What is it like to desire something with all one’s heart while being withheld by moral scruples? Who has not experienced this? Macbeth is a mind in conflict – possessed by ambition and burdened with bitterness. Macbeth, a Scottish lord, is a man famous for bloody deeds – he destroys his enemies in a battle and returns home a hero. But on the way home he meets the three weird sisters, who foretell a glorious future for him. Macbeth is destined to be the king of Scotland. At home, he has the soul mate who understands him completely. She knows his mind better than he does. What happens when ambition clashes with love and humanity? Macbeth is an epic tale of betrayal and valour. And it is an everyday story of dreams collapsed.
The play as we know it today is a work by William Shakespeare and Thomas Middleton (most scholars agree that Middleton wrote Scene 5 of Act 3 and a part of Scene 1 of Act 4). Macbeth was written around 1606, at a time when the English were witnessing a particularly tumultuous political atmosphere. The Gun Powder Plot trials, the hatred of the Catholics, the new reign of a Scottish king – all provide a marvelously colourful social context to the play. But it is impossible to believe that this play can be tied down to a social context. It is a timeless critique of humanity, and puts forward debates and ideas on the concepts of authority, violence, honour, revenge. Macbeth can be transported to any place in the world, at any time in history. One thinks of brilliant works of art like The Throne of Blood or our own Maqbool.
Is it possible to comment on Shakespeare’s writing style? A reader must read the play to be blown away by the sheer power of its poetry!
As with most of Shakespeare’s plays, readers have too many preconceived notions burdening them before they read the actual text of Macbeth. When I first read the play, I was almost shocked – it was nothing like what I had expected it to be. Only the plot seemed familiar, everything else came as a glorious revelation. To me, Macbeth is a tale of the estrangement of lovers. Lady Macbeth is at first her husband’s cherished confidant. But “hell is murky” – and when the Macbeths choose to go down the “primrose way” they leave their companionship behind. The two protagonists are amazingly real, before long they seem to be inalienable from our own selves. Also, the play is strewn with minor characters that remain in our memory for ever – the porter, young Macdufff, the goddess Hecate. And of course the three weird sisters – the witches – the sinister agents of darkness and evil.
Book Reviewed by Amrita Dutta
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