Previous: Schools & Social Inequality: Crash Course Sociology #41
Next: What is Statistics: Crash Course Statistics #1



View count:385
Last sync:2018-01-23 21:40
The Sound! The Fury! Today, we're talking about Shakespeare's Scottish play, Macbeth. So, was Macbeth really predestined to do all the murdering and bad kinging and other terrible stuff? That's the big question in Macbeth, and it's one of the ideas we're going to talk about today, among many. Also, Yoda joins us for the open letter.

Crash Course is on Patreon! You can support us directly by signing up at

Thanks to the following Patrons for their generous monthly contributions that help keep Crash Course free for everyone forever:

Mark Brouwer, Nickie Miskell Jr., Jessica Wode, Eric Prestemon, Kathrin Benoit, Tom Trval, Jason Saslow, Nathan Taylor, Divonne Holmes à Court, Brian Thomas Gossett, Khaled El Shalakany, Indika Siriwardena, Robert Kunz, SR Foxley, Sam Ferguson, Yasenia Cruz, Daniel Baulig, Eric Koslow, Caleb Weeks, Tim Curwick, Evren Türkmenoğlu, Alexander Tamas, Justin Zingsheim, D.A. Noe, Shawn Arnold, mark austin, Ruth Perez, Malcolm Callis, Ken Penttinen, Advait Shinde, Cody Carpenter, Annamaria Herrera, William McGraw, Bader AlGhamdi, Vaso, Melissa Briski, Joey Quek, Andrei Krishkevich, Rachel Bright, Alex S, Mayumi Maeda, Kathy & Tim Philip, Montather, Jirat, Eric Kitchen, Moritz Schmidt, Ian Dundore, Chris Peters, Sandra Aft, Steve Marshall

Want to find Crash Course elsewhere on the internet?
Facebook -
Twitter -
Tumblr -
Support Crash Course on Patreon:

CC Kids:

 (00:00) to (02:00)

Hi, I'm John Green, this is CrashCourse Literature and today we're discussing Macbeth. Now some poeple call it "the Scottish Play" or "the Bard's Play" because allegedly back in the 17th century a coven of witches cursed the play to punish Shakespeare for including their spells. But that's just not credible so I'm going to call it by its real name while acknowledging that there have been maybe a lot of riots and deaths and accidents associated with Macbeth in performance. But this is a YoutTube ch-(crash)-you know what? Maybe we should call it "The Scottish Play."

For the record, I did my own stunts in that bit. Anyway today we're going to discuss the historical background for the play, the political and religious context in which it was written, the play as a likely collaboration, and Macbeth's famous dilemma. All right, time to find out just what all that sound and fury signifies.

(intro plays)

Let's just go straight to the Thoughtbubble today.

So as the play begins, the Scottish generals Macbeth and Banquo have defeated the invading armies of Ireland and Norway. Great work, Scotland!

They then meet three witches who tell Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis, that he's going to become the Thane of Cawdor and then king. They tell Banquo that while he won't become king, his sons will. Macbeth calls these witches "imperfect speakers" and says that all this talk "stands not within the prospect of belief," but then Macbeth almost immediately does become the Thane of Cawdor, so he writes to his wife and she's like, "We're going to be royalty!" There's just the small matter of killing the king.

The king, Duncan, comes to stay at Macbeth's castle, and the Macbeths plan his murder. They do kill the king, but the second half of the plan, killing Duncan's sons, goes Shakespeareanly awry.

So Macbeth has to worry about those sons; he also has to worry about Banquo's son, so he hires some murderers. Banquo is killed but his son escapes.

Macbeth starts hallucinating at dinner parties so he goes to visit the witches and they tell him: stay away from Macduff - another Thane - no man born of woman can hurt you, and you'll be fine as long as Birnam Wood, the forest outside Macbeth's castle, stays put.

 (02:00) to (04:00)

And Macbeth's like, "Trees can't travel so I got this."

Still, he becomes more crueler and more paranoid, executing Macduff's family and trying to quash a growing resistance. Lady Macbeth, haunted by her part in the king's murder, can't get an invisible spot of blood out of her dress, begins to sleepwalk and then dies, a probably suicide.

Macduff, in league with Duncan's son Malcolm, brings an army to fight Macbeth. The army uses branches from Birnam Wood as camouflage. The army uses branches from Birnam Wood as camouflage. Macbeth holds out until he and Macduff meet on the battlefield, and then he says, "no one of woman born can hurt me!" And, Macduff's like, "I was a C-section baby!" And then he lops off Macbeth's head. Thanks Thought Bubble. 

So, Macbeth is a tragedy, but it's also kind of history play. Like King Lear or Cymbeline, it's based on historical sources. Of course, those sources have their own problems, but also Shakespeare takes plenty of liberties; some of them artistic, some of them having more to do with the politics of his day and the preferences of his patron.

Most of what we know of the real Macbeth comes to us from Holinshed's Chronicles, published in 1577 and a source for a lot of Shakespeare. The chronicles tell us that Macbeth and Duncan where kinsmen in medieval Scotland, and that Macbeth was a great general, although maybe too cruel, and Duncan was a very compassionate king, although maybe too nice. The chronicles tell us that he was so nice that the country kind of went to the dogs, because Duncan couldn't enforce the rule of law. Also, after a battle, Macbeth and Banquo meet "three women in strange and wild apparell." So far, so Macbeth.

But,  Shakespeare makes some pretty significant changes. in Holinshed, Banquo helps Macbeth slay the king, and Macbeth actually becomes a pretty good ruler, at least for a while. We read, "he set his whole intention to mainteine justice, and to punish all enormities and abuses, which had chanced through the feeble and slouthfull administration of Duncane." And, Macbeth maintains this justice and punishes the enormities for 10 years, before eventually becoming paranoid and cruel.

 (04:00) to (06:00)

 (06:00) to (08:00)

 (08:00) to (10:00)

 (10:00) to (12:00)

 (12:00) to (12:56)

Website Security Test