Witches, superstition and mysticism create one of the Bard's more fantastical of plays. Add to it the very real, human elements of self-doubt, manipulation, betrayal and soul-tormenting regret and you get one of the most enjoyable, poignant pieces of literature of all time.
Perhaps only Hamlet
reaches a higher level of human suffering encapsulated (Yes, Lear comes close.) I love the hell out Shakespeare's most popular, most well-known play, but Hamlet's interminable introspection tends to mire the spirits and reading experience, especially re-readings. Macbeth endures just the right amount of suffering for my palate.
His betrayal of a friend for the chance to vault himself up the ladder of success seems like a very American idea, but so universal is the depiction of human failings that the story translates quite easily into the entertainment of other cultures. For an example, take the excellent Japanese film version "Throne of Blood".
(The witch scene is cree-pay!)The Curse!
One of the things that furthers the play's legend is that many believe it to be cursed. All kinds of reasons for this have been bandied about. Disasters occurred, but those can/should probably be chalked up to chance accidents due to the high number of fight scenes and violent acts that take place. Nonetheless, a feeling developed that saying the title itself brought on bad luck, thus it was considered verboten to speak the name and so it became known as "The Scottish Play."
Scottish actor James McAvoy once explained to me the apparent real reason actors feared Macbeth
: It being so popular, it was often put on by struggling theaters, but the production was so costly that instead of reviving the theater, it often hastened its financial ruin. If the theater went under the actors would then be out of work again, so landing a role in Macbeth
became a double-edged sword.