By the time that it came to be printed, the script of Macbeth was in a sorry state. One scene had been incompetently cut about; some scenes and some other passages had been inserted. It is not to be assumed that all of these additions are changes for the worse, but some of them certainly are. They fail to articulate properly with the rest of the play; and therefore they make it more difficult – in some cases they make it impossible – to understand what is happening. There is no hope of restoring Macbeth to its original form, but some of the changes which it has undergone can easily be reversed. The first thing needed, it seems to me, is a version of the play from which the most blatantly incongruous bits have been excised: failing that, no one can be expected to follow the plot, whether they are reading it or acting in it or watching a performance of the play.
For anyone who has not read Macbeth before, my advice is: Read this version first. (For anyone who has read Macbeth before, my advice is: Pretend that you have not.) I have cut out the bits which are positively misleading; in addition I have marked some bits which (to say the least) it would not do much harm to skip. Above all, do not boggle. The play is 400 years old. You cannot expect every word and every line to be instantly comprehensible. (Besides, some bits are missing.) Just aim to catch the drift of what is happening. Read it again (and again and again) if that is what you need to do. Just try, and you will find that this version makes sense – which is more than can be said for the version printed in 1623.
These are the bits of the printed text excised from the preceding file.