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4.3 out of 5 stars115
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on February 12, 2014
i am beyond please with this book. i was having a hard time with the original writings but this made it easier to understand and appreciate the writings of Shakespeare. i recommend the no fear versions to anyone that struggles with anything written in old english.
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In the theater, people apparently don't call Shakespeare's "Macbeth" by its actual name -- it's usually called "MacB" or "The Scottish Play." The dark superstitions that hover around this play really show its power: it's a harrowing portrait of a weak man who spirals into a personal hell of ambition, murder and madness.

Shortly after a victory in battle, Macbeth and his friend Banquo are traveling home across a heath when they encounter three witches -- who greet him with "All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor! All hail, Macbeth! that shalt be king hereafter!"

When MacBeth is made Thane of Cawdor, he naturally begins to think that being king might be next in line. And when King Duncan visits his castle, Lady MacBeth goads her husband into murdering the king and framing a couple of innocent servants for the deed. As the witches predicted, MacBeth becomes king of Scotland.

But the witches also prophesied that Banquo would be the father of kings, so MacBeth starts tying off loose ends by hiring assassins to kill Banquo and his young son, as well as a wily thane named MacDuff and all of his family. But though MacBeth believes himself to be safe from everyone, his fear begins to grow as madness and guilt torment him and his wife...

One of the most fascinating things about "Macbeth" is how evil it is -- mass murder, insanity, bloody ghosts, a trio of manipulative witches pulling MacBeth's strings, and a nice if weak man who becomes a raving murderous paranoiac. Shakespeare starts the story on a dark note, and it gets darker and bloodier as the story winds on to its bleak climax.

In fact, the entire story is a two-part spiral -- things get tighter and more intense, even as MacBeth and Lady M. get crazier and more violent. Shakespeare litters the story with brutally intense scenes (Banquo's ghost crashing the dinner, Lady M. trying to scrub her hands clean) and powerful dialogue ("Shake off this downy sleep, death's counterfeit,/And look on death itself! up, up, and see/The great doom's image!").

The one flaw: Shakespeare's handling of the "no man born of woman" prediction is a bit lame. I mean, didn't that count as "born" back in Elizabethan times too?

Honestly, MacBeth is both a fascinating and repulsive character. He starts off as a nice ordinary thane with no particular ambition, but his weakness and his wife drive him to some pretty horrible acts. Before long, he's become somebody you desperately want to see diced into little pieces. And Lady Macbeth is little better, although there's a slight disparity between her ruthless ambition and her later insanity.

"MacBeth" is a story filled with stormy darkness and all-consuming fire -- a powerful depiction of evil and how easily we can be seduced. Just don't say its name in the theater.
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on January 4, 2014
I used this as a companion to the script in the rehearsal for a professional theatre production. Very helpful and informative during those times when actors and the director need a boost. Easy to understand and very relatable.
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on June 10, 2004
Macbeth is the story of a general in the army of King Duncan of Scotland, who is approached by three witches, who plant the seeds of ruthless ambition in his mind, by predicting that he will be made King of Scotland.
He invites King Duncan to his castle, where encouraged by his, wife, he murders him.
He manipulates events to become King, and embarks on a reign of bloody tyranny, having all killed who stand in his way, or who he suspects may do so.
Macbeth is the story of tyranny and ambition. It is also the story of inner struggles and of Macbeth's own diseased imagination.
The primary villains of the play are the three witches. They do not simply predict, but indeed their soul aim is to sow evil and destruction wherever they can: " Fair is foul and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air."
Their motto seems to be an apt encapsulation of the dominant 21st century worldview. Indeed Orwell and Kafka where to predict a similar world where truth would be lies and lies would be truth, good would be evil and evil would be good, war would be peace and peace would be war. This twisted view of the witches is the worldview of Bolshevism and leftism today, where terrorists and dictators are lauded as 'revolutionary heroes' and those who defend against the former are vilified and reviled.
The three witches of today are academia, the media and the United Nations.
Lady Macbeth is but a pale shadow of the witches. She encourages her husband in his evil, but is destroyed by her own guilt.
She needs to call on the evil spirits to 'unsex' her and fill her with the direst cruelty, but at the end 'all the perfumes of Arabia' cannot wash away the guilt of her deeds.
The plea to be unsexed is relevant to the sexlesness of the cruel Bolshevik women of the last century and of women terrorists and women leftwing academics. These are generally sexless and totally cruel in pursuing revolution and the destruction of Judeo-Christian civilization.
Lady Macbeth was outwardly beautiful but most of these unsexed women of the revolution have not. Unlike Lady Macbeth they have achieved the being of the three witches for whom they resemble.
The play is indeed full of rich irony- how Macbeth persuades the three murderers that Banquo is responsible for their misfortunes, twisting the truth to suit his unholy ends as the media so often does today.
Macbeth is brought to justice for his deeds. His arrogance is his downfall.
The benevolent influence though, in this story is the doctor of physic - the voice of compassion and religion who says while attempting to heal Lady Macbeth- "More she needs the divine than the physician-G-D, G-D forgive us all"
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on January 4, 2004
A handy little paperback pocket edition of the great play you've read and seen many times. The 1994 Penguin Popular Classic edition is interesting because it includes twenty-two pages of introductory material about Shakespeare, his times, and the play itself, all written by an unnamed editor who uses the first-person and discusses editorial choices made in this version. The editor emphasizes the fact that there are weaknesses and holes in the text, caused by Shakespeare's writing on a short deadline in 1606 and by the fact that later editors and actors and compilers probably cut-and-pasted large sections. The result, counsels the editor, is that some scenes (including Hecat's speech in III-v, and the witches' appearance in IV-i) is "probably not by Shakespeare".
This is rather a large leap. It may be true, but we have no way to know for sure. Other credible scholars (Levi, Bloom) note that these sections are unique, but do not aver that they are not by Shakespeare. In any event, it is rather interesting that this editor devotes so much space to this notion, and misses the opportunity to discuss other --more important-- elements of the play, such as the subtle poetry of Macbeth's speeches, the "post-Christian" religious significance, the blood-darkness-water themes, the parallels to Lear, or the political connections between Scottish Thanes and British Earls.
Another quibble is with the notes: all the text notes and vocabulary are at the end of the book, so an interested reader is constantly riffling back and forth. Penguin should have followed Folger's admirable lead and put the text notes on the same pages as the text itself.
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on July 21, 2003
Macbeth is one of Shakespeare's finest accomplishments. It is a good vs evil tale about a man, Macbeth, who apparently sees three witches, who are said to be prophets. He starts out as noble, serving the King of Scotland, and a brave and ruthless warrior ("unsealed him from the nave to the chops"). Repeated meetings w/ the three witches would have a profound effect on Macbeth, and his wife, Lady Macbeth. He slowly becomes deranged and hungry for power, and the entire play showcases his manipulative rise to the top, all the way to the point where he becomes the King of Scotland, and his eventual decline (also predicted accurately by the witches). It is full of awesome motifs, moral and interesting themes, great dialogue, action, and believable characters. The only reason I gave this 4 stars is because I had to read this my sophmore year of high school, and I had to analyze this book page by page, line by line, and the student teacher who taught it to us was obsessed with symbolism (like my sophmore teacher already was), and it diminished the appeal of the book to me, albeit slightly. Forget my past encounters in reading this book, because chances are they will not be helpful, but Macbeth is worth reading and analyzing, and it is easily one of Shakespeare's best plays.
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on July 14, 2003
This book is very difficult to read, not just because of the play's main theme -murder- as because of the main characters' stupidity, that baffles me. Blood and murder reign everywhere, as much as stupidity does. Nietzsche wanted to interpret Macbeth's evil as positive rebelliousness. But Nietzsche was too concerned to prove his rather boring Dyonisiac view of human nature to care about grasping the ironies of Shakespeare's genius. Rather than a celebration of ambition and evil, Macbeth is a play about the foolishness of a foolish couple who place too much faith in prophecy and turn to crime in desperation since, despite their love and lust for one another, Macbeth can't have children.
This is why it is Lady Macbeth who, because of her own unfulfilled motherhood, tries to lead her husband to murder somebody else's child, so as to restore his manliness to her eyes. And so she says to him: "Art thou afeard/ To be the same in thy own act and valour,/ As thou art in desire?"
The logic of Lady Macbeth is rather simple: "if you wish to do evil, how are you not "man" enough to do it?" Of course Macbeth does not want to look like a loser in front of his sexy wife, and, simply because of this vanity and his little intelligence, he leads himself into the hellish spiral of crime and murder that means the end of them both.
That Lady Macbeth is a hysterical woman with unsatisfied lustful desires is obvious when she becomes mad. That Macbeth is a fool is obvious in that he becomes a murderer for the only reason that he does not want to admit to himself that he is unfertile and that his wife is unsatisfied because of this.
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on May 17, 2003
"Macbeth," the play by William Shakespeare, is definitely one literary classic that still holds its own as a vital and engaging piece of art. Despite being a stage play, it also works superbly as a reader's text apart from a theatrical setting.
The plot begins thus: Scottish warrior Macbeth is told by three witches that he is destined to ascend the throne. This fateful prophecy sets in motion a plot full of murder, deceit, warfare, and psychological drama.
Despite being a lean play, "Macbeth" is densely layered and offers the careful reader rewards on many levels. Woven into the violent and suspenseful story are a host of compelling issues: gender identity, the paranormal, leadership, guilt, etc. In one sense, the play is all about reading and misreading (i.e. with regard to Macbeth's "reading" of the witches' prophecies), so at this level the play has a rich metatextual aspect.
Macbeth is one of Shakespeare's most unforgettable tragic characters. His story is told using some of English literature's richest and most stunning language.
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on March 31, 2003
A dark and grim tale of murder and deceit, Macbeth emerges as perhaps Shakespeare's bloodiest and most demonstrably macabre of his tragedies. Is Macbeth motivated by unadulterated avarice, ambition, by the witches, or his wife? An interesting and mystifying conundrum for the ages. Macbeth, unique unlike other Shakespearean tragic figures, murders his victim, the noble and just Duncan, without any provocation, without having been purportedly wronged in any way, shape, or form.
Whereas Hamlet has just provocation in the wickedness of Claudius, Othello suspects Desdemona of infidelity, Brutus, in his reasoning, deems it a necessary evil for the republic to assassinate Caesar due to his ambition, conversely Macbeth murders others who have done him no wrong to speak of. Lady Macbeth, in her infinite guile and cunning, proves to transcend literature - as we all have known ruthless and amoral opportunists such as her. Macbeth, due to its authentic ingenuity, is among my favorite Shakespeare. How can you not enjoy such a sanguine and yet powerful play infused with such morose death and gloom?
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on February 24, 2003
shakespeare's great tragedies are really plays which illustrate the archetypal struggles of men at particular stages of their lives. 'hamlet' is the story of a young man who in his 20's first enters the world and is confronted with the hard facts of life, the presence of evil. it's a stage we all go through, and how we deal with it, what choices and compromises we make, decides whether we move on to the next stage. 'othello' is the story of a middle-aged man in his 40's who has reached the pinnacle of his career but is confronted with troubling questions about his own identity - ie, he has a mid-life crisis. despite his success, othello's inablity to see himself differently from how his society sees him proves to be the one weakness that iago exploits to destroy him. and 'king lear' is the story of a man in his 60's who must learn to let go the reins of power and retire from the world. lear's inability to do this wisely or gracefully proves to be his undoing. in the same way, then, 'macbeth' is also a story of a man at a stage of life. here, it's a man in his 30's who has to decide how far he is willing to go - and how much he is willing to compromise - to climb to the top of his career. macbeth makes the wrong choices and loses all. but it's the same question facing many people in their 30's who, having established a foothold in the world in their 20's, spend the next decade scratching and clawing to see how high they can climb.
so shakespeare's cycle of great tragedies is really about the stages in a man's adult life and the critical struggles that he faces along the way. in overcoming these struggles, each man also faces questions about his own identity and his relation to the world. since these are such fundamental questions we all ask ourselves - who we are, what is our place in the world - it's easy to see why these plays are considered the greatest in world literature. they touch us in the deepest ways possible.
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