The Tragedy of Macbeth (commonly called Macbeth) is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607. The earliest account of a performance of what was probably Shakespeare’s play is April 1611, when Simon Forman recorded seeing such a play at theGlobe Theatre. It was first published in the Folio of 1623, possibly from a prompt book for a specific performance.
Shakespeare’s sources for the tragedy are the accounts of King Macbeth of Scotland, Macduff, and Duncan in Holinshed’s Chronicles (1587), a history of England, Scotland and Ireland familiar to Shakespeare and his contemporaries. However, the story of Macbeth as told by Shakespeare bears no relation to real events in Scottish history as Macbeth was an admired and able monarch.
In the backstage world of theatre, some believe that the play is cursed, and will not mention its title aloud, referring to it instead by such names as “the Scottish play”. Over the centuries, the play has attracted some of the greatest actors in the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. It has been adapted to film, television, opera, novels, comic books, and other media.
The first act of the play opens amidst thunder and lightning with the Three Witches deciding that their next meeting shall be with Macbeth. In the following scene, a wounded sergeant reports to King Duncan of Scotland that his generals – Macbeth, who is the Thane of Glamis, and Banquo – have just defeated the allied forces of Norway and Ireland, who were led by the traitor Macdonwald. Macbeth, the King’s kinsman, is praised for his bravery and fighting prowess.
The scene changes. Macbeth and Banquo enter, discussing the weather and their victory (“So foul and fair a day I have not seen”). As they wander onto a heath, the Three Witches enter, who have waited to greet them with prophecies. Read the rest of this entry