Macbeth: The Graphic Novel adapted by John McDonald, written by William Shakespeare Macbeth: The Graphic Novel by John McDonald, William Shakespeare
Illustrator: Nigel Dobbyn
Published by Classical Comics on November 5, 2008
Source: On shelves
Genres: Classic, Graphic novel, Play
Pages: 144
Format: Paperback
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Witches, murder, ghosts, and madness — one of Shakespeare’s finest tragedies is also a perfect fit for the graphic novel format. This compelling adaptation depicts every blood-curdling scene in easy-to-follow illustrations, accompanied by Shakespeare’s original text. An illustrated cast of characters reminds readers who’s who, and fascinating background information on Shakespeare and the real Macbeth adds historical context.

Macbeth is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy, and tells the story of a brave Scottish general named Macbeth who receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan and takes the throne for himself. He is then wracked with guilt and paranoia, and he soon becomes a tyrannical ruler as he is forced to commit more and more murders to protect himself from enmity and suspicion. The bloodbath and consequent civil war swiftly take Macbeth and Lady Macbeth into the realms of arrogance, madness, and death.

When I read Light Thickens by Ngaio Marsh earlier this year, it made me want to re-read Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Amber has had this graphic novel for a while and she enjoyed it, so I though it might be an interesting format to read the play. The dialogue is all the original, but the format obviously makes it feel different from reading the straight play.

Macbeth is a great play and this is not a review of it. It’s got witches and ghosts and murder and betrayal. It’s really a fun tragedy, which is part of the reason I encouraged Amber to read it. She’s not one to be afraid of classics, but Shakespeare’s language can be daunting for anyone. The graphic novel makes it more accessible, you can see what’s going on in addition to reading the dialogue.

The illustrations are clean and colorful but not outstanding. I don’t read many graphic novels, so take it for what it’s worth, but the images didn’t make me say wow. That’s okay though, they did their job. It helped me understand what was going on, without being overly graphic. I do love the witches and Hecate.

The end of the books contains some history on Shakespeare, the true story of Macbeth and some of the superstitions surrounding the play. I’m really glad I borrowed it from her. We’ve got tickets to Othello later this spring, so I just ordered a graphic novel version of the play from a different publisher, thinking it will help her enjoy the play more if she has some idea of what’s going on. I hope it’s as good as this one was.

About William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 (baptised) – 23 April 1616) was an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon.” His extant works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, of which the authorship of some is uncertain. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.