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Macbeth: Plot. By Chelsea Lee. What is plot?.

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macbeth plot

Macbeth:Plot

By Chelsea Lee

what is plot
What is plot?
  • Plot is a literary term defined as the events that make up a story. Particularly as they relate to one another in a pattern, in a sequence, through cause and effect, how the reader views the story, or simply by coincidence. A plot ensures that a character gets from A to B. One is generally interested in how well this pattern of events accomplishes some artistic or emotional effect. An intricate, complicated plot is called an Imbroglio, but even the simplest statements of plot may include multiple inferences, as in traditional ballads.
act i summary
Act I Summary:
  • Act one of Macbeth is the catalyst for the rest of the novel. Act one is when we hear the prophecy for Macbeth from the three witches. They tell Macbeth that he will soon be thane of Cawdor and then become king, and that his friend Banquo wont, but his sons will. Macbeth is startled by this suggestion but soon believes it as ross and angus come and tell Macbeth that the king has granted him thane of Cawdor. As time moves forward Macbeth becomes obsessed with seeking the crown and this leads him to murdering the current king to ensure the witches prophecy becomes true. Duncan then decides to make his son Malcolm the the new king and then states he is going to visit Macbeth. When Lady Macbeth hears that the king is coming to visit she tells Macbeth that he is “too full of the milk of human kindness” and that he must kill Duncan to ensure the witches prophecy comes true. Macbeth struggles with his decision to kill Duncan a loyal friend and tells lady Macbeth that he will not go through with it. Lady Macbeth manages to persuade him to go through it targeting his weaknesses and telling him he wont be a real man until the task is completed. Macbeth is astonished by her cruelty but end up going through with her demand.
act i analysis
Act I analysis:
  • Act I of Macbeth is what sets up our expectations for the rest of the play. With the witches prophecy in place we begin to question would Macbeth have done all those horrible things if he hadn't heard the witches prophecy? This plays into the theme of free will vs. fate. The first act is important because it introduces us to the idea that hearing your fate can consequently alter the way you act, in order to meet the foretold destiny. The first act is also where we see the basic awakening of Macbeth’s inner ambition, which as we know drives the rest of his actions. There is also subtle foreshadowing in this act, when they are describing how Macbeth attacked soldiers on the battlefield and they say that “he un-seamed him from the nave to the chops” this is is possible foreshadowing for Macbeth’s future gruesome intentions.
act ii summary
Act II Summary:
  • Act two of Macbeth consists the murder of the king by Macbeth through the use of daggers. Macbeth is ashamed and can’t re-enter the bedroom where he killed the king, he says he keeps seeing a hallucination of bloody daggers pointing towards the kings chamber and a voice telling him that “Macbeth will sleep no more”. Lady Macbeth basically tells him to “man up” and to go wash his hands clean, as though that will clear his conscious. Lady Macbeth and Macbeth tell Macduff that is was the bodyguards who murdered the king. Suspicious and fearing their lives Malcolm and Donalbain decide to move away from Scotland.Their hasty departure however, also casts suspicion on the two sons as well. Ross says that Macbeth will surely be named the next king, to which Macduff responds that he has already been named and has gone to Scone to be crowned. Ross goes to see the crowning and Macbeth goes home.
act ii analysis
Act II Analysis
  • Act two is the first glimpse we get into the manifestation of Macbeths imagination caused by his immense guilt from killing the king. “the dagger of the mind” that Macbeth envisions in not really seen as a supernatural occurrence, it is more a representation of his internal struggle over the murder. The daggers are there to almost taunt him, to drive him crazy over his sins. The voices and visions we see in this act are created to be seen more as a psychological situation rather than just a spooky supernatural occurrence. When the “voice” says “Macbeth will sleep no more” we could interpret this as Macbeths own voice inside his head, confirming his guilt for killing the king, the guilt that will keep him awake the rest of his life. This act is important in showing the start of the steady decline in Macbeths mental sate due to his growing guilt.
act iii summary
Act III Summary:
  • Act Three is the act in which Macbeths next murder comes about. Banquo is alone at the court and confesses his suspicions that Macbeth killed the king to fulfil the witches prophecy. He thinks that maybe his own prophecy will soon be realised. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth enter and announce that they will hold a banquet and Banquo will be the guest of honour. Banquo says that he must ride in the evening with his son Fleance, but will come to the banquet afterwards. Macbeth, worried that Banquo's prophecy will come true and his sons will be king, summons two murderers he has hired to kill Banquo and Fleance. The hired thugs return and tell Macbeth that Banquo is dead but his Son escaped. Macbeth returns to the feast and goes to take a seat, this is when he sees the ghost of Banquo sat in his chair shocked he shouts “thou canst say I did it, never shake thy gory locks at me!”. Macbeth continues to shout things at Banquo’s ghost until lady Macbeth tells their guests they should leave, as Macbeths is ill and is getting worse. When they’re alone she tells him its his fears that are controlling him. Macbeth then vows to return to the witches to solve his anxieties.
act iii analysis
Act III Analysis:
  • We know that throughout the previously mentioned acts, guilt plays a major role in the shaping on the Macbeths mental state. They seem to be obsessed with this idea that along as everything is clean or has been washed, their souls will be the same. This theme is present in act three when Macbeth warns the murderers to kill Fleance and thus “leave no rubs nor botches in the work” Macbeths requires a clearness that is a clearance from suspicion but also a mental and physical cleanliness. The theme of stains runs through the play. The Macbeths are continuously haunted by the idea that they will forever be stained with blood and guilt. When Macbeth has Banquo killed, he makes sure that it is done at a far away distance so no blood shall spill upon Macbeth, but Macbeth still sees it in his hallucinations. When the murderer returns to tell Macbeth the job is done Macbeth says “there's blood upon thy face” the blood is a sign, a reminder of Macbeths physiological problems which in the end drive lady Macbeth mad. Act three overall is basically about both Macbeth and Lady Macbeths mental states deteriorating at a rapid pace.
act iv summary
Act IV Summary:
  • In act four Macbeth goes to find the witches to find out more about his future. When he finds the witches they are dancing around a cauldron chanting spells. Macbeth asks them to show him what is to come of his future. The witches summon forth a series of apparitions. The first is an armed head that warns Macbeth to beware the Thane of Fife (Macduff). The second apparition is a bloody child, who tells him that "none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth". The third apparition is a crowned child with a tree in its hand, who says that "Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill Shall come against him" This cheers Macbeth even more, since he knows that nothing can move a forest. Macbeth asks his last question: will Banquo's children ever rule Scotland? The witches now show Macbeth a line of kings, the eighth holds a mirror in his hand, followed by Banquo. As Banquo points at this line of kings, Macbeth realizes that they are his family. After the witches dance and disappear, Lennox enters with the news that Macduff has fled to England. Macbeth decides that he will now act immediately on his ambitions: the first step will be to get Fife and kill Macduff's wife and children. Lady Macduff and her children are then murdered by someone Macbeth hired. Macduff is at an English court and meets Malcolm there, Malcolm tells Macduff that an army of ten thousand men are going to attack Scotland. Ross then tells Macduff that Scotland is in ruins and that his wife and kids have been murdered. Macduff is in shock and upset that they were murdered when he wasn’t there. Malcolm tells him he should put his grief to use and seek out revenge on Macbeth. All three men leave and go and get prepared for battle.
act iv analysis
Act IV Analysis:
  • Act four is basically the development of Macbeths ambition. We know that from the start Macbeth was always ambitious, but to what extent was somewhat unclear. Act three shows us that Macbeths ambition has become stronger due to the prophecy and is now starting to control his every action. The murder of his best friend Banquo proves just how ambitious he is. Macbeth is so concerned with loosing the throne to Banquo’s sons, that he turns to murdering his closet friend. All Macbeth wants to do is climb higher and higher in control until there is not a single person that can interfere with his power. Anyone that threatens to change the prophecy he holds so dear, will be killed. This act begins to touch on the idea that ambition can be a positive and negative thing. It is good to be ambitious to be the best you can be and to achieve your goals, but that ambition can be easily swayed into doing everything in your power to get what you want and can turn into manipulation and greed, both will lead you down a dark path, just like Macbeth.
act v summary
Act V Summary:
  • Back at Dunsinane Lady Macbeth has been sleep walking and repeating actions of washing her hands and saying “yet hears a spot…out damn spot, out I say” she is reliving the night of Duncan’s murder. A priest tells the gentlewoman that Lady Macbeth is not actually physically ill but mentally ill, so she will need a priest not a doctor. Meanwhile Macbeth is getting tired of hearing reports that the English army and some defects are coming to claim Scotland. Because the witches’ said he wont be killed until Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane or he encounters a man who was not born of a woman Macbeth believes he has nothing to worry about as both seem impossible. A servant tells Macbeth an army of a thousand men has come Macbeth dismisses him but then continues to put on his armor. Malcolm, Siward, young Siward, Macduff and some others march toward Birnam wood they then get branches and hold them in front of them so that Macbeth cant tell exactly how many of them there are. Seyton comes to tell Macbeth that lady Macbeth has killed herself and Macbeth, unfazed said she should of died at a more appropriate time. Macbeth hears that people have seen the forest moving towards the castle, scared the prophecy is coming true he sounds the alarm. Macbeth defends his castle and kills young Siward, he states that young Siward must have been born of a woman. Macduff comes charging in and Macbeth runs away, Macduff says he is here to avenge the death of his family. Macbeth and Macduff start fighting and Macbeth says he is not scared as he can only be killed by a man who was not born of a woman. Macduff then replies that he was “ultimately ripped” from his mothers womb (meaning a caesarian). When Macbeth hears this he quails in fear and declares that he wont fight. Macduff tells him that he will then be seen as a coward by Scotland, this makes Mabeth mad so he starts to fight off Macduff again and then they exit the stage. Macduff then re-enters carrying Macduff’s head and yells “hail king of Scotland!” Macduff then goes on to claim kingship of Scotland and Malcolm says he will find everyone Macbeth exiled and try to heal this broken country, and thus end the play.
act v analysis
Act V Analysis:
  • On a basic level, act five can be seen as just the end to the play and all it does is ties up all the loose ends. If we venture to a deeper level of the play, we can see that actually act five is all about Shakespeare enforcing the questions he posed at the start of the play. These questions being; Is there such thing as fate, or is it all our own free will? and Are prophecy's really for certain, or are they just ideas that we manipulate to suit our own personalities. We see these questions in action during Macbeth. For example when Macbeth hears the prophecy he starts to act in ways that would be certain to fulfill the said prophecy. This is positioning us to question, is the prophecy really a true picture of Macbeths fate? or was it just an idea conjured up by the witches to cause havoc and misery in Macbeths and others lives? These questions are important as they really resonate within us and position us to question our superstitious or spiritual beliefs. Act five is important to those of us who crave to know the answers to every plot or question within a story or play. Act five leaves us with enough information that we are satisfied with the plot but too little for all our questions about Macbeths actions and the witches’ prophecy. Shakespeare did this intentionally as the whole point of a play (apart from providing entertainment) is to leave the audience with something to think about from then on, something we can in some way relate to.
sample response
Sample Response:
  • If I were to write an essay based on the plot of Macbeth, there are many things within in the plot that I could talk about, so it could be difficult to narrow it down. But I would write about how the plot of Macbeth positions us to question major themes such as;
  • Introduction: Introduce that the plot of Macbeth is how Shakespeare develops his questions that he wants his audience to consider and that each of these themes/questions help to make the plot interesting and relevant to a large number of people etc
  • 1st paragraph: Free will Vs. Fate – talk about how the plot shows us that even though Macbeths fate or prophecy is supposed to be imminent his actions seem to create change within it.
  • 2nd Paragraph: Prophecy’s- discuss how prophesy are not always what they seem and use the plot to show that there are different ways of interpreting a prophecy ( e.g. lady Macbeth, Duncan and Macbeth)
  • 3rd paragraph: Good Vs. Evil (right Vs. wrong)- use plot of lady Macbeth and Macbeth to show that everyone has different views on what is right and what is wrong and how good and evil can be misinterpreted depending on the situation e.g. Macbeth thinks killing is wrong from the start and feels guilty for thinking about it, whereas Lady Macbeth wants to forget about it and get it done as it could save her husband and she thinks she is doing the right thing by helping him reach his goal)
  • Conclusion: Touch on the idea that without the well constructed plot there would be no way for us to understand or visualize how these themes could come into play in real life situations. And through the plot Shakespeare uses the different characters to show that even though they are in similar situation everyone interprets what has happened in a different way.
bibliography
Bibliography:
  • Little, Jennifer. Kuriyama, Taro ed. "Macbeth Study Guide : Summary of Act 5". GradeSaver, 23 June 2008 Web. 26 May 2014. http://www.gradesaver.com/macbeth/study-guide/section5/"
  • Bloom, H. (1987). William Shakespeare's Macbeth. 1st ed. New York: Chelsea House.
  • Rsc.org.uk, (2014). Themes in Macbeth | Royal Shakespeare Company | Theatre. [online] Available at: http://www.rsc.org.uk/explore/macbeth/teachers-resources/themes.aspx [Accessed 26 May. 2014].
  • Shakespeare, W. and Crowther, J. (2003). Macbeth. 1st ed. New York, NY: Spark Pub.