Best annotated Macbeth

I want to tackle Shakespeare, with some help. Macbeth, and King Lear, are the ones, but I have never tried them. Even when I try my mind wanders and I get lost in the language and the strange appearances of familiar words. I can do it but only with notes.

What are the best annotated editions of Shakespeare, especially those two plays, with regards to psychological insight?

I don’t know, but Macbeth is easier than Lear.

I guess there are some internet versions available free–worth looking at. Back in the paperback days, I liked the Folger Shakespeare Library editions of all the plays–I don’t know if they were the most psychologically-sophisticated ones available, but they were certainly readable. Good notes and explanations of all that might be confusing.

I’d suggest, if possible, that you go and see them first. Or get movie versions, if you’re far from anyone who does Shakespeare. Like, which book would be the best explanation of Seinfeld for someone who has never seen the show? I’d tell them to watch the show first in that case too.

You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.

I looked at a few. It seems to me the Arden Shakespeare is the best.

I thought that was going to be this (Lear)

My daughter, the Shakespeare geek, got her high school through Midsummers with No Fear Shakespeare. Here it is for Lear:

The No Fear editions are probably the most common ‘updated english’ versions of the plays. But Shakespeare’s english is not yet that far removed from what we speak today and No Fear removes basically all the artistry from the dialogue. If your mind is wandering too much, I would highly recommend a strategy I learned back in college. Get a couple of people together, divvy up all the parts and read it aloud as a group. Much easier to follow and helps keep you from zoning out.

My take is

  1. Start with a good summary. It can be casual English, just know the plot points before going in. It can be difficult to keep characters and motivations straight if you get lost in the language. We’ve been going to the annual Shakespeare at the Guthrie for a long time (we being my daughter and I) and they always have a summary in the program - their experience being people get lost when its live.

  2. If you can see it, do. Shakespeare usually involves some pretty broad acting to make its point, and good actors manage to make the language conversational. However, you can wait a long time before someone stages Pericles. (Its not very good, its likely Will only wrote the third act, and its really lesser known for those reasons - not often staged). And preferably live.

  3. Read it in an annotated form, No Fear Shakespeare gives modern translations side by side, which is what most people need. If you want something more academic, then Folgers or Norton or Arden or something.

  4. See it again - now you get it!

  5. Read it again - and now you really get it.

  6. See a modern retelling if possible. West Side Story is a pretty good Romeo and Juliet. The Lion King is an OK Hamlet (or, if you prefer, Strange Brew). Ten Things I Hate About You is a good Taming of the Shrew. Then there are retellings that are more straight - Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” or the Luhrmann Romeo and Juliet.

NFS has the original dialogue right there, so the only way its removing the artistry is if you are too lazy not to read the original.

In college, my experience was that people using the No Fear editions were, in fact, too lazy to read the original. People also tend to jump back and forth between the two versions and lose the rhythm of the language which (I think!) matters a lot in Shakespeare.

Since this isn’t for class, too lazy to read the original won’t be a problem (after all, its being read because he wants to). He either won’t be too lazy because he wants to read it, or he will be too lazy, but that’s what he wants. Even when its for a class, reading Shakespeare in a modern translation is better than not doing the reading at all.

I’m into it for the psychology. If I went to a play I wouldn’t understand the locutions. It would be like jumping out of a plane wth no chute, but without the landing. Does anyone have an anecdote about doing this?

I don’t want to read updated language though. My pride would not let me, and I feel it would be missing a lot. It has to be a bore to do that. A good annotation is for me. Arden has the best looking, and thickest edition.

Scholars tend to like the Arden.

The Arden editions are very thick and go into great detail – probably too much if you new to the play. I’d stick with Folger or Pelican.

You may also check your local library. It will almost certainly will have both your choices available as audiobooks. Listening to good actors performing the play while you read along is a great experience and you’ll find the actors will be able to help you understand far better than reading the notes. Folger has recorded a few of the plays which follow their text. If your library subscribes to Hoopla, you’ll find them there.

One thing about the play is that you see the characters. And if the people look different and the costumer doesn’t suck you are less likely to get confused over who is who because you’ve actually seen Lear interact with each of his daughters and you know how he feels about each of them just from the tone & the body language. You also know which brother is which and aren’t going to get confused with which is the good one and which the bad one (they are named Edgar and Edmund. That is not helpful when you are reading. It’s a lot easier if someone has put one of them in blue and the other in red.).

Actually seeing them in physical space will really help you understand what’s going on from a plot standpoint. Actually hearing them (who is yelling, who is whispering, who is pleading, who is sputtering, who is elated, and who is resigned). who is will help you understand what’s going on psychologically. I think you’d be surprised at how much you understand.

It’s summertime - so there are a lot of outdoor Shakespeare productions going on in parks around the country. Macbeth is a pretty popular park play because it’s short and there’s a lot of playing around with swords. You might want to look and see if someone is doing it.

If you can’t see it, I’d suggest finding an audio recording and listening while you read.

I don’t like the “No Fear Shakespeare.” But a lot of people do.

Also… If this is a “real interest” as opposed to a momentary thing - no matter where you are, there are probably some of “those Shakespeare people” somewhere. Maybe you could get involved with some of the things they’re doing.

Those are superb points. I’m going to have audio visual while I read.

I want to have a definitive edition with all the comments, as much as possible. Seems like its the Arden.

Isaac Asimov didn’t go line-by-line in his commentaries on Shakespeare, but provided excellent historical context, unpacked the plots and explained the more obscure words in each play. I almost always consult Asimov after seeing a Shakespeare play.,204,203,200_QL40&dpSrc=srch