Macbeth Background Information

William Shakespeare -The most influential writer in all of English literature -born in 1564 to a successful middle-class glove-maker in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. -Shakespeare attended grammar school, but his formal education proceeded no further. -In 1582 he married an older woman, Anne Hathaway, and had three children with her. -Around 1590 he left his family behind and traveled to London to work as an actor and playwright. -Shakespeare eventually became the most popular playwright in England and part-owner of the Globe Theater. -His career bridged the reigns of Elizabeth I (ruled 1558-1603) and James I (ruled 1603-1625), and he was a favorite of both monarchs. -Shakespeare retired to Stratford and died in 1616 at the age of fifty-two.
Influences on Macbeth -Written for Jame I, England’s new king-To please James I, Shakespeare sets the play in Scotland (James I was the king of Scotland before becoming England’s king), he uses witches (James I wrote about witches), and includes many of James I ancestors as characters in the play-Shortest tragedy because King James used to fall asleep during long performances-Shakespeare’s source for writing Macbeth was a book titled “The History and Chronicles of Scotland”
Background on Macbeth -Two wars going on when play begins-Civil War: King Duncan vs. Macdonwald’s rebels-National War: Scotland, led by King Duncan, against invading Norway, led by King Sweno
Setting -Scotland
Characters Macbeth: Scottish general and the thane of Glamis who is led to wicked thoughts by the prophecies of the three witchesLady Macbeth – Macbeth’s wife, a deeply ambitious woman who lusts for power and position.The Three Witches – Three “black and midnight hags” who plot mischief against Macbeth using charms, spells, and prophecies. Banquo – The brave, noble general whose children, according to the witches’ prophecy, will inherit the Scottish throne. Like Macbeth, Banquo thinks ambitious thoughts, but he does not translate those thoughts into action.King Duncan – The good King of Scotland whom Macbeth, in his ambition for the crown, murders. Duncan is the model of a virtuous, benevolent, and farsighted ruler.Macduff – A Scottish nobleman hostile to Macbeth’s kingship from the start. He eventually becomes a leader of the crusade to unseat Macbeth.Malcolm – The son of Duncan, whose restoration to the throne signals Scotland’s return to order following Macbeth’s reign of terror. Hecate – The goddess of witchcraft, who helps the three witches work their mischief on Macbeth.Fleance – Banquo’s son, who survives Macbeth’s attempt to murder him.Lennox – A Scottish nobleman.Ross – A Scottish nobleman.The Murderers – A group of ruffians conscripted by Macbeth to murder Banquo, Fleance (whom they fail to kill), and Macduff’s wife and children.Porter – The drunken doorman of Macbeth’s castle.Lady Macduff – Macduff’s wife. Donalbain – Duncan’s son and Malcolm’s younger brother.
Themes -the corruption of power-blind ambition-fate-nature and the unnatural
Motifs -“three”-contradictory statements (opposites)-hallucinations-violence-prophecy
Symbols -blood-the weather

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