The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

August 21, 2009

Cari Rerat: Graphic novel makes Macbeth easier to read

Macbeth: The Graphic Novel

By William Shakespeare

Illustrated by Jon Haward

You read the headline right, Shakespeare lovers (and haters). Macbeth is now a graphic novel! Not only is it a graphic novel, it is unabridged with original text.

Macbeth is set in Scotland in 1040 AD. King Duncan has been in charge for six years, but things are still tumultuous between the king and some tribes who do not want to be peacefully ruled as a single nation under a single king.

To help maintain order and offer Scotland a chance at peace, Duncan commands a large army led by trusted noblemen who have the experience and will to be successful in battle. Macbeth is not only Duncan’s cousin, he is the king’s most trusted and most powerful army leader.

As Macbeth and his friend Banquo return from a battle, they come upon three witches who tell Macbeth that he will become Thane of Cawdor and, more importantly, king of Scotland. When Macbeth finds out that the king is — as the witches said — making him Thane of Cawdor, he is overjoyed and wonders if the rest of the prophecy will come true.

He shares the news and the prophecy with his calculating, scheming, and not very nice wife Lady Macbeth. As luck would have it, King Duncan is going to stay with the Macbeths for a night and the two come up with a dreadful plan that will make sure the rest of the prophecy will come true. They kill King Duncan and frame his two sons, thus making Macbeth, a blood relative, king of Scotland.

Now that Macbeth is king, he must hold onto his power and in so doing, things begin to spin wildly out of control in very interesting and tragically Shakespearian ways.

Shakespeare, with the best of teachers and footnotes, is difficult to understand. The language takes getting used to and is, for some, enough to prevent them from attempting to even try to read his works.

Reading the graphic novel makes things a little easier — even for a librarian who loves Macbeth. Because Macbeth is a play, it is best understood with the scenes clearly illustrated for the reader and this graphic novel adaptation does exactly that.

The words are as Shakespeare wrote them (minus line breaks) and the illustrations are vivid and cast the perfect dark atmosphere over the book. With the cast of characters clearly drawn and labeled in the front of the book, all characters are easily identified.

In the back of the book, readers will find a brief biography of Shakespeare and of the real Macbeth, discussion of Shakespeare’s relevance today, and other information useful to understanding the play.

All-in-all, I’d say this graphic novel is a great resource for anyone interested in reading Macbeth and it is especially good for students struggling with the play in school.