YMMV / Macbeth

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: As usual with Shakespeare, there are an absurd number of ways everyone can be portrayed, and which comes across most strongly depends in large part upon the production or the reader.
    • Macduff appears to be the valiant hero of the play, and yet he leaves the country to find Malcolm when he must know that by doing so he not only leaves his family more vulnerable, but gives Macbeth the suspicion of himself that causes him to murder them in the first place.
    • The Complete Pelican Shakespeare includes a fascinating essay before each play, and the one for Macbeth paints a convincing portrat of a noted alternate interpretation of Duncan, which is that he plays the saint but is in actuality a cunning bastard who killed and cheated his way to the top and is merely feigning a belief in the divinity of his family's kingship. The essay specifically compares him to Edmond from King Lear in a scenario where Edmond survived to an older age.
    • Roman Polanski's film interpretation has a rather cynical interpretation of the characters Ross and Donalbain.
    • How about just throwing out the play's depiction of the witches as crones and interpreting them as standard Hecate Sisters? After all, their name is mentioned several times in the dialogue.
    • Was Duncan a good king or was he just a tyrant and everyone else who were loyal to him just loyalists?
    • According to Sassy Gay Friend, Lady Macbeth doesn't particularly want to be queen... she's just sick of being a Housewife.
    Sassy Gay Friend: Lady, you need a hobby or an orgasm, stat.
    Lady Macbeth: (breaking down in tears) I really... I really just need a job!
    • The Witches - are they orchestrating all the events to bring discord and chaos to the kingdom (as Orson Welles's film suggests)? Or are they slaves to their own prophecies and they have to give Macbeth this information because this is how it's supposed to happen?
  • Base-Breaking Character: Hecate based on the belief that Shakespeare didn't include her. Some find her scene unnecessary and choose to cut it, feeling the rhymes are forced and awkward. Others think she's a One-Scene Wonder and enjoy the incantations.
  • Best Known for the Fanservice: Roman Polanski's film is remembered for the Out, Damned Spot! scene happening while Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking naked.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse:
    • Lady Macbeth. While by no means a minor character, she just kind of disappeared after convincing Macbeth to go through with the murder and only pops in and out throughout the play to show how much guilt has destroyed her. And yet, she is THE most famous female character created by Shakespeare, on par with Juliet (and the most sought out roles for actresses who want to break into acting), with hundreds of articles analyzing her unusually pro-active role. Not to mention her famous line (see Memetic Mutation below). Really, it's more easy to find promo materials featured her than her own husband. She's that popular. No wonder later productions tend to give her a few more scenes than the original. Hell, the famous painting of Ellen Terry in the role is the image for the play's Tropes page.
    • Despite only appearing in about four scenes, the Witches are some of the most remembered characters. Orson Welles's version even expanded their roles to make it look like they were The Chessmasters. Their lines are usually the most quoted.
  • Evil Is Cool: Probably the reason why Lady Macbeth is such a Ensemble Darkhorse.
  • Evil Is Sexy:
  • Fanon Discontinuity: In a mild example, many productions choose to omit the character of Hecate completely, partly because of the theory that her scene was actually written by Thomas Middleton.
  • Faux Symbolism: Macbeth's personal servant in Act 5 is called Seyton. Guess how it's pronounced. If you guessed like the way one of the Devil's name is then you are wrong. It is actually pronounced See-tin, in contrast to Say-tin, but thanks to No Pronunciation Guide many are likely to pronounce the name incorrectly.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The 1948 film was met with apathy in Britain and America, but it was a huge hit elsewhere. In France especially it was regarded as a masterpiece.
  • Magnificent Bastard: The three witches.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • The entire "Double double, toil and trouble" chant.
    • "Out, Damned Spot! Out, I say!"
  • Moral Event Horizon: If Macbeth hadn't already crossed this with the murders of Duncan and Banquo, he fair waltzes over it by ordering the deaths of MacDuff's family.
  • Narm: Rather infamously, the death of Macduff's son loses some of its dramatic impact due to the murderer's bizarre insult “What, you egg!”, as well as the son’s blunt declaration after being stabbed: “He has killed me, mother.”
  • Nightmare Fuel: For James I.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • The Sergeant only appears in one scene in the entire play, but his speech to Duncan—where he recounts Macbeth and Banquo's victory on the battlefield—is considered one of the play's most memorable monologues.
    • The Porter, appearing out of nowhere with a horrifyingly timed comic disquisition on drunkenness, is another.
  • Squick: Lady Macbeth's remark about smashing an infant's skull after ripping it from her breast.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks: Middleton's additions to the play, finding one too many Painful Rhymes in the script.
  • Unbuilt Trope:
    • This is the Trope Namer and codifier for Lady Macbeth. Rather than being the woman behind the man or being more evil than her husband, she's on equal level with him. She's only the one who influences him to commit the first murder (of Duncan), and it's Macbeth himself who goes down the Start of Darkness. Lady Macbeth herself feels massive amounts of remorse and suffers Sanity Slippage over what they've done, eventually jumping off the battlements in guilt.
    • One of the earliest known examples of the Wicked Witch with regards to the three weird sisters. But rather than being Obviously Evil they're merely a source of dangerous wisdom, and the text doesn't state whether they actually are evil. It's telling that many modern productions - inspired by the trope - expand them into being chessmasters who orchestrated the whole thing.
  • The Woobie: First Duncan, then Macduff.