William Shakespeare passed away exactly 400 years ago on the 23rd of April 1616. As my personal tribute to the master I am re-reading some of his plays. Today anyone with access to an internet connection can read all of Shakespeare’s works online for free, e.g. at Project Gutenberg, but I am reading a recent paper edition of Macbeth from Sterling Signature, edited by Jesse M. Lander and illustrated by Kevin Stanton. I came across the Sterling Shakespeare series at Waterstone’s and fell in love with the series after a long, long (I only noticed how long when I left) browsing period in the shop. The series has four titles: Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado about Nothing and Macbeth. Here is why I enjoy Signature Shakespeare’s Macbeth so much:
- Hero. Alongside Richard III, Macbeth might be a most loved play for placing a most hateful character at the centre. It makes the reader feel the depth of our human weaknesses and yet it still manages to raise sympathy for the hero’s fate where one would expect none is possible.
- Care. The design of the book is gorgeous. The pages feel uncluttered and the words have enough space on the page to enjoy the weight of every line. The laser-cut and small illustrations add visual appeal to key scenes without distracting. The notes displayed alongside the text in the adjacent page make for a convenient read. The editor researched historical editions in the quest for a most faithful version of the play and took one liberty for the reader’s benefit: to standardise the spelling and punctuation to contemporary English. As a non-native English speaker I am really grateful for a version that is closest to how it would be performed on the stage today when read aloud.
- Context. The book provides a full introduction to Shakespeare’s biography as well as the play and closes with the historical evolution of how Macbeth has been enacted on the stage since its inception. It also provides references to other art fields inspired by the play, such as music or film. Whilst the latter might become outdated as I suspect Shakespeare will continue to inspire artists well into the next 400 years, it suggests to the reader new ways to explore Macbeth beyond the book.
Here is the link to the illustrators’ site with some artwork examples and the book’s reference number:
Kevin J. Stanton’s Macbeth