Macbeth is one of Shakespeare's most brutal plays. It charters the rise of Macbeth's ambitions and his desire for power, but as he and his wife plot the murder of King Duncan, his world begins to unravel. His descent into madness begins to unfold, horrors escalate, and Macbeth goes from a conquering force, to a desolate, hopeless individual.
The play starts with the infamous lines "when shall we three meet again" quoted by three witches, confirming to each other that they will meet Macbeth at the end of a battle. We then move to a military camp and hear of the success of battle for both Macbeth and Banquo, two Generals of the King's Army. Macbeth and Banquo come across the three witches who prophesise that Macbeth will gain rank in the Scottish nobility and then become King. The prophesy is treated with scepticism until King Duncan meets with Macbeth and confirms that he has been made Thane of Cawdor.
Macbeth then starts to consider that perhaps the witches were correct, and wonders if the rest of their prophesies will come true and he will become King of Scotland. He tells his wife all that has happened, and Lady Macbeth decides that in order for the prophesy to come true, the King must be murdered. Whilst Duncan is asleep, Macbeth creeps to his chamber and stabs him with a dagger. The next day the death is discovered and Macbeth is made King, whilst Duncan's sons flee to England because they are scared that whoever killed their father was likely to kill them too.
Macbeth starts to worry that another of the witches prophesies might come true, and so he arranges for Banquo and his son to be murdered. Banquo's son manages to escape and Macbeth starts to fear that his power is beginning to wane. He is visited by Banquo's ghost at a feast, and as he sees the ghost he becomes raving mad, and whilst Lady Macbeth tries to calm matters, Macbeth soon realises that he doesn't have as much control over his subjects as he would like.
Macbeth decides to visit the witches in their cavern, and they show him more prophesies, including that he must beware of Macduff who has also fled to England. In fear Macbeth arranges for Macduff's wife and children to be murdered. Macduff hears about the murders and seeks his revenge. Prince Malcolm has an army in England, so Macduff joins the army, and together they march on Scotland.
The Scottish nobles are by now fed up of Macbeth's behaviour. Lady Macbeth has killed herself claiming she has blood on her hands. Macbeth sinks into deeper despair, yet he takes on the English army but is overwhelmed and meets Macduff for the final time.
There have been countless productions of Macbeth, so it's hard to know from reading the play what the particular shows that Tom performed in were like, there is however a lovely note in The Guardian regarding some of his performance!
"Tom Burke's Malcolm has a good moment when, after Duncan's murder, he starts towards the dagger-wielding thane as if about to kill him" The Guardian 21/1/2015