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Free Barron's Booknotes-Macbeth by William Shakespeare-Free Book Notes
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OTHER ELEMENTS

SETTING

The settings of Shakespeare's plays generally come more from the dramatic needs of the story than from any literal sense of the place. Macbeth is no exception.

Most of the action takes place in Scotland. There are at least two reasons: 1. Shakespeare invented the plot of Macbeth by combining several stories out of Scottish history he found in Holinshed's Chronicles; and 2. James I, who was King of England when the play was written, was a Scot. But reading books about the Scottish landscape will not help you understand the setting of Macbeth. Instead, read the play.


The Scotland of Macbeth seems rough and somewhat primitive. Each thane has his castle, and in between there are woods and fields. None of the action takes place in anything like a city.

The play has a murky feeling, which is reflected in the setting. The action starts in the open fields, but the air is clouded by the smoke of battle. Lightning and thunder fill the sky. Most of the scenes in Macbeth's castle take place at night. Torches are needed to see anything at all.

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