The Story’s the Thing: Macbeth
Call me a literature nerd, but I love Shakespeare. Sure, he’s extremely difficult to read at first, but when I actually began to understand his words, I realized how brilliant he truly is. His comedies are hilarious, his tragedies heartbreaking, and all of his plays are clever and fascinating and reveal a lot about the human race.
My favorite, by far, is Macbeth. It tells the story of Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis, who plots to kill the current King of Scotland and take the throne after hearing a prophecy from the three Weird Sisters that foretell his reign. With the help of his ruthless wife, Macbeth is eventually crowned, but his ambition, guilt, and the enemies he’s made along the way cause him many obstacles both before and after his coronation.
Macbeth is particularly fascinating because it brings up a lot of questions about the human conscience and the destruction that can be caused by blind ambition. It also takes an interesting stance on gender roles. Although many of the men are violent, they also show more guilt and remorse than the women do (as shown by the famous line, “Dispute it like a man!” “I shall do so; but I also must feel it as a man”). In contrast, Lady Macbeth is perhaps one of the cruelest villains in all of fictional history, and actually ends up being the person to convince Macbeth to kill King Duncan.
Furthermore, The Weird Sisters are the main source of evil in the play, and, in fact, the catalyst for the entire plot. Would Macbeth still have killed Duncan had he not been given a prophecy stating that he would rule one day? Nobody can know for sure, but I lean towards no.
The parallels in Macbeth and Harry Potter are worth mentioning, too. J.K. Rowling has talked about her love for the play before, specifically when referring to Sybil Trelawny’s first prophecy.
“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives… the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…”
We all know that Voldemort heard only part of the prophecy before setting off to kill Harry the first time. But if he hadn’t heard any of the prophecy, would he have still tried to murder a baby born in late July? The interesting thing to consider about prophecies is that perhaps they are only fulfilled because they are spoken in the first place. It wouldn’t be a surprise to me if J.K. Rowling had based this part of Harry Potter off of Macbeth.
So tell me: What’s your favorite Shakespeare play? And how has it influenced modern fiction? Has it influenced Harry Potter in any way?
P.S. If you’re not interested in puzzling out all of Shakespeare’s language but would still like to understand the story of Macbeth, check out a performance of it! It may be harder to find a live performance- did you know that Macbeth is considered a cursed play? Just another interesting thing to add to the list- but you can probably find one online. My favorite is “Great Performances: Macbeth”.