No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels: William Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Genre: Engaging- Investing in great characters and story

Mode: Multi-Modal: Aural, Visual, and Oral

Form: Play/ Graphic Novel

Macbeth by William Shakespeare,” A palpable silence falls upon the classroom. “Does anyone know anything about Macbeth by William Shakespeare?”

One of the kids in the back blurts out, “I know I hate it and it doesn’t make any sense!”

“Why,” inquires the teacher.

“It’s ‘cuz I never know who is talking to who or even what they are saying most of the time! It is just like that other stupid play we have to study in grade 12, Hambone or something.”

“Alas, poor Yorick,” says the teacher pulling out the No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novel of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “it is time to put your eyes and ears to the test as well as your brain. This is the graphic novel version of Macbeth and it is much easier to understand while being immeasurably cooler!”

The student’s mouths fall open as one of the students in the front jumps out of their desk yelling, “What, can the devil speak true?”

“Yes, in fact, I doth speak the purest of truths thy young rogue. Now sit down and prepare for your mind to blossom like a flower!”

“Peace, ye fat guts! Your offer must be traitorous in nature,” the student yells, “There’s no way an offer so sweet is fair.”

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair,” says the teacher matter-of-factly as he dabs effortlessly. This is the final exclamation point on his scholarly argument with his students. They are now fully open to the idea of listening, learning, and delving into the juiciness that is the No Fear Shakespeare Graphic novel version of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

1. The No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novel version of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a multi-modal text that incorporates the eyes and ears in conjunction with the brain. Thus, both the oral and the visual elements are incorporated for clarity as well as to supplement students with differing learning styles. Furthermore, the aural aspect in incorporated when the class reads the play aloud which, in my opinion, is the most important factor in understanding Shakespeare. This play is about the character Macbeth that receives a prophecy that he is to become King. Although, one of the drawbacks is that his hands will not be clean while rising to his destined rank. The play then follows Macbeth as he sets the prophecy in motion to become the King. Thus, the overriding theme of the play is to “check thyself before ye wreck thyself” or more scholarly be careful of damage you will do if your ambition goes uninhibited by moral restraints. In other words, do not compromise your morals to get ahead in life because the consequences are disastrous. Thus, this play gives an important message to its audience that seems particularly important considering the current state of a certain global leader to the south.

2. The No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novel of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a great way to intrigue students into enjoying a classic in a new and modern light. With that being said, I believe that it is impossible to fully understand or appreciate Shakespeare’s work unless you read it aloud or see it performed. It is then that the true beauty of Shakespeare’s words flow off the pages and dance before our very eyes. Therefore, when I teach or discuss Shakespeare, I find it necessary to speak the words in order to fully grasp what the characters are saying. Therefore, my criticism of this version of the Macbeth story is the fact that no imagination has to be used. I feel as though it is somewhat spoon-feeding our students to simply give them a “cheat sheet” version of the play because it doesn’t force them to think. Although, I do understand that for many students this type of differentiation is extremely important. Yet, I would make sure that my students are still reading the play out loud because that is the most important aspect in understanding the beauty and the subtle nuances within Shakespeare’s works.

Another one of the things holding this Graphic Novel back is that it is only one version of the play whereas Macbeth. The Graphic Novel by Oxford University Press has three different versions: the original text, the quick text, and the modern text. The quick text provides the Macbeth story in as few words as possible while still maintaining the essence of the story, the modern text provides the Macbeth story in modern English verse-for-verse, and the original text is the Macbeth story in its original unabridged and unadulterated form. Thus, there is significant variation in the way this piece of literature can be taught within the classroom using these versions of the graphic novel format. The best comparison to the No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novel version of Macbeth to this other series of Macbeth graphic novels would be the modern text because of its line-by-line translation of the original play.

What I really like about this graphic novel in particular is its simplicity of story and, of course, the picture story to aid in the visualization of the text. This makes this version of the play much easier to understand and follow along in both the storyline as well as the characters themselves. One of the most important things that the graphic novels have over the original text is the opportunity for students to put a face to a name. Therefore, the students actually see Macbeth saying his lines in a setting that allows them to understand what and to whom lines are being spoken. Although somewhat stunting student imagination, I believe that this helps students comprehend what is actually going on within the play and helps them connect to the story.

3. I chose this text because I was looking at differentiating English Language Arts materials for students as well as providing an alternative to the regular Shakespearean texts that are studied. Although I very much enjoy Macbeth, I know it is a struggle for many students. Questions such as “What are they even saying?, Why can’t they just use normal English?, and How do you have any idea what is going on?” have proven time and time again that this can be a difficult material for students to connect with or understand. While they may approve of giving up on it, I tried to find a way to incorporate it in an easier to understand and engaging manner. I feel as though this graphic novel’s pictures are done in a manner that does a great job of setting the tone of the play as well as giving the students something that they can visually latch on to. This is a black and white representation of the play whereas other Macbeth graphic novels are in colour. Furthermore, I believe it is worth looking at all the graphic novel Shakespeare material that is out there before simply settling on the No Fear Shakespeare versions. The other example I provided above, Macbeth. The Graphic Novel by Oxford University Press, also provides amazing visuals to aid the reader in understanding. In conclusion, The No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novel version of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a great resource for differentiation and engagement in the English classroom but it is far from the only one.

Curriculum Connections (All of the Above… or in this case below):

 Outcome: CR A10.1

Comprehend and respond to a variety of visual, oral, print, and multimedia texts that address:

social action (agency) (e.g., Human Existence).

social responsibility (e.g., Destiny and Challenges of Life); and

identity (e.g., Foundational Stories).

– Identify connections between self, texts, and culture

– Generate significant and thought-provoking questions about what is viewed, listened to, and read

– Comprehend key ideas and supporting details (both explicit and implicit), and determine their literal and implied meaning.

– Respond thoughtfully and critically to text providing support from text to justify response.

Outcome: CR A10.4

Read, interpret, and draw conclusions about the ideas, information, concepts, and themes presented in a variety of literary (including poems, plays, essays, short stories, novels) and informational (including magazines, newspapers, and on-line information) texts.

– Read and interpret critically the main ideas, events, and themes of a variety of literary texts including stories, novels, scripts, poetry, and non-fiction works, and prepare, present, and defend critical responses to what is read

– Read and make generalizations, supported by specific details and examples, about key concepts, characters, themes, and techniques in literary texts

– Interpret, explain, analyze, and discuss how the literary qualities and the distinctive conventions, structures, and language features of a range of texts suit the topic and purpose.


Shakespeare, William. “Hamlet.” The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, edited by Melinda Allman, JoAnn Padgett, and Dan Mansfield , Canterbury Classics/ Baker & Taylor Publishing Group, 2014, Pgs. 735-783

Shakespeare, William. “King Henry IV Part I.” The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, edited by Melinda Allman, JoAnn Padgett, and Dan Mansfield, Canterbury Classics/ Baker & Taylor Publishing Group, 2014, Pgs. 457-492

Shakespeare, William. “Macbeth.” The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, edited by Melinda Allman, JoAnn Padgett, and Dan Mansfield, Canterbury Classics/ Baker & Taylor Publishing Group, 2014, Pgs. 942-971

Shakespeare, William. (2008) “Macbeth” [illustrated by Ken Hoshine]. No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels: Macbeth, Spark Publishing (Original Work published in 1623).

(I purposefully left out the in text citations to make things a little more fun for us English nerds)


2 thoughts on “No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels: William Shakespeare’s Macbeth

  1. Hello again, Kashtin!
    I love your idea of bringing No Fear Shakespeare into the classroom. It is an excellent resource; the use of a graphic novel can also be very beneficial for EAL students. Visual components always help!


  2. Greetings Kashtin,
    This is an excellent resource!!! No Fear Shakespeare has always been a big help for me, although I love Shakespeare, it definitely takes some time to interpret. I agree with Brooklyn, this would be fantastic for EAL learners. I actually just got handed a Macbeth unit to do in my placement. The books available at my school placement are the “Simple Shakespeare” books that have the original text on one side of the page and a modern day version of the text on the other, so if you’re ever looking for another Macbeth related resource to make things a tad bit easier for the students, check it out! I know I will be checking out the graphic novel. Thank you for sharing!

    P.S: Speaking of Shakespeare, did you know his plays and sonnets are over 400 years old? Crazy how they still play such a key role in English Language Arts today.


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