The play of Macbeth opens with three witches. They set the mood of the play and introduce a very important theme: “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” (line 12). The witches are planning to meet with Macbeth and give him a message. They chant in patterns of threes, are called by their animal spirits and then leave.
The image of blood is first introduced in scene II. A bloody soldier tells King Duncan of Macbeth’s valor and bravery while he was fighting in the battle. Macbeth is portrayed as almost godlike as he fought against Norway. The captain states, “For brave Macbeth-well he deserves that name-Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel Which smoked with bloody execution, Like valor’s minion carved out his passage Till he faced the slave” (lines 16-20).
Ross then tells Duncan that the Thane of Cawdor was disloyal to him. Duncan replies by saying, “No more that Thane of Cawdor shall deceive Our bosom interest. Go pronounce his present death And with his former title greet Macbeth” (lines 63-65). Macbeth is now going to become Thane of Cawdor.
The three witches are waiting for Macbeth upon a heath. As Macbeth and Banquo approach, Macbeth says, “So foul and fair a day I have not seen” (line 36). This further inforces the theme of good vs. bad and bad vs. good. The witches then approach Macbeth and all hail to him. They tell him that he is going to become Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland. Banquo questions Macbeth’s fearful reaction and then asks the witches about his own fortune. They reply, “Lesser than Macbeth, and greater. Not so happy, yet much happier” (lines 63-64). Banquo’s son is predicted to be a king. Macbeth is full of questions and is fearful of his future. He wonders how he is to be dressed in “borrowed robes” since the Thane of Cawdor lives (line 107). From then to the end of the play, Macbeth dresses in “borrowed robes.”
As Macbeth and Banquo are riding, Macbeth’s ambition starts to show. A horrid image forms in his head and the idea of murder enters. Macbeth wonders “If chance will have me king, why chance may crown me without my stir” (lines 43-44). Macbeth does not think that he can become king if he does not do anything to make it so.
The present thane of Cawdor is executed. This is also when Macbeth begins to die. Duncan states that you can never judge someone by his or her outward appearances. He is wise in his words but does not realize that Macbeth is one that should not be judged by his appearance at all. When Duncan states that Malcolm shall be the next king of Scotland, Macbeth’s ambition is sparked and the idea to kill Duncan is shown by saying, “Let not light see my black and deep desires” (line 51).
When Lady Macbeth reads Macbeth’s letter she wonders if Macbeth has what it takes to murder Duncan. She fears that Macbeth is “too full o’th’milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way” (line 15). Lady Macbeth becomes obsessed with her evil plans and will not allow Macbeth to even think of failure. She calls on evil spirits to take any shred of kindness and decency that she has in her so that she can take charge of her evil plans. Macbeth enters and she tells him to “look like th’innocent flower, but be the serpent undr’t” (line63). Lady Macbeth is officially in charge.
When Duncan arrives at Macbeth’s castle the first thing that he says is of its pleasantness. He clearly trusts Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. He is blind to any evil doings and gives Lady Macbeth his hand and is led to his killer.
Before Macbeth kills Duncan, he ponders his decision. He has “no spur to prick the sides of [his] intent, but only Vaulting ambition” (line25). This is Macbeth’s tragic flaw that kills him in the end. When Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth that he is not going to follow through with the plans she accuses him of not being a man and makes a reference to children, “I have given suck and know how tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed his brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this” (lines 54-59), which questions whether or not Lady Macbeth and Macbeth ever had children or can have children. Lady Macbeth succeeds in convincing Macbeth to carry through with the plan and Macbeth states his only fear, if he should fail. Macbeth also makes a reference to children by telling Lady Macbeth to bring forth only male children because she is too evil to bring forth girls, which even further questions Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s ability to have children.
This scene begins with a dialogue between Macbeth and Banquo in which the Three Witches are brought up again. Macbeth replies to Banquo’s question of the witches with a lie and tells him that he has not thought again of the witches. Here it is defined that Banquo will not be tempted into the betrayal of Duncan. After the dialogue, Macbeth hallucinates alone about the famous blood-stained dagger. This point marks the beginning of the climax in the play. As Macbeth moves to murder Duncan, he is filled with evil images.
An intoxicated Lady Macbeth awaits the return of Macbeth from Duncan’s room as the scene begins. She has drugged the bodygaurds, but is still in fear of the carrying out of the murder. Macbeth returns to the room and proclaims the death of Duncan. The height of the climax has been reached and from here on out the play moves to the second climax. A short section follows in which Macbeth has perhaps a bit of killer’s remorse in which he is obsessed with his inability to say the word “Amen”. Macbeth is ordered to give Lady Macbeth the daggers, and after awhile of persistence, he gives them to her so that the blodd can be smeared on the bodygaurds. The scene ends with a knocking that makes Macbeth fearful.
This scene acts as the comic relief for the play in which the porter is introduced. Macduff arrives to meet Duncan and is shown the way to Duncan’s room by Macbeth. Lennox tells of the mysterious events of the night somehow having some sign of evil deeds been done the night before. Macduff retruns from Duncan’s room horrified and reveals the murder of Duncan. He shouts to awake Banquo and the kings sons. Lady Macbeth and Banquo enter to be told the news. Macbeth kills the bodygaurds as part of the murderous plot, and then defends his actions. Lady Macbeth faints at the sight of these events that have unfolded. Donaldbain and Malcolm fear for their future and they flee; Malcolm to England, and Donaldbain to Ireland.
The scene takes place outside of Macbeth’s castle with Ross and an Old Man talking about the darkness and unnaturalness of events that mirror Duncan’s murder. Macduff arrives and tells that Duncan’s sons bribed the killers and have now fled. Macbeth has been elected king, and has gone to Scone to be crowned. Macduff will not attend the ceremony because of the closeness to the death of Duncan.
Act three, Scene one, takes place at the royal palace at Forres. The scene begins with Banquo saying,” Thou hast it now. King, Cawdor, Glamis, all,/As the weird women promised, and I fear/ Thou played’st most foully for’t;” . . . (III.i.65). Here Banquo is saying that he is suspicious that Macbeth became king by committing wrongful deeds. Banquo then thinks to himself that if Macbeth’s prophesy came true, that his should too, and that his sons will become kings. Macbeth then invites Banquo to attend the night’s festivities at Macbeth’s castle. In lines 19 through 37, Macbeth tries to figure out if Fleance, Banquo’s son, will accompany Banquo at the night’s festivities. Macbeth starts by asking Banquo where he plans on going that day. Banquo tells Macbeth that he will be riding his horse and that he will probably have to ride for an hour in the dark. Macbeth asks Banquo if he will make it back in time for dinner, and Banquo says that he wouldn’t miss it. Macbeth finally asks,”Goes Fleance with you?”(III.i.67). Banquo answers yes. Macbeth then creates a bit of irony when he tells Banquo that he wishes his horses a smooth ride. Macbeth tells of this wish knowing and not wanting it to come true. In lines 50 through 73, Macbeth begins fear that Banquo’s sons will become kings like the witches said. In lines 64 through 67, Macbeth speaks very significant words. He tells that although he has been crowned king, he is not happy because he has no one in his lineage to succeed him. In lines 68 through 73, Macbeth decides that instead of letting fate carry out its role of having Banquo’s sons become kings, he is going to fight and kill Banquo and his son. When Macbeth makes his decision to kill Banquo and Fleance he says,”Rather than so, come Fate into the list,/ And champion me to th’utterance. Who’s there?”(III.i.69). The two murderers then enter, and Macbeth and the murderers talk from line 75 to 141. Macbeth reminds the murderers of their earlier meeting in which Macbeth told them that Banquo was their enemy. Macbeth then says that he is willing to help them kill Banquo if they can prove their manhood. The murderers swear they are men and claim that they are desperate and will do anything. Macbeth then tells the murderers that Banquo is his enemy, but that he can’t kill him himself. In lines 128 through 138, Macbeth gives the murderers exact information on where and when to kill Banquo and Fleance. Macbeth then stresses the fact of also killing Fleance, one, so he won’t become king ,and two, so there is no way blame could fall upon Macbeth. The scene ends with Macbeth saying that if Banquo’s soul is to find heaven, it will have to find heaven tonight.
Act three, scene two, takes place in a room in Macbeth’s palace. The scene begins with Lady Macbeth asking her servant if Banquo has left. The servant answers yes and says that he will return that night. Macbeth then enters, and Lady Macbeth tells him not to worry about the murder of Duncan. She tells him that what he has done in the past is over, but he is still nervous with fear. In line12 Macbeth says,” We have scorched the snake, not killed it;” . . .(III.ii.75). Here Macbeth is implying that there is more killing to be done; killing Duncan was only a small part of the deed. Macbeth then envies Duncan of the eternal and peaceful sleep he enjoys. The reader sees this envy and irony when Macbeth speaks these words in lines 19 through 26,” Better be with the dead/ Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace,/ Than on the torture of the mind to lie/ In restless ecstasy. Duncan is in his grave./After life’s fitful fever, he sleeps well;/Treason has done his worst; nor steel nor poison/Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing/ Can touch him further”(III.ii.75). This is a pretty odd way to look at someone he has just killed. In lines 26 through 28, Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth to look happy and joyful. In lines 36 and 37, Macbeth says,” O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!/Thou know’st that Banquo and his Fleance lives”(III.ii.77). Macbeth is hinting to Lady Macbeth that his mind is full of awful thoughts and deeds, and in lines 42 through 43, he says that there will be terrible deeds committed tonight. Lady Macbeth asks what is to be done, and Macbeth responds, telling her that she is to be kept from the knowledge of the deed until she applauds the deed. Then in lines 46 through 50, Macbeth says,”Come,seeling night,/Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day/And with thy bloody and invisible hand/Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond/Which keeps me pale”(III.ii.77). Here Macbeth is asking that night come and take away all of the good and innocence of day. He is asking the night to come and take away all of his good qualities and cowardliness, which he possess in the day.
A third murderer joins the other two murderers, who are waiting for the arrival of Banquo and Fleance. The first murderer asks the third murderer who sent him, and the third murderer answers Macbeth. The third Murderer hears horses approaching. Banquo and Fleance get off their horses about a mile outside the palace gait and begin walking, with a torch, to the palace. The second murderer sees the light from the torch; the three murderers attack and kill Banquo. In line 20, before Banquo dies, he yells to his son,”Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly!”(III.iii.79). Fleance escapes, but Banquo is killed, and the murderers head to the palace with Banquo’s body.
Act 3, scene 4, takes place in the banqueting hall at Forres. The scene begins with Macbeth welcoming his guests to the banquet and socializing with them. The first murderer then enters the scene at the banquet, and in line 12, Macbeth says to the first murderer,”There’s blood upon/thy face”(III.iv.81). The first murderer responds,” ‘Tis Banquo’s then”(III.iv.81). The first murderer tells Macbeth that he has killed Banquo, but that Fleance has escaped. Then in lines 21 through 25, Macbeth says,” Then comes my fit again: I had else been perfect;/Whole as the marble, founded as the rock,/As broad and general as casing air:/But now I am cabined, cribbed confined, bound in/To saucy doubts and fears. But Banquo’s safe?”(III.iv.81). Here Macbeth is again beginning to worry because Fleance has escaped, but he tells himself that Fleance is too young to cause any trouble. The murderer then exits, and in lines 33 through 35, Lady Macbeth sternly tells Macbeth to get his act together and return to his guest, whom are awaiting the feast. In line 41, Banquo’s ghost enters into the action, but only Macbeth can see him. At this point, Macbeth begins to freak out. Ross and Lennox ask Macbeth what is wrong and to please join them at dinner. Finally, Ross tells the guests to rise, for Macbeth is not feeling well. Lady Macbeth then intervenes. Trying to calm the guests, she tells them to please sit for Macbeth often acts in this awkward manner. She says that the fit will only be momentary; she then asks Macbeth if he is a man? Macbeth responds, saying that he is a man, and a bold one at that. Then in lines 60 through 68, Lady Macbeth scorns Macbeth for showing his fear. Then in line 70, Macbeth begins talking to Banquo’s ghost; the ghost exits. Then in lines 75 through 83, Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth how he swears Banquo came back from the dead. Lady Macbeth tells him that his guest await him, and in lines 85 through 92, Macbeth regains his composure and makes a toast to his guests. Then in line 94, Macbeth sees Banquo’s ghost again and begins talking aloud to Banquo’s ghost. Lady Macbeth tells their guest that Macbeth puts on this act all the time. Then in lines 99 through 107, Macbeth shows his physical bravery. He tells Banquo’s ghost to come in the form of anything besides Banquo and he will not be afraid. Macbeth then tells Banquo’s ghost to come as a living man; and that at that point, if he trembles, Banquo can call him the baby of a girl, otherwise, leave. Banquo’s ghost then exits. With Macbeth still acting ill, Lady Macbeth finally orders the guests to leave at once, and so they do. Then in line 122, Macbeth says,” It will have blood they say, blood will have blood”(III.iv.89). Here Macbeth is saying that once one murders, more murders and blood will follow. In lines 130 through 133, Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth that he is keeping a spy at Macduff’s house. In lines 136 through 138, Macbeth says,”I am in blood/Stepped in so far that should I wade no more,/Returning were as tedious as go o’er”(III.iv.89). Here Macbeth is saying that he is already too involved to turn back; he is saying that he is at the point of no return. The scene ends with Macbeth, in line 142, asking for a good night’s sleep.
Act three, scene five, takes place in a desolate place. It is questioned by many whether or not Shakespeare actually wrote scene five. This scene is questioned because it doesn’t look or sound like Shakespearean literature; also, it really doesn’t fit in the play. The overall consensus is that Shakespeare most likely did not write scene five. All scene five consists of is a lecture by Hecate, the Queen of Witchcraft. Hecate is angry because the witches spoke to Macbeth without involving her.
Act three, scene six, takes place at the castle of Lennox. Scene six consists of Lennox and an unnamed Lord discussing Malcolm’s, Macduff’s, and King Edward’s plan to overthrow Macbeth. In the beginning of the scene, Lennox is commenting on Macbeth’s guilt and the irony of all the deaths that had occurred. He also talks about Macbeth’s intentions to kill Malcolm, Donaldbain, and Fleance. The Lord tells Lennox of the warm welcome Malcolm received in England, and of Macduff’s plea to King Edward for an army to kill Macbeth. The Lord also tells of Macduff’s refusal to visit Macbeth.
The witches have another meeting and brew up a spell of some kind in their cauldron. This is the scene were the infamous phrase “Double, double toil and trouble;/ Fire burn and cauldron bubble,” (IV.i.10-11), is first coined. The witches put all sorts of disgustingly interesting objects into their “hell-broth”, including such things as: “wool of bat eye of newt liver of Blaspheming Jew finger of birth strangled babe,” (IV.i.14-30). Hecate, the master of the witches, then enters and talks to the witches. Soon after, Macbeth comes in and demands answers to his questions concerning his future. Even though he knows there could be dire consequences of his asking these questions, he proceeds and makes his demands. To answer his questions, a series of apparitions appear and reveal, in somewhat cryptic form, Macbeth’s future. The first apparition merely warns Macbeth to beware of Macduff. The second apparition, a bloody child, reassures Macbeth that “The power of man, for none of woman born/ Shall harm Macbeth” (IV.i.79-80). Macbeth reassured that Macduff can do him no harm, still vows to kill Macduff. The third apparition, a crowned child, represents Malcolm. The tree this apparition holds represents Birnam forest, and so Macbeth is told that “Macbeth shall never be vanquished until/ Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane hill/ Shall come against him” (IV.i.90-92). This prophecy reassures Macbeth even further because he knows that forests do not move, so Birnam Wood can never come to his castle on Dunsinane hill. Then a procession of eight kings, including Banquo appears, thus representing that Banquo’s children, not Macbeth’s, will be rulers. The witches then dance, which further antagonizes Macbeth. When Lennox informs Macbeth of MacDuff’s departure to England, Macbeth decides to have MacDuff’s family annihilated.
Lady Macduff, in an extremely foreboding conversation with Ross, determines that her husband must have either been mad or indifferent to his family’s well-being to leave for England. Ross tries to comfort her with words of praise for her husband’s judgement by saying, “cruel are the times when we are traitors” (IV.ii.18). Ross leaves and Lady Macduff and her children playfully discuss the matters at hand. A messenger of unknown origin enters and warns Lady Macduff of impending danger and bids she run away with her children. She tries to leave to no avail, for as soon as the messenger comes, the murderers enter and slaughter Lady Macduff and her children. These actions of cruelty show just how far Macbeth will go to ensure his reign of terror.
Macduff, now in England, makes an attempt to get Malcolm, the rightful heir to the Scottish throne, to return home and challenge Macbeth. Malcolm, being the child of politics that he is, refuses, at first, to believe that Macduff is not a double agent of Macbeth’s, just trying to get Malcolm to betray Macbeth, so that Macbeth can have Malcolm killed. Malcolm, to test Macduff’s motives, claims that his own immorality is far worse than even Macbeth’s. Only after Macduff has deemed Malcolm not only unfit to govern but also unfit to live (”Fit to govern? / No, not to live” (IV.iii.101-102)), does Malcolm agree to lead a rebellion against Macbeth. Ready to fight, Malcolm suffers his first setback when Ross reports to Macduff on the death of Macduff’s family. Malcolm, being the great leader, tells Macduff, “Be this [murder] the whetstone of your sword, let grief/ Convert to anger. Blunt not the heart, enrage it” (IV.iii.231-232). This encouragement having been offered, Malcolm proclaims that it is time to mount an offensive against Macbeth.
This scene opens with a Gentlewoman reporting to the Doctor that she has seen Lady Macbeth sleep walking. She refuses to tell what her mistress said in her sleep. Lady Macbeth enters the room carrying a candle and tries to wash imagined blood from her hands. Her broken language echoes the past murders of Duncan, Lady Macduff, and Banquo.
Malcolm, Macduff, and Siward and the English army approach as young men are flocking to join them. Macbeth is having problems keeping his castle together and his soldiers obey him only out of fear.
Macbeth receives news of desertions in his arms, and he recalls the Witches predictions. Macbeth is falling apart as he knows the coming battle will be the deciding role in his life. He is angry with any bad news being reported about his status. Macbeth reflects on a bleak future. Here he decides to fight to the death, and orders anyone who bears bad news to be killed. After not being able to help Macbeth in any way, the Doctor deserts as he sees fait drawing nearer.
This scene shows the beginning of the end as one of the predictions of the Witches comes true; Malcolm orders the army to use branches to camouflage their approach. More and More desertions are coming every minute.
Macbeth defies the siege as he orders the battlements to be hung on the castle walls. The castle is prepared for the coming siege. Only desertions in Macbeth’s ranks keep him from facing Malcolm’s army. A moment aside from the action shows that Macbeth has lost all sense of fear. The death of Lady Macbeth is brought to Macbeth. A messenger brings the news of the advancing Birnam wood, but Macbeth dismisses his news.
Malcolm instructs his troops to throw aside the tree branches and orders are issued for battle.
Macbeth compares himself to a baited bear as Yound Siward challenges Macbeth. Macbeth steathily kills Yound Siward and boasts again that no man born of woman can kill him. Macduff refuses to fight with mercenaries and seeks only Macbeth. Malcolm enters Macbeth’s surrendered castle.
Macbeth and Macduff meet as Macbeth continues to boast that no man born of woman can kill him, but Macduff reveals his Caesarean birth. Macbeth refuses to fight after he hears this. Macbeth is determined to go down fighting and is killed by Macduff.
Siward is told of the death of his son and he asks only if he died bravely. Macduff displays Macbeth’s severed head as everyone hails Malcolm as king of Scotland. The nobles are rewarded for their duties and everyone is invited to Scone in celebration.