Book Review – Macbeth

macbethMacbeth, one of William Shakespeare’s most famous tragic plays, is a quick read despite being in Early Modern English. It’s also one of his shortest plays. It’s not easy to read this kind of English, so it makes it difficult to review.

The story is a simple one of lust for power and seemingly endless murder. Macbeth, one of King Duncan’s most trusted noblemen in Scotland, is driven by Lady Macbeth and the witches to put himself into power.  I could tell from the beginning that it was doomed to fail, as this is a tragic play.  There is no happy ending.  However, it is reasonably entertaining, being one of my favourite Shakespearean plays.  I first read this in high school about 20 years ago, so it was interesting to see what I could remember.  It was shorter than I remember. Nevertheless, it felt fresh and I could read it with a new, more mature perspective.

Most characters are quite unlikeable. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth may be the protagonists, but who wants to see them succeed? I thought Macduff was the easiest to like, though Ross was also a good guy.  The three witches provided memorable quotes, though they appeared less than I remembered.  The single-mindedness of Macbeth, and especially Lady Macbeth, showed an incredible amount of obsessive ambition.  I would hope to never meet anyone like them.

As this is a play, it reads very differently than a novel.  There is next to no narration, and is all dialogue and stage directions.  However, it’s easy to follow, and the footnotes aid in understanding Early Modern English.  The version I read, Signet Classic, has more than 200 pages, but the play is less than 100. There’s a lot of information about Shakespeare and the play.

Overall, I give this 4 stars.  It’s a great classic, and is an interesting insight into Shakespeare’s linguistic ability, as well as what was considered entertainment in the early 17th century.  Definitely recommended if you can understand it.

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