What is Macbeth

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Macbeth is one of the most famous plays by one of the world’s most legendary authors, William Shakespeare.  William Shakespeare, who wrote in the late 16th century and early 17th century, revolutionized the theater by writing linguistically intricate plays that dealt seriously with human emotion across a wide range of characters. Macbeth is no exception!  

Macbeth is a Shakespearean tragedy. The strict definition of a tragedy is a serious literary work that portrays the downfall of a heroic, albeit flawed, individual. Tragedies often end in the death of their protagonists; in this case, Macbeth’s attempts are foiled by MacDuff. Though Shakespeare fans quibble about  his best works, Macbeth is widely seen as an exemplar of the tragic form, alongside Hamlet, Othello, and Romeo and Juliet.

In a nutshell, Macbeth portrays a man whose desperate ambition leads him to his downfall. After three witches prophesy that Macbeth will rise in power until he becomes king, Macbeth, goaded by his cruel and avaricious wife, first murders King Duncan. His guilt and paranoia cause him leave a bloody legacy during his short kingship,  including his former ally and friend, Banquo, as well as the innocent wife and children of MacDuff, another Scottish thane. Ultimately, Macbeth is foiled by his misreading of the witches’ further prophecies. He believes himself to be invincible but dies at the hands of MacDuff. Through Macbeth's death, law and order are restored to Scotland.

Though I’ve given you a synopsis, the question “What is Macbeth?” can definitely lead you into deeper analysis. I’ve given you a link to the Folger Shakespeare library’s commentary on Macbeth, which will give you many more details about this fascinating literary masterpiece.




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