Scene Summaries: Act I – Part 1 Scene 1 Three witches meet in a deserted place and ask one another when they will meet again. They prophesise they will meet upon a heath once a battle that is currently waging has been ‘lost and won’. It is there that they will meet with Macbeth. Scene 2 A sergeant from the battle reports to King Duncan and his sons, Malcolm and Donalbain. He reports that the battle being fought between Scotland and Irish rebels stood upon a knife’s edge, with both sides losing in heavy numbers, until Macbeth and Banquo (Scottish generals) turned the tide in Scotland’s favour. The Irish were then supported by the Norwegians, but Macbeth doubled his efforts and killed the Norwegian King, claiming victory for Scotland. It was discovered that the Thane of Cawdor was secretly working against Scotland with the rebels, and Duncan pronounces his death sentence, rewarding Macbeth by making him the new Thane of Cawdor. Scene 3 The witches wait for Macbeth upon the heath, and eventually he arrives from the battle with Banquo. The witches greet Macbeth as Thane of Glamis (which he already is), Thane of Cawdor (which Duncan has just made him, but Macbeth does not know it yet), and he ‘that shalt be King hereafter’ (implying that Macbeth will become King in the future). When Banquo asks what the future hold for him the witches tell him that he is ‘lesser than Macbeth and greater, not so happy yet much happier’, and forsee that he will father a long line of Kings but will not be King himself. The witches disappear and, just as Macbeth and Banquo are considering these things, troops arrive from Duncan’s camp and announce Macbeth is the new Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth thinks to himself that ‘the greatest is behind’ and begins to consider that if this part of the prophecy us true then he might become King after all. Scene 4 Duncan greets and thanks Macbeth and Banquo himself, praising their efforts in battle. Duncan also announces that his heir to the throne will be his son, Malcolm. Macbeth is distressed at this news, wondering what this means for the prophecy. Driven by his ambition, he decides he may have to take matters into his own hands if he is to become King. At Duncan’s request, the King and his attendants will visit Macbeth’s castle to celebrate the battle being won. Macbeth plans to write to his wife to let her know of their arrival. Scene Summaries: Act I – Part 2 Scene 5 Lady Macbeth reads a letter sent by her husband, Macbeth, and commits to do everything possible to help him fulfil the prophecy of the witches. Lady Macbeth fears that Macbeth is ‘too full o’ the milk of human kindness’ and that is he is ‘not without ambition, but without the illness that should attend it.’ In short, she believes that despite Macbeth’s ambition he does not have the strength of will to murder his King. With this in mind, Lady Macbeth resolves that it will be up to her to push her husband forward and calls on spirits to ‘unsex me here’, doing away with her more womanly traits to become more ruthless and ‘man-like’ in order to commit the deed. The scene ends with Lady Macbeth telling Macbeth to ‘leave all the rest to me’. Scene 6 This is a short scene designed to make it clear to the audience that Duncan is a kind and just, but ultimately naïve King. He is welcomed to Macbeth’s castle by Lady Macbeth but does not suspect the danger that awaits him, instead commenting that the air around the castle ‘sweetly recommends itself unto our gentle senses’. Scene 7 This scene begins with a soliloquy, giving us an insight into Macbeth’s thoughts. He is clearly troubled by the idea of killing his King and wrestles with the fact that Duncan stays at Macbeth’s castle ‘in double trust’, as both his King and as his guest. He also notes that Duncan his been nothing but kind to him and has recently rewarded him for his efforts in battle. He recognises that ‘I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself…’, meaning that the only reason he has for killing Duncan is his ambition. He tells Lady Macbeth that ‘We will proceed no further in this business’, but Lady Macbeth questions his manhood and his resolve. She tells Macbeth that if she had promised to kill her own child, as Macbeth has promised to kill Duncan, then even as the child drank from her own breast, smiling up at her, she would still dash its brains out to fulfil her promise. Lady Macbeth plots to drug Duncan’s guards with their wine and then frame them for the murder by using their own daggers to kill Duncan. Macbeth agrees to the plan, in awe of lady Macbeth’s ruthlessness, saying she should ‘bring forth men-children only’. This marks the end of Act I. Scene Summaries: Act II Scene 1 Banquo is talking to his son Fleance when their conversation is interrupted by Macbeth. The exchange between Banquo and Macbeth is tense, with Banquo attempting to discuss the Witches, but Macbeth lies in reply that ‘I think not of them’. When Macbeth is left to himself he sees a vision of a dagger in front of him. Macbeth questions his state of mind as the dagger disappears like a phantom, then reappears with blood upon it. He asks ‘Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible to feeling as to sight? Or art thou but a dagger of the mind, a false creation, proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?’ We may speculate that this dagger could represent Macbeth’s fate, as he is destined to kill Duncan immediately after this scene, or as a symbol of Macbeth’s fears and doubts about his King being manifested in front of him. Scene 2 Lady Macbeth and Macbeth meet in the courtyard after Macbeth has killed Duncan. In his haste, he as returned with blood on his hands and clothes, and the murder weapons in his hands. Both are jumpy at every sound they hear, but it is again Lady Macbeth who is calm and controlled under pressure, and she who returns the daggers to the scene of the murder. Lady Macbeth questions Macbeth’s manhood again, saying “My hands are of your colour, but I shame to wear a heart so white.” A knocking is heard outside the castle gate and Macbeth cries “Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou couldst!” Demonstrating his regret over killing his King. Scene 3 A Porter, who rambles about imagining himself as the porter to the gates of Hell, admits Macduff and Lennox into the castle the morning after Duncan’s murder. Macduff is the first to discover Duncan’s murdered body and grieves for his King, waking the rest of the castle. Lady Macbeth pretends to faint at the scene and Macbeth admits to killing the two guards in what he claims was a fit of passion for his King, but Macduff has suspicions about Macbeth. Duncan’s two sons, Malcom and Donalbain, privately decide to flee to England and Ireland respectively, fearing that whomever killed their father may come for them next. Scene 4 An Old Man and Ross discuss the strange things that occurred in nature the night of Duncan’s death. A King was considered to be second only to God, and the killing of a King was an unnatural act, reflected in the natural world. Examples include a mousing owl killing a falcon (a much larger bird), which could be seen as a metaphor for Macbeth killing Duncan, while Duncan’s horses flee their stables, then eat each other. Macduff meets with the two men and relates that news that Macbeth is to be crowned as the new King. His tone suggests that he feels all these events are aligning too conveniently in Macbeth’s favour. Scene Summaries: Act III Scene 1 Banquo states of Macbeth that “Thou hast it now… and I fear thou play’dst most foully for’t”, suspecting Macbeth of killing Duncan in order to become King. Banquo is also hopeful that Macbeth’s side of the witches prophecy coming true is an indication that he sons will one day be Kings. Macbeth asks Banquo whether he will be attending his royal banquet that evening, but their conversation is tense with each hiding something from the other. Once Banquo leaves on his ride with Fleance, Macbeth speaks privately to two murderers, who he convinces to murder Banquo and his son. Macbeth feels threatened by the Witches’ prophecy and fears that “Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown, and put a barren sceptre in my grip…No son of mine succeeding. If it be so, for Banquo’s issue have I filed my mind; for them the gracious Duncan have I murdered.” These words represent Macbeth’s fear that he has killed Duncan only to have Banquo’s sons ultimately reap the rewards. Scene 2 Lady Macbeth reflects on her unhappiness, but councils Macbeth that ‘what’s done is done’, but Macbeth feels ‘We have scorched the snake not killed it’. Notice that in this scene it is Macbeth who is pushing events forward, not Lady Macbeth as before. Also, Macbeth does not reveal his plans to kill Banquo to Lady Macbeth. Scene 3 The two murderers are joined by a third as they are about to attack Banquo and Fleance. There is much speculation over whom the 3rd murderer may be, but his presence suggests that Macbeth does not trust anyone and he is there as insurance. The murderers manage to kill Banquo, but his son Fleance escapes. Scene 4 Macbeth holds a banquet for the Scottish nobles, and laments that Banquo is not there, despite knowing full well he is dead. To his horror, the ghost of Banquo appears, sitting in his seat at the table, but only Macbeth can see him. Lady Macbeth tries to cover for Macbeth’s irrational behaviour, suggesting he has had an illness since he was a boy that brings on these fits. Aside to Macbeth she says the vision is “The very painting of your fear”, suggesting the vision is simply Macbeth’s fears and insecurities manifesting in his mind, similar to the dagger he saw before murdering Duncan. Ultimately the lords present are asked to leave and Macbeth speaks of “Strange things I have in head, that will to hand” and states “we are but young in deed”, implying this is only the beginning of events to come and that he must act on the thoughts troubling his mind. Scene 5 Hecate (the goddess of hell and witchcraft) meets the 3 witches and scolds them for not involving her in their plans for Macbeth. She resolves that they will meet with Macbeth again, this time lulling him into a false sense of security. Scene 6 Lennox is suspicious of the recent events and notes that everything has worked out all too conveniently for Macbeth. He hears news that English forces are gathering under Duncan’s son Malcolm (the rightful heir to the throne) and that Macduff has joined them. Scene Summaries: Act IV Scene 1 The Witches are making a charm, anticipating Macbeth’s arrival. Macbeth demands answers about his future and is shown 3 visions which appear out of the cauldron. The first is a soldier who warns him to ‘Beware Macduff’, which confirms Macbeth’s suspicions about Macduff’s loyalty. The second vision is a child covered in blood who states that “none of woman born shall harm Macbeth”. Macbeth feels over-confident at this statement, thinking himself invincible, and he feels more so when a child, crowned, with tree in its hand says “Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him”, which seems equally impossible. Finally, when asking if Banquo’s sons will become Kings, Macbeth is shown a vision of a long line of Kings with the last holding a mirror, reflecting the line back again, and at the end of the line stands Banquo. This confirms Macbeth’s fears, and they are confirmed again when Lennox brings news that Macduff has joined forces with Malcolm. Macbeth resolves to kill Macduff’s family and servants for his betrayal. Scene 2 Lady Macduff is introduced as bitter about her husband’s recent departure, without any explanation as to why he had left. Ross defends Macduff, saying he’s sure he had reasons for doing so. Lady Macduff and her son exchange some last words before murderers enter and kill Macduff’s son, with Lady Macduff fleeing but being followed by the murderers. Scene 3 Macduff greets Malcolm in England, pledging his allegiance, but Malcolm is not quick to trust Macduff and tests him first. He convinces Macduff that he would be a far more terrible King than Macbeth, despite Macbeth’s terrible crimes, and when Macduff despairs for his country Malcolm reveals himself to in fact be a virtuous man, as Macduff had hoped. Later, Ross brings news of the murder of Macduff’s family and when Macduff despairs Malcolm tells him to “dispute it like a man”. Macduff answers that he “must also feel it as a man”, providing a contrast between he and Macbeth when Macbeth’s manhood was questioned by his wife. The Act ends with Malcolm, Macduff, Siward (an English general) and the English forces all poised to attack Scotland and replace the ‘tyrant’ Macbeth as King. Scene Summaries: Act V Scene 1 A Doctor and Gentlewoman observes the strange behaviours of Lady Macbeth in the castle. Lady Macbeth sleepwalks and talks without noticing their presence and the Gentlewoman seems to suggest that this is a routine she goes through nightly. Lady Macbeth speaks in riddles but seems to confess to her knowledge and part in the murders of Duncan, Banquo and Macduff’s family with fractured sentences like “The Thane of Fife had a wife. Where is she now?” Lady Macbeth also makes the motion of constantly washing her hands, scrubbing at imaginary blood frantically, saying “Out damn spot! Out I say!... will these hands ne’er be clean?” The Doctor understands what all this means but fears he can not cure insanity. He also notes that “I think, but dare not speak.” Afraid to speak against Macbeth. Scene 2 Scottish forces loyal to Malcolm and the invading English army discuss the battle and note of Macbeth that “Now does he feel his murders sticking on his hands…Those he commands move only in command, nothing in love; now does he feel his title hang loose about him.” This indicates that Macbeth has not followers or support except those who only follow his orders in fear. Scene 3 Macbeth is frantic yet over-confident as the battle approaches, still thinking himself invincible thanks to the Witches’ prophecies. News is also brought to him about his wife’s illness, but he ignores the doctor’s explanation that sickness of the mind is not so easily cured. Scene 4 Malcolm formulates a plan to hide the numbers of his army but cutting down branches of Birnam wood, with each soldier holding them in front of him. This hints that one of the Witches’ visions shown to Macbeth is about to come true, as it will seem the wood is moving as the army marches towards the castle. Scene 5 Macbeth hears the cry of a woman screaming but is unmoved by it, and he notes that “I have almost forgot the taste of fears. The time has been, my senses would have cooled to hear a nightshriek… I have supped full with horrors.” It is discovered that the cry came from Lady Macbeth and she is now dead, but again Macbeth is emotionless. He says only that “She should have died hereafter, there would have been time for such a word.” He then reflects on the futility of life, likening a man’s life to that of “a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Scene 6 Malcolm’s army arrives at the castle walls. Scene 7 The army invades the castle, with Young Siward the first to confront Macbeth. Macbeth kills him, still clinging to the prophecy that none of woman born can harm him. Macduff seeks Macbeth for himself, to avenge his family. Scene 8 Macbeth and Macduff at last face off against one another. Macduff reveals that he was “from his mother’s womb untimely ripped”, meaning he was born by caesarean and is technically not “of woman born.” Macduff kills Macbeth and places his head upon a spike. Scene 9 Everyone rejoices as Malcolm is to be crowned King, with Malcolm recognising Macbeth and Lady Macbeth only as “that dead butcher and his fiend like Queen”. It is interesting to note this description of the two, compared to how they were presented at the beginning of the play.