The Bagpiper

A Newsletter for Erwin & Related Families

Volume 5, Issue 3                      Sub Sole Sub Umbra Virens                   September 2006

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The Tragedy of Macbeth is among the most popular of William Shakespeare's plays, as well as his shortest tragedy. It is frequently performed at professional and community theatres around the world. The play is seen as an archetypal tale of the dangers of the lust for power and betrayal of friends. It is loosely based upon the historical account of King Macbeth of Scotland by the Scottish philosopher Hector Boece. Boece's account flattered the antecedents of his patron, King James VI of Scotland (also known as King James I of England), and greatly maligned the real-life Macbeth, the King of Scots. Macbeth incorporates the characteristic features of a morality play. Scholars think it is an archetypal Jacobean play with plenty of endorsements of James I's reign and place its composition around 1606. There is considerable evidence that the text of the play incorporates later revisions by Thomas Middleton, who inserted popular passages from his own play The Witch (1615), most notably an extra scene involving the witches and Hecate, because these scenes proved highly popular with audiences. These revisions, which include all of Act III, Scene v, and a portion of Act IV, Scene 1, are generally indicated as such in modern texts. Actors and other theatre people often consider the play to be 'unlucky', and usually refer to it superstitiously as The Scottish Play rather than by name. The characters are sometimes referred to as Mackers and Lady Mackers. To say the name of the play inside a theatre is believed to doom the production to failure, and perhaps cause physical injury or worse to cast members.