This study guide will help you analyze William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. We give you notes on the play, summaries, background information about the Elizabethan era, and in-depth analysis of popular scenes. We also suggest ways to interpret the play and put it into perspective.

Note: A text version of Macbeth can be found online as well as in various textbooks. While the numbers of acts and scenes are always the same, line numbers may vary depending on the edition. The quotes in this webbook have been taken from The Complete Macbeth. An Annotated Edition of the Shakespeare Play by Donald J. Richardson, 2013.

Presentation of the text

Title: The Tragedy of Macbeth (1623)

Playwright: William Shakespeare

Genre: Drama

Macbeth is considered one of Shakespeare's greatest dramatic works, despite being one of the shortest. It is believed that the play was first performed in 1606 in front of the Danish King Christian IV and the British King James I, who also financially supported Shakespeare's theater troupe. James I was a Scotsman, and Shakespeare is believed to have included a tribute to James I in his play about royal power struggles in Scotland.

The play was first published in 1623 in the so-called First Folio of Shakespeare's complete plays.

More help

You can find more information on how to analyze a Shakespeare play in our topic guide about William Shakespeare. 

Excerpt from the study guide:

General structure of Macbeth

Shakespeare’s Macbeth consists of five acts, in keeping with the structure of most like classical dramas. However, the number of scenes per act in this play vary quite a lot, as does the length of each scene. Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s shortest plays and it is very fast-paced, which can partly be explained by the fact that there is no subplot: there is only the main plot about Macbeth’s desire to be king. This structure is typical of classical tragedies, too.

Macbeth has a two-part structure: the first part is about crime, the second is about consequence. What Macbeth does in the first part of the play returns to haunt him in the second. This may be linked to one of the key elements of the play: the world is turned upside down and “foul” has become “fair” (and vice versa). Life is not black and white, and what may seem desirable like becoming king, may turn out to have catastrophic consequences.

The text shown above is just an extract. Only members can read the full content.

Get access to the full Study Guide.

As a member of PrimeStudyGuides.com, you get access to all of the content.

Sign up now

Already a member? Log in


No user reviews yet - you can be the first to review this study guide.