MacBeth is one of two Shakespearean plays treated in Lucent's new Classic Graphic Novel Collection. All five titles offer an alternative mechanism for exploring a text often taught as part of high school English literature courses. But in contrast with a novel, the graphic adaptation of a play requires additional consideration and challenges, including mechanisms for differentiating between scene-setting explication, interior soliloquy and actual dialogue.
In MacBeth, the structure of the play is overly emphatic, as it often resorts to multiple simultaneous conventions to differentiate passage types. Words defined in the glossary are indicated by both boldface and italicization, even upon subsequent appearances in the text. For example, thane is both bolded and italicized dozens of times. Also, whispers are indicated by both mixed case and dotted lines around the speechboxes, as are the introductory remarks setting the scene, though those textboxes are squared if made of broken lines. The use of multiple text conventions in this manner might need some explicating before whole-class use.
In other areas, a play set almost a millennium ago requires other considerations in terms of scene-setting. The book will not serve as an illustration of castle architecture, and the interiors of a castle are rendered with some modern domestic accoutrements.
The supernatural elements of prophesying witches, Banquo's ghosts and ancient castles are drawn in a manner suggesting superhero comics. The political machinations and intrigue that punctuate the original material are downplayed, and the introspective scenes are the weakest, perhaps because of the accessibility of the vocabulary. Lady MacBeth is portrayed with a scowl and twin, waist-length red pigtails that unravel as she descends into madness. The witches are also treated summarily as monstrous. Male characters, most of whom appear unrealistically muscular, are often differentiated by theatrical hairstyles. The illustrator excels in drawing hand-to-hand combat and battle camps. The weapons and tactics, formations and other martial details are drawn with attention to accuracy. Although the dialogue is greatly adapted, it does not falter in fidelity to the source text.
MacBeth also includes a diagram of characters, an introduction to the play, a biography of Shakespeare, and an article about the historical figure of MacBeth, his reign and his genealogy. The graphic organizer demonstrating relationships between the characters could be used in instruction as teachers might challenge students to supply the character names as a formative assessment. The text is clearly divided into acts and scenes, which are also indicated in the appendix featuring the five most famous quotations from Shakespeare's play. That appendix contrasts the original text with the adapted version, providing ample contextual support and explanation in tabular form. Filling a niche left by other series like Classics Illustrated and even the old standby, Great Illustrated Classics, these volumes will be irresistible for young readers scavenging for graphic format reading materials and will support older students of British literature with faithful versions of curricular texts. Recommended for school and public libraries.