Macbeth Summary Theme Character Analysis


Act 1


Scene i: Play opens on eerie, macabre note in "an open place," where we see the three witches, the "weird sisters." In a dozen lines, they announce their evil nature by saying "Fair is foul,and foul is fair/Hover through the fog and the filthy air," and their intention to meet with Macbeth once the "hurly-burly" of a battle between the forces loyal to the King Duncan (led by Macbeth) and a rebels army (led by the current Thane of Cawdor) comes to an end.

Scene ii: At the camp of the Scottish King Duncan, a wounded officer tells the king and his son, Malcolm, about the heroism of Macbeth and his friend Banquo in the fight against the rebels. News shortly arrives that the battle has now been won. Duncan orders the execution of the captured Thane of Cawdor and then transfers this title and estate to Macbeth, the new Thane of Cawdor.

Scene iii: Set on a heath, the three witches coven together again. They brag about their unnatural deeds and their powers over the supernatural world. Macbeth and Banquo appear on what Macbeth describes as an unusually, "foul and fair" day. The three witches predict that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor and ultimately king of Scotland, and that his cohort Banquo will never rule. Macbeth pleads with them for more information about his future, but they vanish. Two of the king\'s men (Rosse and Angus) tell Macbeth about his elevation to the position of Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth and Banquo are taken aback by the accuracy of the witches\' prediction. For his part, Macbeth is by now inclined to believe that it is his fortune to become king.

Scene iv: At Duncan\'s castle, the king, Malcolm and another of the king\'s sons, Donalbain, greet Macbeth and Banquo. Duncan announces that he will visit Macbeth at the new Thane\'s castle near Inverness, and then names his oldest son Malcolm as successor to the throne. Macbeth says that he will go to Inverness in advance to prepare for the king\'s arrival. But in a stage aside, Macbeth speculates that Malcolm is an additional obstacle to his attainment of the throne as prophesied by the witches.

Scene v: At Macbeth\'s Inverness castle, Lady Macbeth reads a letter from her husband, in which he conveys good news of his being named Thane, and of the witches prophecy that Macbeth will one day be regent of all Scotland. Lady Macbeth thinks aloud that her husband\'s nature is "too full of the milk of human kindness" to realize this ambition. When a messenger enters with news that Duncan is on his way, Lady Macbeth rejoices in the opportunity that this presents to murder the king and take the Scottish throne at once. Macbeth then appears and engages in a loving exchange with his wife. After this, Lady Macbeth lays out a cunning plot to kill Duncan. Macbeth is indecisive but Lady Macbeth tells him his part and admonishes him to "Leave all the rest to me."

Scene vi: Still at Macbeth\'s castle, King Duncan, Malcolm and Donalbain, and Banquo are welcomed by Lady Macbeth. She plays the gracious hostess, speaks of "double" doing anything for her guests and then escorts the king to Macbeth.

Scene vii: In one of his castle\'s rooms, Macbeth contemplates the killing of Duncan, in a speech that begins "If it were done, when \'tis done; then \'twere well/It were done quickly." He is deeply disturbed at the prospective sin of killing a king and a blood relative. Lady Macbeth enters and mocks her husband\'s fears. When he asks about what would happen if the plan fails, his wife derides this possibility with the rhetorical question, "We fail?" Her bloody ambition overwhelms Macbeth who tells her that she should only bring forth male children, having no "feminine" side to her nature. Macbeth is now committed to stabbing Duncan to death in his sleep and making it appear that he has been murdered by the king\'s own guards.


Act 2


Scene i: At the inner court of his castle, Macbeth and Banquo speak about the prophecies of the weird sisters. Macbeth downplays the significance of their encounter with the witches, but his bosom friend Banquo warns him about the evil that might grow