Macbeth – A tale of ruthless ambition

Macbeth is the second Shakespeare play that I read. Before I tried, I didn’t think I’d be able to understand, let alone enjoy Shakespeare. Last year I visited Shakespeare’s Globe during a weekend trip to London. I found these cute little books from the Macmillan Collector’s Library that didn’t seem too daunting, so I decided to try one. Some of the words look a bit different, but often reading out loud will make it easier to understand.

The books in this series start with an extensive introduction, which explains the outline of the story. There’s also an overview of the names and roles of the most important characters in the play. With names like Macbeth, Macduff, and Malcolm this is helpful.

Macbeth is a story about how ambition and greed can make ordinary people become violent and ruthless. It’s called the Scottish play, as most of it is set in Scotland and focuses on the fight for the Scottish crown.
Macbeth is a general in King Duncan’s army. When three witches tell him that he will one day be king Macbeth’s ambition gets the best of him. He decides not to wait for “one day” and takes matters into his own hand. At first, Macbeth is hesitant about killing, but Lady Macbeth is ruthless and even asks the spirits to fill her with cruelty.
After having killed the roles are reversed. Macbeth develops a taste for it while his wife is being consumed by guilt and slowly loses her mind.

There is a lot of violence and death in the book, but the most heartbreaking part is when one of the noblemen has to deliver the news of the death of Macduff’s wife and children to him in England.
“Let not your ears despise my tongue for ever,
Which shall possess them with the heaviest sound
That ever yet they heard”

Needless to say that the writing is beautiful. It’s easy to be so focused on the story that you forget to pay attention to the beautiful sentences. There are several parts of the book that I read multiple times because I wanted to focus on the beauty of the prose rather than just read and understand the story. I know that I’m a couple of centuries late to this party, but I feel it’s worth noting as there might be more non-native English speakers who shun away from Shakespeare, thinking it will be too difficult to read. It’s doable and worth the effort!

By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes

3 thoughts on “Macbeth – A tale of ruthless ambition

  1. nickc324

    I read this long ago and now I want to read it again. Thanks for posting about this. It has some famous scenes “Out, out damn spot”or something like that, and is definitely worth the effort.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Mirjam van Olst Post author

      Yes, you are right! Wow, you have a good memory.
      That’s Lady Macbeth, who feels she can’t get the stains of the blood from the killing out πŸ™‚

      Did you read everything from Shakespeare? And do you think most native English speakers will have read (some) Shakespeare? I’m genuinely curious.

      The next Shakespeare book will be harder to post about because I won’t be able to use the angle of “I was surprised I was able to read Shakespeare”. But I guess I can worry about that when I get there..

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. nickc324

        I have only read a few Shakespeare plays, but I liked them all. I mostly read them in school. I think most native English speakers have at least read a little Shakespeare, but I am not sure. I will look forward to seeing your next Shakespeare review!

        Liked by 1 person

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