Macbeth: The First Folio


91 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-920792-56-1





Illustrations by Von
Reviewed by Susan Patrick

Susan Patrick is a librarian at Ryerson Polytechnical University.


Macbeth is the first volume of the Cartoon Shakespeare Series, which combines the complete and unaltered text of the plays with strip cartoon illustrations. The book begins with a useful page of drawings of the characters (a feature that would be more useful if the characters’ title, role, or relationship to other characters had also been included). A half-page plot summary and a paragraph of background to the writing of the play then follow. After the text are brief biographical notes on Shakespeare and Von, the illustrator. Pictorially, the drawings are set in the historical time of Macbeth, with medieval costumes and setting. The figures themselves, however, are executed in the standard style of children’s adventure cartoons, thus making the book less attractive to adult readers. Von makes good use of color to set the mood of different scenes, and he uses some techniques that resemble those of German Expressionist filmmakers (“barred images,” half-lit faces, diagonal composition), again to set the mood and also to express the psychological state of characters. As in a film, the drawings alternate between the equivalent of close-up, medium, and long shots, where appropriate. The cartoon form is useful for depicting such scenes as the visions that appear before Macbeth and the spirits that emerge from the witches’ cauldron, and the soliloquies are aptly framed by the cloud-style balloons of dialogue, which signal to any comics reader that the character is thinking to himself. In general, the strip picture format makes the complicated story quite easy to follow.


Shakespeare, William, “Macbeth: The First Folio,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 20, 2024,