Macbeth is by far my favorite play by Shakespeare, with Titus Andronicus, Hamlet, and Romeo & Juliette coming in second, third, and fourth. Part of why I like it is because of my interest in witchcraft of the middle ages. It is this period in European history in which witchcraft became associated with heresy, as opposed to High Magic or Sorcery, which have been practiced in practically all cultures, but not necessarily associated with heresy to the current popular religion.
I really like the witch's dialogue throughout the play, and I have yet to see anything written that is comparable. There is no doubt that Shakespeare's weird sisters have done more to codify the current and popular iconography of witches and their craft, than any other source to date.
I have often wondered if Shakespeare's audiences would have been scared to see this performance, just as horror movies scare us today, especially in lieu of the fact that witchcraft was considered a very real threat to human society and the church during that time, and for the next 200+ years on.
I could go on and on about this play, as I have read it several times, listened to it on CD more times than I can remember, and seen every film adaptation I could get my hands on. And yet, I still feel that I do not understand it completely.
However, I'll leave you with some additional info:
From a historical perspective, it was either Duncan (who Macbeth murdered), or Banquo (whose offspring were guaranteed the throne), who was an actual ancestor of King James I, for whom the play was written. It was historical fiction, in a way. Also, King James was obsessed with witchcraft, killed many women because of it, wrote a book on demonology
, and kept all kinds of protections around him against it; even painting his bedroom red to protect himself, since red symbolized the blood of you-know-who (that Jesus fella.)
If you read it, note the recurring themes of unnaturalness throughout the play. From women with beards singing "Fair is foul, and foul is fair", to horses killing and eating one another, and even to "killing a king", which was considered a crime against nature and God, since kings ruled by Divine Right. One line reads, "Tis unnatural, / Even like the deed that's done", which is spoke after the murder of King Duncan. To murder a king thus, is to upset the natural order of things, and this theme is prevalent throughout the play. Also, Shakespeare was pandering to King James I, who was terribly afraid of being assassinated.
Make a note of how many animals are listed throughout the play: dogs, horses, sparrows, tigers, eagles, sharks, sows, snakes, frogs, newts, lizards, baboons, etc. One cannot help but think Shakespeare must have just read an encyclopedia of the animal kingdom, and wanted to use it in his play somehow. I'm not kidding, like every possible animal is listed in this play, and not just by the witches. Also take note of the patterns of three that exist througout the play. One example: Thrice to thine, and thrice to mine, And thrice again, to make up nine.
Here is a little more trivia: The "French hose" spoken of by the porter is a pair of trousers, which were coming into fashion in France (as opposed to those enormous bubble-butt pants worn during that time), and the "tongue of dog" used by the witches is an herb, not an actual dog's tongue. It was called a dog's tongue because that is what the leaves resembled. I don't know what the plant is called today.
Lastly, if you want to see a film adaptation of Macbeth, there are only two worth seeing. The 1948 version
with Orson Wells, and the 1971 version
directed by Roman Polanski, which is the more accurate/true to Shakespeare version of the two listed here.