Author’s Review: Macbeth

Posted: December 9, 2008 in author's review
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This is the first of what will be a series of ongoing author’s reviews, which, basically, will be me sharing some of my favourite works of literature, movies and more, and the reasons why I enjoy them.

These things are, of course, subjective. What I may like others may not. To each their own.

We shall begin with Macbeth, by Shakespeare. For those going through the Australian education system at least, it would have been hard pressed to miss out on studying Shakespeare at some stage. We studied him a number of times, and amongst the plays we looked at was Macbeth. In fact I got to study it more than once.

Shakespeare was an absolute genius of the English language, and indeed is responsible for many phrases and words that we take for granted now. He crops up in the new Doctor Who, in The Shakespeare Code. It is a good episode, but doesn’t match The Girl in the Fireplace or Blink, two absolutley brilliant episodes.

The play Macbeth is a thoroughly fictionalised account of the life of the real Macbeth, Mac Bethad mac Findlaích, who reigned as the King of Scotland from 1040 to 1057.  He bears little resemblance to the character from the play, and indeed contemporary accounts speak well of him.

Despite that, the play is a fascinating study of the rise and fall of man and of the interplay of the characters of Macbeth and his wife.  Way back in my high school days, I wrote an essay on the growth of the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.  I shall endeavour to one day update it for it remains my favourite, and indeed, only surviving essay from high school.

In essence, the essay plots the reversal of roles in some sense of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.  Lady Macbeth starts out as the stronger of the two, and it is she who drives her reluctant husband into murder and usurpation. She has great courage and force of will.  From there, though, she weakens and diminishes until such time as she can no longer live with what is done.

Macbeth himself is a tragic hero, initially trusted and well loved, but with burning ambition.  However, it is his wife that drives him to act upon those ambitions.  Without her, he would not have done the deed.  From there though, he changes.  The deed done, he has no recourse but to go on, defiant to the end, becoming more resolved and less under the influence of his wife with each passing day.

At least, that was how I remember the essay going.  I shall have to fetch it out and re-read it thoroughly.

Macbeth is a masterpiece and I highly recommend it to all.


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