"Double, double toil and trouble" (Macbeth, 4.1.10) Explore blog posts, podcast episodes, and items from the Folger collection that shed light on the characters, plot, themes, and history of Macbeth, Shakespeare's supernatural tragedy.
Jump directly to these Macbeth resources:
- Plot synopsis
- Understanding and interpreting Macbeth
- Macbeth in performance
- Famous quotes
- Early printed texts, images, and resources for teachers
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.
Understanding and interpreting Macbeth
Toil and trouble: Recipes and the witches in Macbeth
Explore associations between the witches in Macbeth and early modern recipe culture.
Video: Why are the witches called the Weird Sisters?
Barbara Mowat, co-editor of the Folger edition of Macbeth, explains the nuances behind this word choice.
Macbeth in performance
Video: Folger Theatre’s Macbeth
Watch the full 2008 Folger Theatre production along with special features that include interviews with the directors, cast, and creative team. (streaming for free through July 1, 2020)
How to counteract the curse of Macbeth (er, The Scottish Play)
In this blog post, three actors share their perspectives on the superstition around saying “Macbeth” in a theater
Orson Welles and Shakespeare
Part of this podcast episode explores a famous production Welles directed during the Great Depression, known as the "Voodoo" Macbeth.
Fair is foul, and foul is fair… (Witches—1.1.12)
So foul and fair a day I have not seen. (Macbeth—1.3.39)
Come you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here... (Lady Macbeth—1.5.47–48)
Yet I do fear thy nature;
It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness… (Lady Macbeth—1.5.47–48)
The be-all and the end-all here. (Macbeth—1.7.5)
Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? (Macbeth—2.1.44–45)
It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood. (Macbeth—3.4.151)
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble. (Witches—4.1.10–11)
At one fell swoop? (Macduff—4.3.258)
Out, damned spot, out, I say! (Lady Macbeth—5.1.37)
What’s done cannot be undone. (Lady Macbeth—5.1.7)
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.
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.
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.)
Inside the Collection
Teacher & student resources
Created by teachers and curated by the Folger, these teaching modules can help you with Macbeth in the classroom: