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Macbeth

Macbeth, set primarily in Scotland, mixes witchcraft, prophecy, and murder. Three "Weïrd Sisters" appear to Macbeth and his comrade Banquo after a battle and prophesy that Macbeth will be king and that the descendants of Banquo will also reign. When Macbeth arrives at his castle, he and Lady Macbeth plot to assassinate King Duncan, soon to be their guest, so that Macbeth can become king.

After Macbeth murders Duncan, the king's two sons flee, and Macbeth is crowned. Fearing that Banquo's descendants will, according to the  Weïrd Sisters’predictions, take over the kingdom, Macbeth has Banquo killed. At a royal banquet that evening, Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost appear covered in blood. Macbeth determines to consult the Weïrd Sisters again. They comfort him with ambiguous promises.

Another nobleman, Macduff, rides to England to join Duncan's older son, Malcolm. Macbeth has Macduff's wife and children murdered. Malcolm and Macduff lead an army against Macbeth, as Lady Macbeth goes mad and commits suicide.

Macbeth confronts Malcolm’s army, trusting in the Weïrd Sisters’ comforting promises. He learns that the promises are tricks, but continues to fight. Macduff kills Macbeth and Malcolm becomes Scotland's king.

Early printed texts

Macbeth was published for the first time in the 1623 First Folio (F1) and that text is the basis for all modern editions of the play.

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opening of Macbeth in F1
Item Title: 
Works. 1623] Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies : published according to the true originall copies.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22273 Fo.1 no.68
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1623

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beginning of Macbeth in F2
Item Title: 
Mr. VVilliam Shakespeares comedies, histories, and tragedies. : Published according to the true originall copies.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22274 Fo.2 no.07
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1632

Picturing Macbeth

As part of an NEH-funded project, the Folger digitized thousands of 18th-, 19th-, and early 20th-century images representing Shakespeare’s plays. Some of these images show actors in character, while others show the plays as if they were real-life events—telling the difference isn't always easy. A selection of images related to Macbeth is shown below, with links to our digital image collection.

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Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth (late 19th century)

Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth (late 19th century)

Item Title: 
Miss Ellen Terry as "Lady Macbeth" [graphic] / Window & Grove.
Item Call Number: 
ART File T329 no.19 PHOTO
Item Creator: 
Window & Grove, photographer.
Item Date: 
[London : s.n., not before 1888]

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Sarah Bernhardt as Lady Macbeth (late 19th century)

Sarah Bernhardt as Lady Macbeth (late 19th century)

Item Title: 
Bernhardt as Lady Macbeth [graphic] / P. Nadar.
Item Call Number: 
ART File B527 no.5 PHOTO (size XS)
Item Creator: 
Nadar, Paul, 1856-1939, photographer.
Item Date: 
Paris : [s.n., late 19th century?]

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Orson Welles and Jeannette Nolan as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (1948)

Orson Welles and Jeannette Nolan as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (1948)

Item Title: 
Orson Welles as Macbeth in Macbeth
Item Call Number: 
Ball Collection 1671-122
Item Date: 
1948

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Henry Irving as Macbeth (19th century)

Henry Irving as Macbeth (19th century)

Item Title: 
Henry Irving as Macbeth [in Shakespeare's Macbeth] [graphic] / J. Speed.
Item Call Number: 
ART File I72 no.21
Item Date: 
[S.l. : s.n., s.d.]

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Charles Macready as Macbeth (mid 19th century)

Charles Macready as Macbeth (mid 19th century)

Item Title: 
Mr. Macready as Macbeth [in Shakespeare's Macbeth.] [graphic].
Item Call Number: 
ART File M174.4 no.22 copy 1
Item Date: 
London, England : Published by M. & B. Skelt, [between 1840 and 1850]

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Edwin Booth as Macbeth (1860)

Edwin Booth as Macbeth (1860)

Item Title: 
[Edwin Booth as] Macbeth [graphic].
Item Call Number: 
ART File B725.4 no.34 PHOTO (size XS)
Item Date: 
[United States? : s.n., 1860?]

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G.J. Bennett, Drinkwater Meadows, W.H. Payne as the witches (1838)

G.J. Bennett, Drinkwater Meadows, W.H. Payne as the witches (1838)

Item Title: 
G.J. Bennett, Drinkwater Meadows, W.H. Payne [as the three witches in Shakespeare's] Macbeth ... "A drum! A drum! Macbeth doth come!" [graphic] / [Richard James Lane].
Item Call Number: 
ART File B471 no.6 (size XS)
Item Date: 
London, Eng. : J. Mitchell, 1838.

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Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost (Act 3, scene 4; mid to late 19th century)

Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost (Act 3, scene 4; mid to late 19th century)

Item Title: 
[Macbeth, act III, scene 4] [graphic] / M. Adamo, del. ; Tob. Bauer, sc.
Item Call Number: 
ART File S528m1 no.106 (size M)
Item Creator: 
Bauer, Tobias, 19th cent., printmaker.
Item Date: 
[S.l. : s.n., mid to late 19th century?]

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Henry Fuseli's painting of Macbeth with the witches (Act 4, scene 1; 1793)

Henry Fuseli's painting of Macbeth with the witches (Act 4, scene 1; 1793)

Item Title: 
Henry Fuseli. Macbeth consulting the vision of the armed head. Oil on canvas with original inscribed frame, 1793
Item Call Number: 
FPa27, with frame
Item Creator: 
Fuseli, Henry, 1741-1825.
Item Date: 
1793

More images of Macbeth can be seen in our digital image collection. (Because of how they were cataloged, some images from other plays might appear in the image searches linked here, so always check the sidebar to see if the image is described as part of a larger group.)