Short Summary Macbeth

Ms. Mendenhall
Macbeth Short Summary
Act 1: The play takes place in Scotland. Duncan, the King of Scotland, is at war with the King of
Norway, and as the play opens, he learns of Macbeth's bravery. At the same time, he hears of the
treachery of the Thane of Cawdor, who was arrested. Duncan decides to give the title of Thane of
Cawdor to Macbeth.
Macbeth and Banquo, traveling home from the battle, meet three witches, who predict that
Macbeth will be Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland, and that Banquo will be the father of
kings. The witches disappear, and Macbeth and Banquo meet up a messenger who informs them
of Macbeth's new title. Hearing this, Macbeth begins to contemplate murdering Duncan in order
to realize the witches' second prophecy.
Macbeth and Banquo meet up with King Duncan, who tells them he is going to pay Macbeth a
visit at his home. Macbeth rides ahead to prepare his household. Meanwhile, Lady Macbeth
receives a letter from Macbeth informing her of the witches' prophecy and Macbeth's new title. A
servant appears and tells her of King Duncan's approach. She is excited about becoming the wife
of a king and also ambitious. She prepares to murder King Duncan. When Macbeth arrives
home, Lady Macbeth tells him that she will take care of all the details of King Duncan's murder.
Duncan arrives, and Lady Macbeth greets him. Macbeth fails to appear, and Lady Macbeth goes
to find him. He is in his room, contemplating the weighty and evil step of killing King Duncan.
Lady Macbeth taunts him, telling him he will only be a man when he kills King Duncan, and that
she herself has less softness in her character than he does. She then tells him her plan for the
murder, and Macbeth accepts it: they will kill him while his drunken bodyguards sleep, then plant
incriminating evidence on the bodyguards.
Act 2: Macbeth has a vision of a bloody dagger floating before him and leading him to Duncan's
room. When he hears Lady Macbeth ring the bell to signal the completion of her preparations,
Macbeth follows through with his part of the plan and leaves for Duncan's room.
Lady Macbeth waits for Macbeth to finish killing Duncan. Macbeth enters, still carrying the
bloody daggers. Lady Macbeth again chastises him for his weak-mindedness and plants them on
the bodyguards herself. As she does so, Macbeth imagines that he hears a voice saying "Macbeth
will sleep no more." Lady Macbeth returns and assures Macbeth that "a little water clears us of
this deed."
The next morning, there is a knock at the gate. Macduff enters and discovers Duncan's body when
he goes in to wake him up. Macbeth kills the two bodyguards, supposedly in a fit of grief and
rage, when they are discovered with the bloody daggers. Duncan's sons Malcolm and Donalbain,
fearing that their lives are in danger, flee to England and Ireland; their flight brings them under
suspicion of conspiring in Duncan's death, and Macbeth is crowned King of Scotland.
Act 3: Macbeth hires a murderer to kill Banquo and his son Fleance in an attempt to thwart the
witches' prophesy that Banquo will father kings. Lady Macbeth does not know of his plans, and
he will not tell her. The murderer kills Banquo, but Fleance escapes.
Macbeth throws a feast on the same night that Banquo is murdered, and Banquo's ghost appears
to him, sending him into a frenzy of terror. Lady Macbeth attempts to cover up for his odd
behavior, but the party ends up dissolving as everyone begins to question Macbeth's sanity.
Macbeth decides that he must revisit the witches to hear more of the future.
Meanwhile, Macbeth's friends begin to turn from him, and Macduff meets Malcolm in England to
prepare an army to march on Scotland.
Act 4: The witches show Macbeth three apparitions that tell Macbeth to fear no man born of
woman, and warn him that he will only fall when Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane castle.
Macbeth takes this as a prophecy that he is infallible. When he asks the witches if their prophecy
about Banquo will come true, they show him a procession of eight kings, all of whom look like
Malcolm, the dead king’s heir, and Macduff discuss a plan. The two plan the strategy they will
use in attacking Macbeth. Meanwhile, Macbeth murders Macduff's wife, whom he has deserted,
along with all his children and servants.
Act 5: Lady Macbeth sleepwalks and reveals her guilt to a watching doctor as she dreams that she
cannot wash the stain of blood from her hands. Macbeth is too preoccupied with battle
preparations to pay much attention to her dreams, and is angry when the doctor says he cannot
cure her. As the castle is attacked, Lady Macbeth dies (perhaps by her own hand). When Macbeth
hears of her death, he comments that she should have died at a different time, and muses on the
meaninglessness of life. However, he reassures himself by remembering the witches' predictions
that he will only fall when two seemingly impossible things occur.
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