Macbeth Reading Notes-ACT 1

Mainly because BlogSpot is a thing of horror and a pain to work with, I will be posting my “Active Reading Notes” from Macbeth here. And a quick disclaimer before I begin. I loathe Reading Notes. I read too quickly to slow down and write what I think of the chapter in terms of exposition, theme, syntax, etc.. Mostly because when I read I feel. Which is hard to transcend into words that I have to turn in for credit. So if you feel any  disdain while reading my post, I am doing my best to keep my own personal frustration of taking notes out of my notes. Capiche?

Macbeth ACT 1:


Even before I open a text, I love pondering about the author. Sometimes I temporarily stalk them on social media, I become an expert on their Wikipedia Article, or in Shakespeare’s case (because he is dead and most of what we think we know of him is most likely conjecture) I read the essays. For example in my Barnes and Noble Shakespeare copy of “Macbeth” there are exactly 42 pages of text outlining everything from William Shakespeare’s history to a brief introduction into Victorian English (think King James Bible). The first essay and in my opinion the most important is an “Introduction to Macbeth” by Jesse M. Lander. He goes straight into it and begins to explain Macbeth’s morally compromised values that make him a tragic (villain) hero, the only of Shakespeare’s Tragedies. And if you are reading “Macbeth” or even Shakespeare for the first time, I implore you to put down the computer/laptop/tablet/cellphone and grab your copy and read some introductions. It will give you a whole new insight into the complexities of “Macbeth”. And while you are there just for fun look at this and why “Macbeth” is often called the “Scottish Play“.

ACT 1 (Characters):

The Witches: Absolutely not to be trusted. Yes they tell the truth but something tells me that there is more to them than meets the eye. Although they do provide an excellent foil in which to view Macbeth and his character. Did I mention they are also great at foreshadowing? In the original text I believe they are referred to as the Weird Sisters.

Duncan: The current King of Scotland and has two sons who will inherit the throne, Malcolm and Donalbain. Remember the sons they will become of the utmost importance as the play progresses.

Macbeth: The “hero” of our play. At the beginning simply a noble and brave warrior Thane of Glamis, then Thane of Cawdor, and “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well It were done quickly.” the future King of Scotland. Although notice here Macbeth’s inability to call the deed for what it is, murder. He is more complex than we initially see or at least are led on. But subtle clues in his characterization show the true flaws and foils in which to view his character. Remember he is also easily influenced by…

Lady Macbeth: “Sailor’s wife with chestnuts in her lap.” I’ll let you interpret that as you may, but do not underestimate Lady Macbeth. She is incredibly cunning and will do what she can to obtain her ends, which in this case is have her husband become King of Scotland, and effectively herself be the Queen. And when you think about it, it is really Lady Macbeth which accounts for Duncan’s murder.

Banquo: I am really hesitant to write anything on Banquo and his character, because frankly the first time I read and worked through “Macbeth” I sort of left him out of the action and deemed him insignificant. So I’ll let you make your own decisions and guesses as to his character.

I will typically include quotes and their significance at the end of the Notes, but this time I want to do a series of quotes throughout the play at key moments so we can see how foreshadowing works in a play through Shakespeare’s word choice and diction.



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