The argument about which of Shakespeare’s plays is the best will rage forever, though many agree that his tragedies rank amongst them, and perhaps Macbeth is one of the finest of this subset.
Set in a dark period of Scottish history when the clans were as likely to fight amongst themselves as rally against the English, Macbeth is the story of a General whose wife thinks he should be king. With the help of the prophecy of some witches she persuades him to murder his way to the throne in an orgy of ruthless usurpation. The nature of the job and the way he goes about getting it condemns him to a never-ending cycle of death, as violence begets violence and trails of blood are left in his wake.
As with Classical Comics’ version of Henry V, Macbeth comes in three versions – Original Text, Plain Text and Quick Text. We looked at the Plain Text version and it’s a great balancing act, leaving the play accessible to read while keeping the linguistic nuances that makes Shakespeare’s work so special.
The art is a step up from Henry V, perhaps helped by the fact that the play occurs on a smaller scale and much of the bloodshed happens off stage. Haward’s Macbeth has murder on his mind though, with beads of sweat and a crazy glint in his eye doing little to hide the inner turmoil of his deeply disloyal and horribly murderous actions.
The play is well covered in the Plain Text version – students could use it as an accessible route into the play if the original text is too hard going, as it’s surely better to modernise it a bit than grind to a halt in the mire of Elizabethan language. For those of us who are thankfully past the days where reading Shakespeare was a necessary chore, it provides us with an easier path into a classic thriller. Many of the key elements of the text, like the recurring themes of blood and the unnatural, leap out with the improved clarity of the language. Other important parts, like the fact that the witches speak in rhyme, have been kept in to ensure that the spirit of the play remains intact.
Whether you’re having to study the play or are just looking for a more accessible route into a famously gripping story, Classical Comics has done it again with this superb, sympathetic adaptation.