The Best Study Guides for Shakespeare's Macbeth

by WiseFool

When studying a Shakespeare play, it's important to understand what's going on. The study guides listed will help students get to grips with The Bard

Macbeth is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and his most popular play. So, it's perhaps no wonder that 'the Scottish Play' is on the curriculum for many schools all over the world. However, students can become baffled by Early Modern English and Shakespeare's beautiful text, and if you're put off Shakespeare at this stage, you'll never want to touch his work again. The solution seems simple; provide students with an enthusiastic and easy-to-understand explanation of what the play's about. Then, the language doesn't seem quite so alien and the action is compelling!

Why Choose a Cliffs Notes Study Guide

The well-loved 'Cliffs Notes' series has been rockin' and rollin' its way through the mainstays of English literature classes for decades. It offers its usual succinct and amusing take.

Providing great advice over which aspects of Macbeth students should focus on, and explaining the events of the play in a way that's simple, straightforward and, sometimes, funny. 

Available in paperback, kindle or in audio formats, it's also the perfect guide for those busy students, who have to cram while they're on the move.

Cliffs Notes Macbeth

Macbeth (Cliffs Notes)
$5.99  $0.59

A More Advanced Look at Macbeth

The Cambridge Student Guide to Macbeth is expensive compared with the Cliffs Notes book, and with good reason. It is a significantly more in-depth look, for those who are perhaps studying the play at a more advanced level, such as college or university.

Alternatively, it's a great read for those who simply want to know more about Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Currently only available in paperback, it's perfect for those who still enjoy the tactile experience of a real-life book.

A Fast, Funny and Enthusiastic Look at Macbeth

The What's It All About, Shakespeare? Guide to Macbeth is only available as an ebook and is, subsequently, the cheapest option in this selection.

Its aim is to educate and entertain, ensuring that readers leave with not just an understanding of the play, but also an enthusiasm for it.

A short read, this guide deals concisely with the events of the play, its characters, its main themes and, importantly,  the context in which it was written. 

Spark Notes Guide to Macbeth

Macbeth (SparkNotes Literature Guide)
$5.95  $0.01

The Most Popular Study Guides

Spark Notes is a popular website and study guide book series, which is written by Harvard students for students.

Consequently, this book tackles Macbeth in a way that's very student friendly, using language that most high school students will find familiar and easy to understand.

This is the shortest book listed, which will be an appealing factor for many!

However, it's also a simpler look at the play; just dealing with the 'bare bones' of what is necessary to know. For the average high school class, this may be ideal. But it does not encourage the same love of Shakespeare that some of the other guides do.

Don't Forget It's a Play

In terms of the overall benefit to be gained from the guides mentioned, the Folger's DVD edition of Macbeth is head and shoulders above the rest. Why? Because it offers what, in my opinion, is crucial for a better understanding of the play - the ability to watch it.

Including the DVD version of the 2008 Folger production, there are bonus features, such as interviews with the cast and director. 

In addition, this guide offers explanatory notes, and scene-by-scene summaries. Useful for those studying Macbeth at every level, this guide and DVD will ensure that you know the play inside out.

Updated: 01/17/2013, WiseFool
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katiem2 on 01/29/2013

I enjoyed studying Shakespeare in college. Macbeth was my favorite. :)K

Guest on 01/28/2013

very interesting post .thanks for share

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