The Tragedy of Macbeth
Macbeth is Shakespeare’s shortest, quickest tragedy. Its colours are black and red. It summons up dusk and midnight and at last a poor player who struts and frets with empty sound and fury, his life a candle that is snuffed out, signifying nothing. But along the way we witness high passion, vaulting ambitin, alliances made and broken. Macbeth himself is great in action but not in judgement. Give him a task on the battlefield and he will carry it through with aplomb. But give him words and he will be first easily led, then hesitant. His wife chides him for this, but ironically as the two of them wade deeper into blood he becomes more purposeful, she a nightmare-beset shadow of her former self.
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.