A deluxe scholarly treatment of the Scottish play that isn’t always intuitive but is filled with riches.
Folger Shakespeare Library editions of the Bard of Avon’s plays are the gold standard in high schools and colleges, demystifying Elizabethan language and delivering clear scholarly commentary. This version of Macbeth is no different, with plenty of opportunities for deep dives into the text. Consider Lady Macbeth’s Act I monologue, in which she pleads that “spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here”: Readers can jump to a dramatic reading of the lines, call up a glossary and access three brief commentaries on what’s going on in the scene. Users can also bookmark passages, make notes (either within the app or in a Facebook discussion group) and select cue lines for individual characters for performance rehearsals. Grasping all this demands that readers become familiar with about a half-dozen icons; for somebody just looking to surf through the play, the app’s bells and whistles may be distracting if not intimidating. But the in-text commentaries, presented by nearly two dozen Shakespeare scholars and actors, are consistently entertaining, accessible and enlightening, and a set of colorful introductory essays enlivens details about Shakespeare’s life and plays with a host of illustrations. The care and focus of those pieces make the more arbitrary inclusions seem all the more strange: There’s a stray pair of alternate readings of two scenes, and a brief video demonstrating printing in Shakespeare’s day cries out for fuller treatment. The play itself is, of course, immortal, a study of ambition, masculinity and greed that remains unmatched four centuries after it was first performed. That justifies the rich treatment this app offers, though it may feel a bit too kitchen-sink for the more casual readers.
A fine app version of the play, though one best suited for serious students and performers. (Requires iPad 2 and above.)