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The Tragedy of Macbeth

Plot Summary

Macbeth and Banquo, generals in the service of King Duncan of Scotland, are returning victorious from battle when they are hailed by three witches or 'weyard sisters' who prophesy that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor and then King of Scotland, whereas Banquo's descendants will be kings. The first part of the prophesy is soon fulfilled when Duncan rewards Macbeth's loyal service: encouraged by this, and playing on her husband's ambition, Lady Macbeth persuades him to murder Duncan while he is a guest at their castle. Malcolm and Donalbain, Duncan's sons, flee to England for safety. Macbeth, now king, has Banquo murdered in an attempt to secure his own position, but Banquo's ghost appears to him at a banquet. Macbeth visits the witches again. They warn him to beware of Macduff, a noble who has also fled to England, but assure him that he cannot be harmed by any man born of woman. Macbeth orders the murder of Macduff s wife and children. In England, Malcolm tests Macduff's loyalty and they then raise an army to march against Macbeth, but he, armed with the witches' prophecy, believes himself invincible. As his enemies draw nearer, Macbeth learns that his wife is dead. He faces Macduff in combat but when he learns Macduff was born by Caesarian section he realizes that he must face death. Malcolm is crowned King of Scotland.


RSC Staging History 1960-2007

1962 RST: Donald McWhinnie

John Bury (design); John Bury (lighting)

Eric Porter (Macbeth), Irene Worth (Lady Macbeth), Peter Jeffrey (Banquo), Bill Travers (Macduff), Brian Murray (Malcolm), Norah Blaney (Witch), Yvonne Bonnamy (Witch), Maroussia Frank (Witch), Diana Rigg (Lady Macduff), Tom Fleming (Porter), Clifford Rose (Duncan), Barry MacGregor (Donalbain), Hugh Sullivan (Ross), Michael Murray (Angus), Gareth Morgan (Lennox), Ian Richardson (Seyton), Peter Geddis (Servant)

1967 RST/1968 Aldwych: Peter Hall

John Bury (design); John Bradley (lighting); Guy Woolfenden (music)

Paul Scofield (Macbeth), Vivien Merchant (Lady Macbeth), Brewster Mason (Banquo), Patrick O'Connell (Macduff), Ian Richardson (Malcolm), Elizabeth Spriggs (Witch), Clare Kelly (Witch), Catherine Lacey (Witch), Sheila Allen (Lady Macduff), Clive Swift (Porter), Sebastian Shaw (Duncan), Colin McCormack (Donalbain), Nicholas Selby (Ross), Ian Hogg (Seyton), Jeffery Dench (Old Man)

1974 RST/1975 Aldwych: Trevor Nunn

John Napier (design); Nick Chelton (lighting)

Nicol Williamson (Macbeth), Helen Mirren (Lady Macbeth), Barry Stanton/Gordon Jackson (Banquo), Malcolm Tierney (Macduff), Eric Allan (Malcolm), Jane Lapotaire/Sheila Kelly (Witch), Patricia Hayes (Witch), Anne Dyson (Witch), Jane Lapotaire/Angela Phillips (Lady Macduff), Ron Pember (Porter), Frank Thornton (Duncan), John Price (Donalbain), Colin McCormack (Angus), Paul Moriarty (Lennox)

1976 TOP/1977 RST/1977 Warehouse/1978 Young Vic: Trevor Nunn

John Napier (design); Leo Leibovici (lighting); Guy Woolfenden (music)

Ian McKellen (Macbeth), Judi Dench (Lady Macbeth), John Woodvine (Banquo), Bob Peck (Macduff), Roger Rees (Malcolm), Susan Dury (Witch/Lady Macduff), Marie Kean (Witch), Judith Harte (Witch), Ian McDiarmid (Porter), Griffith Jones (Duncan), Tim Brierley/Greg Hicks (Donalbain/Seyton)

1982 RST/1983 Barbican: Howard Davies

Chris Dyer (design), Poppy Mitchell (costumes); Howard Eaton (lighting); George Fenton (music)

Bob Peck (Macbeth), Sara Kestelman (Lady Macbeth), Malcolm Storry (Banquo), Pete Postlethwaite (Macduff), Chris Hunter (Malcolm), Katy Behean (Witch), Christine Kavanagh (Witch), Josette Simon (Witch), Penelope Beaumont (Lady Macduff), Jonathan Hyde (Porter), David Waller (Duncan), Michael Maloney (Donalbain), David Troughton (Ross), William Haden (Angus), Clive Wood (Lennox), Albie Woodington (Seyton), Lesley Sharp (Lady)

1986 RST/1987 Barbican: Adrian Noble

Bob Crowley (design); Mark Henderson (lighting); Geoffrey Burgon (music)

Jonathan Pryce (Macbeth), Sinéad Cusack (Lady Macbeth), Hugh Quarshie (Banquo), Peter Guinness (Macduff), Nicholas Woodeson (Malcolm), Dilys Laye (First Witch), Susan Porrett (Second Witch), Joely Richardson/Anna Patrick (Third Witch), Penny Downie (Lady Macduff), David Troughton (Porter), Alfred Burke (Duncan), David Killick (Ross), Max Gold (Angus), Paul Venables (Lennox)

1988 RST/1989 Barbican (re-working of 1986): Adrian Noble

Bob Crowley (design); Mark Henderson, Chris Parry, Clive Morris (lighting); Geoffrey Burgon (music)

Miles Anderson (Macbeth), Amanda Root (Lady Macbeth), Tony Armatrading (Banquo), Colin McCormack (Macduff), Duncan Bell (Malcolm), Pip Hinton (First Witch), Vivienne Rochester (Second Witch), Candida Gubbins (Third Witch), Maureen Beattie (Lady Macduff), Desmond Barrit (Porter/Ross), Nicholas Selby (Duncan), James Purefoy (Donalbain/Loon), Ken Sabberton (Lennox), John Bott (Doctor)

1993 Barbican/1994 RST/1994 Tour: Adrian Noble

Ian Macneil (design); Alan Burrett (lighting); David Bedford (music)

Derek Jacobi (Macbeth), Cheryl Campbell (Lady Macbeth), Christopher Ravenscroft (Banquo), Michael Siberry (Macduff), Jason Durr (Malcolm), Marjorie Yates (First Witch), Virginia Denham (Second Witch), Tracy-Ann Oberman (Third Witch), Emily Richard (Lady Macduff), Neil Caple (Porter), Denys Hawthorne (Duncan), Jack James (Donalbain), Adrian Lukis (Ross), Michael Jenn (Angus), Alexis Daniel (Lennox)

1996 RST/1996 Barbican: Tim Albery

Stewart Laing (design); Mimi Jordan Sherin (lighting)

Roger Allam (Macbeth), Bríd Brennan (Lady Macbeth), Philip Quast (Banquo), Colum Convey (Macduff), Sebastian Harcombe (Malcolm), Janet Whiteside (First Witch), Susannah Elliott-Knight (Second Witch), Jan Chappell (Lady Macduff/Third Wich), Adrian Schiller (Porter), Arthur Cox (Duncan), Simon Westwood (Donalbain), Robert Demeger (Ross), David Pullan (Angus), David Fahm (Lennox)

1999-00 Swan/2000 UK and International Tour/2000 Young Vic: Gregory Doran

Stephen Brimson Lewis (design); Tim Mitchell (lighting); Adrian Lee (music)

Antony Sher (Macbeth), Harriet Walter (Lady Macbeth), Ken Bones (Banquo), Nigel Cooke (Macduff), John Dougall (Malcolm), Polly Kemp (Weird Sister), Diane Beck (Lady Macduff/ Weird Sister), Noma Dumezweni (Weird Sister), Stephen Noonan (Porter), Joseph O'Conor (Duncan), Paul Webster (Ross), Trevor Martin (Doctor)

2004 RST/2005 Albery: Dominic Cooke

Robert Innes Hopkins (sets), Tania Spooner (costumes); Peter Mumford (lighting); Gary Yershon (music)

Greg Hicks (Macbeth), Sîan Thomas (Lady Macbeth), Louis Hilyer (Banquo), Clive Wood (Macduff), Pal Aron (Malcolm), Ruth Gemmell (Witch/Lady Macduff), Meg Fraser (Witch), Louise Bangay (Witch), Forbes Masson (Porter), Richard Cordery (Duncan), John Mackay (Ross), Michael G. Jones (Doctor/Old Man), Sean Hannaway (Murderer), Ian Drysdale (Murderer)

For a gallery of nearly 200 production images from a selection of these productions (and some older ones in the pre-RSC Shakespeare Memorial Theatre), together with sample costumes, pages from promptbooks and other visual materials, go to

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