Among the plays of William Shakespeare, Macbeth is probably the most interesting for teens. If the secular media draw young people's attention with horror and gore, why not tap into this trend and give them a bloody tragedy with a solid moral message and beautiful language.
As in the previous post Shakespeare for Catholic Kids Part I: Macbeth For Young Children, I will present books and media to make Macbeth accessible to kids. With a homeschool unit study in mind, you could easily substitute another Shakespeare play for Macbeth. Most materials reviewed in this post come as part of a series.
Macbeth from the Shakespeare Classic Graphic Novels series by author/illustrator Gareth Hinds offers an opportunity to introduce your reluctant reader teen to Shakespeare. The original Shakespeare text is abridged and reworded, but only where necessary to fit the format of the graphic novel. The excellent illustrations make the text so much easier to understand and enjoyable to read.
Grades 8 and up.
I was amazed to find that our seven-teen-year-old daughter actually enjoyed listening to Shakespeare audio books in the car on her way to work. Somehow the Elizabethan language becomes so much more accessible when spoken aloud by good actors. Many Shakespeare performances are available free online. Check open culture.org for free downloadable audio books of Shakespeare plays.
Our first great find through openculture.org was a set of 10 great full-length, full-cast Shakespeare radio performances by Orson Welles called The Orson Welles Shakespeare Collection. The plays
are performed in the original Elizabethan text. We burnt the files onto CDs to listen to while driving.
Another audio version, Macbeth with Paul Scofield, a great 1966 BBC radio production, is available on youtube:
If you are looking for an easy-to-read modern English version of Macbeth that is true to the feeling of the original, try The Inessential Shakespeare: Macbeth by John and Leela Hart. The plays are shortened to two thirds of the original length but retain all the scenes and characters. These books are great for a preparation for a theater visit or can be used for your own production.
Ordering them directly from Kabet Press in the UK for $10.75 inclusive shipping is less expensive than buying them from amazon.
Kent Richmond's William Shakespeare: Macbeth is a modern English verse translation. Each line in the original text is translated in verse for those who love poetry and beautiful language but don't feel up to the Elizabethan original. This is another great way of easing your teen into Shakespeare.
William Shakespeare: Macbeth translated into modern English by BookCaps in the In Plain and Simple English series is an easy way to read the play for those who want he original text with an exact prose translation. Each verse is followed by the translation in italics. The reader can skip the translation until a difficult passage makes it necessary.
If you want everything for your Shakespeare study project in one place, go to Michael Cumming's Shakespeare Study Guides website. Select your play and you will find the complete annotated original Shakespeare text along with all the background information you could possibly imagine: Type of Work/ Dates of Composition/ Performance and Publication Sources/ Settings/ Tone/ The Globe Theatre/ Characters/ Plot/ Summary/ Exposition/ Why Do the Witches Target Macbeth?/ Themes, Climax and Conclusion/ Imagery/ Figures of Speech/ The Influence of Seneca/ Witchcraft and Superstition/ The Influence of Fate/ Glossary of Animals and Animal Parts in the Witches' Brew/ Notable Quotations From the Play and more. This is a truly monumental free source. God bless you, Mr. Cummings.
The Macbeth Study Guide is an inexpensive Kindle version of the above available for purchase.
Folger Shakespeare Library: Macbeth is a wonderful set of the original text with simple annotations that comes with a DVD of an excellent live performance by the Folger Theater and the Two River Theater Company. The play is not a grand television production but a simple well-produced theater performance. Watching it can be the glorious and fun finale to your students' hard work.It is the next best thing to actually going to the theater.
If your teens prefer movies to theater, consider rewarding them with Orson Welles' classic expressionistic 1948 production which remains close to the original text:
The 1978 BBC Shakespeare Collection Macbeth is a great TV production, true to the text, with renowned Shakespeare actors Nichol Williamson and Jane Lapotaire. This version is a little more conventional than the stark and somewhat eccentric Orson Welles production.
The DVD is expensive but is available for $1.99 on Amazon Prime.
Shakespearean Theater by Jacqueline Morley provides wonderful insights into the way Shakespeare's plays were performed through beautiful and detailed panoramas. The book also provides a solid history of drama and places Elizabethan theater in the historical context.
Enjoy studying Shakespeare with your teens. For your younger students, read my previous post: Shakespeare For Catholic Kids, Part I: Macbeth For Young Children.