Macbeth is up, yo.
A’ight, what’s a thane?
Glad you asked. The beginning can get really confusing if you don’t know. Take notes; I’m about to get medieval on you. Middle Ages are all about land ownership. King owns all the land, gives land grants to his vassals. In Scotland, the vassal closest to the King is called a Thane.
So imagine that the US is Scotland, CT is an area called Glamis, and Cawdor is NY.
- Duncan granted Glamis to Macbeth’s father, so when Macbeth’s father (Sinel) died, Macbeth inherited the land and the title.
- The Thane of Cawdor got the King of Norway to help him to try to overthrown Duncan, but his rebellion failed.
- After he executed the Thane of Cawdor, Duncan gave his land and title to Macbeth because Macbeth was so badass in the war.
- Now Macbeth has control over Glamis AND Cawdor, so he has just taken a huge leap forward in terms of power.
Or, in other words, Macbeth is now governor of both Connecticut and New York.
Ok, what’s up with the witches?
They’re pretty weird, aren’t they? And in more ways than one. To us, weird means unusual. But the word WYRD is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning Fate. And the big question that Shakespeare explores in the play is… (drum roll)
Do we have control over our actions, or are we powerless to avoid the fate that has been planned for us?
So the witches do two important things in Act 1. In 1.1, they establish the overarching idea that fair is foul and foul is fair – that right is wrong and wrong is right, that good is evil and evil is good. They turn the world upside down. Then, in 1.3, they greet Macbeth with prophecies, telling him (as far as he knows) that he will be king. And so the seed is sown for a play that is about what happens when a person decides to sacrifice everything that mattered to him so he can have more power.
All right, that’s pretty much all I have for now. If I think of anything else later, I’ll hit you up.