewhere that Tolkien thought the “No man born of a woman” conclusion was a seriously missed opportunity to have a woman be Macbeth’s undoing which is how he came up with the idea of having Eowyn being the one to kill the Witch King of Angmar. But, yes, I still love this play!

    It’s another short clip but The Guardian put up a new scene of the Fassbender/Cotillard version on their website the other day. I don’t know if you’ve already seen it but I thought you might want to check it out: Fassbender’s Scottish accent sounds really good – I guess it would do though since the Scottish and Irish accents are so similar – and the interpretation of the witches is certainly interesting.

    • Ahhh! Thanks so much for the link to the video, I hadn’t seen that one xD Guh, my excitement is building for this adaptation 😀 You must be excited for the atmosphere of this movie, it appers to match the haunting atmosphere of the play itself 🙂

      The dynamic between Macbeth and his wife was definitely fascinating and the way their relationship changes over the course of the play. Haha, Tolkien has a point, definitely a missed opportunity for a woman to be Macbeth’s undoing!

      • I’ve seen the movie now and, yes, I definitely appreciated its haunting atmosphere! The movie’s fantastic BTW. I don’t know if you’ve seen it so I won’t spoil anything but the director made some really cool and interesting choices. Also the locations were just stunning and Fassbender and Cotillard were both brilliant 🙂

        • Thanks for letting me know what you thought of the movie! It’s always really cool to see particular approaches and choices made by directors for their vision of the story. I’ll likely be checking it out when it hits DVD but I’m really excited for it, glad it lives up to the awesomeness of the trailer 🙂

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