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Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires.
~ Macbeth
Is this a dagger which I see before me?
~ Macbeth's most famous quote.

Macbeth is the main protagonist villain of William Shakespeare's famous tragedy of the same name. He was formerly a brave warrior, before becoming corrupted with ambition after hearing three witches' prophecies which state that he will become Thane of Cawdor and then King of Scotland. He becomes so obsessed with becoming King that he loses his sanity and becomes a tyrant.

History

Macbeth was the general of King Duncan, as well as the Thane of the region Glamis. One day, when the treacherous Macdonwald betrayed the kingdom in an attempt to seize the throne, Macbeth single handedly slaughtered Macdonwald's army and eventually Macdonwald himself, and subsequently helped defeat the army of Sweden when they tried to take advantage of the chaos. These actions earned Macbeth great admiration and gratitude from Duncan, who decided to declare him as the new Thane of Cawdor (as the old one was to be executed for his treachery) as a reward.

Meanwhile, Macbeth and his friend Banquo, still on the battlefield, come across the three Wyrd Sisters. The Sisters praise Macbeth as the current Thane of Glamis, the new Thane of Cawdor, and the future King of Scotland (while also stating Banquo's family shall rule Scotland after Macbeth), something that confuses the latter, as he knows he is only the Thane of Glamis. The Sisters then vanish and both Ross and Lennox arrive to tell Macbeth of his ascension to the Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth, now knowing the second part of the Sisters' prophecy was true, wonders if this means he will become King of Scotland, but Banquo advises him not to listen to this, as the Sisters may be trying to lead him down a dark path with promises of power and a better life.

Film portrayals

Macbeth has been portrayed by several notable actors in the many film adaptations of Shakespeare's play. They include:

  • Orson Welles - who also portrayed Harry Lime in The Third Man and Le Chiffre in the 1967 film adaptation of Casino Royale - in the 1948 film adaptation
  • Michael Fassbender - who also portrayed Magneto in the X-Men prequel films, David 8 in Alien: Covenant, and Edwin Epps in 12 Years a Slave - in the 2015 adaptation
  • Patrick Stewart - who portrayed Rafe Bentley in Masterminds - in the 2010 BBC adaptation
  • Ian McKellan - who portrayed Magneto in the original X-Men films and Kurt Dussander in Apt Pupil - in the 1979 TV movie adaptation

Trivia

  • Macbeth has become such an iconic villain that he has inspired several other villains:
    • Saruman was inspired by Macbeth. Tolkien hated the original end of Macbeth, with the forest turning out to be a human army. He said he would do the story right and make living trees attack the king. One of the inspirations of Lord of the Rings is Macbeth.
    • Megatron may have been inspired by Macbeth, given that in the live action films he ruled Cybertron, but betrayed his post.
  • Macbeth is considered such an ill-reputed name that no one will ever speak his name aloud in a theater. Reasons for this are that when King James witnessed the play he was disgusted, and Shakespeare sank into a depression and regretted writing the play. This, coupled with the rumors Shakespeare angered real witches who cursed the play, gives the play the reputation of being cursed. It was highly controversial at the time because of its graphic depictions of regicide.
    • To this end, Lord Voldemort may also have been inspired by Macbeth, given that no one in modern times will speak his name aloud.
  • In reality, the real Macbeth was actually a good king. Shakespeare had a knack of twisting events to his own narration (much as what happens in cinema now).