Macbeth by Shakespeare is certainly not my favorite Shakespearean play; but having not read it since high school, I thought a reread was necessary in order to discuss it with my 7th grader. The play opens with tales of Macbeth's valiant defeat of a rebellion against King Duncan of Scotland. Then on his way home, he meets three witches who prophecy that he will become first Thane of Cawdor and then King of Scotland. The first title is gladly given to him shortly thereafter by the king as reward for his recent acts in battle. Although Macbeth should be rejoicing at his good fortune, he instead finds himself conflicted between faithfully serving a good Christian king as he should or giving in to his ambition and seizing the king's crown by foul means. He ponders. He talks with his wife, who spurs him on to act so that he murders the king. One murder leads to another and another as Macbeth sinks himself deeper and deeper into evil until he himself is vanquished by those loyal to the king's son.
It is not an uplifting tale by any means, but it is an excellent source for moral discussion whether it be proper ambition, the perils of seemingly innocuous sins leading down a slippery slope, or the temptations and promises of evil versus the reality of the consequences. This time through I was reminded of the opening verses of Psalm 1, "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the council of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers, but his delight is in the Law of the Lord and on that Law he mediates day and night." Unfortunately for Macbeth, he listened to the witches, his wife, and his own ambition instead of what he knew to be right. Of course as a classic it is a must read for ages 12-13 and up.