- First official record: possibly by Simon Forman, who records seeing the play in April 1611.
- However, there is considerable debate amongst scholars as to whether Forman's account is genuine
- First published: First Folio (1623)
- as The Tragedie of Macbeth
- First recorded performance:
- possibly in April 1611, recorded by Simon Forman
- Scholars place the date of composition as somewhere between 1603 and 1607,
- Efforts to narrow that date have proved inconclusive. Several possible topical references to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 have been proposed and debated among scholars, but these references have not been universally accepted. In 1790, Edward Malone dated the play to 1606, and the vast majority of critics agree with this date even while acknowledging that little conclusive evidence exists, though the date seems correct in the context of Shakespeare's other work of the period.
- One suggested allusion supporting a date in late 1606 is the first witch's dialogue about a sailor's wife: "'Aroint thee, witch!' the rump-fed ronyon cries./Her husband's to Aleppo gone, master o' the Tiger" (1.6–7). This has been thought to allude to the Tiger, a ship that returned to England 27 June 1606 after a disastrous voyage in which many of the crew were killed by pirates. A few lines later the witch speaks of the sailor, "He shall live a man forbid:/Weary se'nnights nine times nine" (1.21-2). The real ship was at sea 567 days, the product of 7x9x9, which has been taken as a confirmation of the allusion, which if correct, confirms that the play could not have been written any earlier than July 1606.
A. R. Braunmuller, however, in the New Cambridge edition, finds the 1605–6 arguments inconclusive, and argues only for an earliest date of 1603. Further complicating the dating ofMacbeth is the fact that the play shows evidence of later revisions by Middleton, particularly in the witch scenes.
SCENE I. A DESERT PLACE.
Thunder and lightning. Enter three Witches