Thursday, 7 August 2014

Macbeth: Or, The Scottish Murder

I had been avoiding Macbeth for so long, even though I had known that I would, or rather, must, read it one day. The fame of it alone gives enough reason to read it. My motive is still added by my own personal challenge to real all Shakespeare's plays, and my general dotage when it comes to the Bard.

Macbeth is a tragedy. It follows the classical tragedy pattern, where a person of good nature makes one mistake that changes everything and he ends up miserable or dead. Macbeth has been a good thane and a loyal subject to Duncan the King of Scotland. But his encounter with three witches sisters changes everything. 

Being promised to be a king, he and his wife assassinate the King of Scotland in their own house, accusing the guards, and later the deceased king's sons, for the murder, and take over Scotland. Not just that, Macbeth wants to be secure on the throne. So he takes the witches' prophecy too seriously when they say that Banquo's descendant will be king one day. Even though Banquo is his good friend, Macbeth eventually has him murdered as well, although his son manages to escape. 

After consulting the witches for the second time, Macbeth kills the whole lot of another thane's family - Macduff's. Macduff has suspected Macbeth of regicide and now he flies to England to convince the late king's son, Malcolm, to take the kingdom back. Upon hearing the news about his wife and his children's death, Macduff grieves with vengeance blazing in his heart. 

Meanwhile the queen has gone mad, and Macbeth is more and more dominated by his fears and guilt. Malcolm and his friends, on the other hand, confidently march toward Dunsinane. Before they come, Macbeth learns that his wife has just died. 

Macbeth at first feels secure because the witches have told him that none 'born of woman' would do him harm, and that he will be safe until 'Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane'. Later on, he realizes that he has misinterpreted the prophecies. Malcolm uses the tree branches from Birnam Wood to cover his army's number, and Macduff who was "from his mother's womb/untimely ripped" at last kills Macbeth in the battle.

Never mind the plot. I mean, most people know the plot already. But aside from the plot, there are so many things to analyse in this short concise play. Like HamletMacbeth is a material of never-ending discussion. How much does his own ambition affect his reaction to the witches' prophecy? How big is his wife's influence or even control over him? 

Sir Patrick Stewart as Macbeth
It may seem obvious, and for me to talk about that again, is a bit predictable and boring. But, yeah, the thing that was constantly in my mind while reading the book was the torture that Macbeth received from his heart - his conscience.

The last time I talked about conscience, it was Lucrece, right? The lady's heart condemns her for something out of her control, while Tarquin ignores his conscience's voice. Macbeth's conscience is interesting because it warns him before the deed and condemns him after. He is somewhat sandwiched by his own conscience.

Macbeth runs from his conscience. Instead of looking again at the deed that he has done and asking forgiveness, he acts as if it had never happened at all. He wouldn't look at it, he wouldn't think about it, he wouldn't discuss about it, and the more he runs from his guilt, the more it clutches his mind. His insomnia and encounter with ghosts are very possibly the manifestation of his tempestuous mind. (It's even possible that he has some sort of schizophrenia, considering the dagger scene and all.)

The murder of Banquo, the murder of Macduff's wife and children, his second consultation with the witches, all show that he is no longer the Macbeth that we saw at the beginning of the play. He's entirely a different man, haunted by his guilt and by his fear of retribution.


If there's anyone that I like, it's Malcolm. Although he maybe didn't know that it was Macbeth who had killed his father, he was smart enough to see that something was wrong. Both he and his brother fled abroad, waiting for better opportunity to claim his own.

The discretion in him is also evident when Macduff came to look for him. Instead of unsuspectingly receiving Macduff as a friend, he carefully pulled out Macduff's concerns and motives.


Macbeth has been pleasant, and I think I do like it. It's dark, much darker than Hamlet, maybe because the lack of comic material. But it's so interesting. To be honest, I have read it twice before finishing this review.

Happy reading.


  1. edisi buku yang dipake utk cover postingan ini tuh ada english versi modern gk sih? kayak spark notes gitu loh..atau full original text?

    1. Setau aku sih nggak, Mbak.. Shakespeare kebanyakan yang original. Kalo Sparknotes NFS atau yang lain mereka jatohnya pasti mahal (karena masih baru) dan kurang dapet (namanya juga penyederhanaan). Kebanyakan paling keterangan dan annotation aja, tapi itu pun sifatnya intepretasi, jadi beda edisi bisa beda pengertian.

      Cuma kalo aku sih lebih ke personal interpretation, maksudnya nggak perlu terlalu mikirin apa kata orang, lebih ke menurut aku sendiri gimana. Overly scrutinized sih kalo Shakespeare.