Internet Shakespeare Editions


An eyewitness to Shakespeare's plays

Simon Forman.

Simon Forman, a physician* and astrologer*, recorded his attendance at four of Shakespeare's plays in his Booke of Plaies* (1611) .

His comments on Macbeth give insight into attitudes of the time towards the witches*, and suggest how the banquet scene with Banquo's ghost* may have been staged.

Forman was greatly impressed by the sleepwalking scene*; as a doctor, he must have taken a professional interest in it.

He also recorded his impressions of Shakespeare's late play, The Winter's Tale.


  1. A physician -- eventually

    Dr. Forman was imprisoned several times because he practiced medicine without a formal degree. He eventually received one from Cambridge.

  2. How to predict the future

    Forman accurately predicted the date of his death (though he may have committed suicide to make his prophecy come true).

  3. More than a play

    Forman also kept a diary--an odd and informative document that gives a wealth of somewhat cryptic information about sexual attitudes and activities of the time.

  4. Witches in Macbeth

    "In Macbeth at the Globe. . . there was to be observed, first, how Macbeth and Banquo, two noble men of Scotland, riding through a wood, there stood before them three women fairies or nymphs, and saluted Macbeth, saying, three times unto him, hail Macbeth, king of Codon [Cawdor]; for thou shalt be king, but shalt beget no kings, etc."

    (More on the witches.)

  5. The ghost of Banquo

    "The next night, being at supper with his noblemen whom he had bid to a feast to the which also Banquo should have come, he began to speak of noble Banquo, and to wish that he were there.

    "And as he thus did, standing up to drink a carouse to him, the ghost of Banquo came and sat down in his chair behind him. And he turning about to sit down again saw the ghost of Banquo, which fronted him so, that he fell into a great passion of fear and fury, uttering many words about his murder, but which, when they heard that Banquo was murdered they suspected Macbeth."

  6. Sleepwalking

    "Observe also how Macbeth's queen did rise in this night in her sleep, and walked and talked and confessed all, and the doctor noted her words."