The Tragedy of Macbeth is one of William Shakespeare's best-known works. The shortest (and one of the bloodiest) of Shakespeare's tragedies, the story begins with victory and honors for the brave Scottish general, Macbeth. The play follows his descent from noble soldier to nefarious traitor.
As the play begins, Macbeth receives a prophecy from three witches that one day he will become king. This prediction inevitably consumes him with ambition and greed. He is further led down his treacherous path by his wife, Lady Macbeth, who urges him to murder King Duncan and seize the throne without hesitation. Having done so, and ascended to the throne, Macbeth is consumed by guilt and fear. He becomes tyrannical, paranoid, and suspicious. He resorts to killing others to secure his place, and, as the bloodbath continues, this drives both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to arrogance, madness, and their eventual deaths.
Macbeth’s good friend, Banquo also was also given a prophecy by the witches. They said that, although Banquo would never be a king, he would produce a line of kings. Banquo accepted this fate with patience while Macbeth took action against Banquo and his son, Fleance.
Macbeth is not Shakespeare’s most complex play, but it is one of his most thrilling and emotionally intense. Shakespeare’s other major tragedies explore the intellectual dilemmas faced by the characters, while Macbeth meteorically rises and plummets from beginning to end.