Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a tale of power, loyalty, and ambition. Set in Scotland in the Middle Ages, Macbeth demonstrates what people will do when tempted by fame and fortune. Acting out of self-interest seems to be human nature, which is exactly what Macbeth does throughout the play.
The story begins with King Duncan of Scotland and Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, returning from a battle. Duncan praises Macbeth for his bravery and names him Thane of Cawdor. Shortly after the meeting between Duncan and Macbeth, three witches appear and hail Macbeth as “Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor, and King hereafter.” At first, Macbeth dismisses the witches. However, he realizes they’ve established a timeline of his titles, ending with king. He then sets his sights on becoming king.
Lady Macbeth, who is even more ambitious than Macbeth, learns about the prophecy and encourages her husband to take the throne by force, even though Macbeth has pledged his loyalty to Duncan. It’s interesting to see Macbeth’s inner battle when he’s forced to choose between loyalty and his own self-interest. One of the most memorable soliloquies in the play occurs when Macbeth is deciding whether or not to kill Duncan. He says, “I have no spur / To prick the sides of my intent, but only / Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself, / And falls on the other.” In the end, Macbeth’s ambition and self-interest get the best of him. Together, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plot Duncan’s murder. What ensues is a tumultuous story of greed, power, and guilt. Ultimately, Macbeth’s hunger for power leads to his inevitable downfall.
As with any Shakespearean tragedy, there are many deaths. In this case, Macbeth is personally responsible for many of these deaths, including some of his friends. He wants to become king so badly that he won’t let anyone stand in his way. Macbeth fights to the end for a title that was never supposed to be his in the first place, demonstrating the powerful effects of self-interest and power hunger.
Macbeth has everything you could possibly want—betrayals, war, witches, murder, and drama. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of Shakespeare, there’s definitely something about this classic tale that you’ll enjoy.