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A PowerPoint Summary. Act I, Scene 1. Three witches gather and say that they’ll meet with Macbeth before sunset and after a terrible battle that has been fought nearby. The three witches are later referred to as “the three weird sisters.” Remember: “Fair is foul and foul is fair.”.

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act i scene 1
Act I, Scene 1
  • Three witches gather and say that they’ll meet with Macbeth before sunset and after a terrible battle that has been fought nearby.
  • The three witches are later referred to as “the three weird sisters.”
  • Remember: “Fair is foul and foul is fair.”
act i scene 2
Act I, Scene 2
  • The scene is set on a battlefield where Macbeth’s army has been fighting the army of the traitor Macdonwald.
  • The King, Duncan, asks a brave soldier to comment on the course of the battle. This sergeant has proved his valor by fighting to save the King’s son, Malcolm, from capture by the rebel Macdonwald’s forces.
act i scene 2 cont
Act I, Scene 2, cont.

The Sergeant says that…

  • The battle was evenly matched – with the “whore” Fortune smiling temporarily on Macdonwald…
  • until Macbeth “brandished his steel, which smoked with bloody execution.” Macbeth carved his way through Macdonwald’s men until “he came face-to-face with the slave (Macdonwald)...”
  • …at which point Macbeth “unseamed him (Macdonwald) from the nave to the chops and stuck his head upon the battlements.”
act i scene 2 cont1
Act I, Scene 2, cont.
  • Macdonwald’s men run – “trusting their heels.”
  • The King of Norway fights on the side of Macdonwald. Norway hopes that a successful uprising by the traitor will allow him to capitalize on his support and gain political power in Scotland.
  • At this point, Norway sends his fresh forces onto the field to fight Macbeth and Banquo’s tired and battle-worn men.
  • Duncan asks: “Didn’t this dismay Macbeth (and Macbeth’s co-leader, Banquo)?”
  • The Sergeant replies: “Yes. Like the sparrow dismays the eagle or the rabbit dismays the lion.”
act i scene 2 cont2
Act I, Scene 2, cont.
  • Macbeth’s men defeat Norway’s army, and then march to Fife, where Norway – here working with the traitor the Thane of Cawdor – has a second force battling the loyal Scottish thane, Ross and his troops.
  • Remember: “Thane” = “Lord” or “Duke”
  • Macbeth wins there, too.
  • The King orders that the traitor Cawdor be executed and that Macbeth be named the new Thane of Cawdor in gratitude for his awesome performance on the battlefield.
act i scene 3
Act I, Scene 3
  • Macbeth and Banquo ride from the battlefield.
  • Macbeth observes: “So foul and fair a day I have not seen.” Where have we heard this before?
  • Macbeth and Banquo happen across the three weird sisters, who greet Macbeth:
    • “Hail Thane of Glamis.”
    • “Hail Thane of Cawdor.”
    • “Hail he that shalt be king hereafter.”
act i scene 3 cont
Act I, Scene 3, cont.
  • The greeting unnerves Macbeth. He already is Thane of Glamis (that was his father’s title, he inherited it).
  • Macbeth knows, though, that he cannot be Thane of Cawdor. “The Thane of Cawdor yet lives…” Macbeth wonders (he knows; he is responsible for Cawdor’s arrest as a traitor on the battlefield).
  • “Why do you dress me in borrowed robes?” Macbeth asks.
  • Macbeth is even more flabbergasted at the witches’ suggestion that he could ever be king.

Act I, Scene 3, cont.

  • While Macbeth thinks-through the witches’ greeting, Banquo asks them about himself.
  • About Banquo the witches say
      • “You are lesser than Macbeth, but greater.”
      • “You are not so happy as Macbeth, but happier.”
      • “You are not a king, but you will father kings.”
act i scene 3 cont1
Act I, Scene 3, cont.
  • Ross and Lennox arrive, and greet Macbeth as “Thane of Cawdor.” They tell him that Duncan has promoted him in gratitude for his bravery and loyalty, and that Duncan wants to meet with Macbeth and Banquo so he can personally deliver his thanks.
  • “Can the devil speak true?” wonders Macbeth.
  • Banquo suggests that all of what the witches said must be true.
act i scene 3 cont2
Act I, Scene 3, cont.
  • Macbeth ponders this, and wonders whether the witches are good, or evil.
  • “If their prediction is evil, how could it have been fulfilled… and fulfilled for the good (i.e. “with me replacing the traitorous Cawdor.”)
  • “BUT,” he continues, “if what they said was good, why is the last part of their prediction evil (i.e. that Macbeth will have to somehow unseat Duncan and Malcolm and Donalbain)?”
  • So: what Macbeth thinks about is whether the witches are foul creatures making fair predictions or fair creatures making foul ones. Where have we heard this before?

Act I, Scene 4

  • The King says to Macbeth that there is no way he can fully repay him both for helping to save his eldest son Malcolm from capture and for driving-off the traitors Macdonwald and Cawdor.
  • Duncan then announces that he has an important announcement to make regarding an official declaration as to who will inherit his throne.
  • Could it be?......
  • Yes! Malcolm has been named Prince of Cumberland and next in line to the throne! Why would Macbeth have any hopes that he would be elevated even ahead of the King’s own son? What is Macbeth’s reaction to this announcement?
act i scene 4 cont
Act I, Scene 4, cont.
  • Important: In this scene, Duncan says …

“There is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face. He (the executed Thane of Cawdor) was a gentleman on whom I built an absolute trust.”

In other words…?


Freytag’s Triangle

In Technique of the Drama (1863), Gustav Freytag outlined what he considered to be the most successful structure for a play, based on the writings of Aristotle, Shakespeare, and other he considered to be outstanding playwrights. Briefly, Freytag believed the action of the play could be organized in the shape of a triangle, stressing that there should be five distinct parts:


3. Climax

2. Complication

4. Falling action

1. Introduction (exposition)

5. Conclusion (dénoument)

themes established thus far in macbeth
Themes Established thus far in Macbeth
  • “Fair vs. Foul”
  • “Borrowed robes”
    • “Why do you dress me in borrowed robes; the Thane of Cawdor yet lives.”
    • “New honors hang on Macbeth like new clothes; they cleave not to their mold but with aid of use.” Banquo says this to Lennox and Ross while Macbeth is lost in thought.
  • One cannot read a man’s mind in his face. Our outward appearance does not reveal our inward thoughts/plans.
act i scene 5
Act I, Scene 5
  • Lady Macbeth reads a letter sent by her husband in which he relates the details of what the witches have predicted and what Duncan has done.
  • He tells his wife that he’s invited Duncan to their castle as a guest.
  • She begins to formulate her plan to assassinate Duncan.
act i scene 5 cont
Act I, Scene 5, cont.
  • Lady Macbeth asks “spirits that tend on mortal thoughts” to unsex her. She continues, saying: “Come to my woman’s breasts and take my milk for gall.”
  • She reveals her intentions to her husband. Macbeth dismisses her immediately.
  • Lady Macbeth reminds her husband that he is too loyal to the king and that her plan has obviously upset him. “Your face, my thane, is as a book where men may read strange matters.” Where have we heard this before?
  • Lady Macbeth also urges her husband to consider treachery as the quick way to become king. Deceit is easy: “Look like the innocent flower,” she says, “But be the serpent under it.”
  • Lady Macbeth knows that her husband is “too full of the milk of human kindness” to “catch the nearest way” to power.

Act I, Scene 6

  • Duncan arrives at Macbeth’s castle (Inverness) and comments on its pleasantness and “good vibe.” Dramatic Irony.
  • Dramatic Irony happens when the audience knows more about what is going on in a drama/comedy than one or more of the characters know. Dramatic irony is a staple of horror movies. we – the audience – know that the psycho-killer is hiding with his machete in the basement where the cute girl and her obnoxious boyfriend are about to go make-out.
  • Lady Macbeth welcomes him cordially, giving no hint of her real intentions.
  • Duncan remarks on how happy he is to be with Macbeth and his wife: “I love him greatly, and will continue to show him favor.”

Act I, Scene 7

  • Macbeth’s first soliloquy: “If it were done when it is done, then it is better it were done quickly.”
  • He is here in double-proof, Macbeth says, reminding us that Duncan is not just Macbeth’s sovereign, but his cousin as well.
  • In the same speech, Macbeth comments that as Duncan’s host he “should lock the door against any murderer” not bear the knife himself. Macbeth continues to observe that Duncan has been a good and benevolent king, not worthy of any treachery against him.
  • Macbeth decides that he and his wife will make no more plots against Duncan: “We will proceed no further in this business.”
  • She calls him a wuss. “When you dared to do the deed, then you were a man… now that [our opportunity] has presented itself… you [are] impotent.” [1, 7, 50ff.]
  • She also reminds Macbeth that had she promised so, she would “dash the brains out” of a baby even in the act of nursing the infant.
act 2 scene 1
Act 2, Scene 1
  • Banquo tells Macbeth he dreamt of the witches.
  • Macbeth’s second soliloquy: “Is this a dagger I see before me, The handle toward my hand?”
act 2 scene 2
Act 2, Scene 2
  • Macbeth murders the King while his guards are drunk asleep.
  • Lady Macbeth observes that she would have done the deed herself “If Duncan hadn’t looked so much like [her] father as he slept.” (She has a weakness, but acts “tough”… this is a “borrowed robe” example).
  • Macbeth botches the job. He returns to his chamber bloody and with the murder weapons, which he was supposed to plant on the guards.
  • Lady Macbeth, after chastising her husband as a “weak-willed creature,” plants the dagger and returns… now just as bloody as her husband.
  • Remember: 1. “Macbeth has murdered sleep.”

2. “Can all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood from off my hand?”

act 2 scene 3
Act 2, Scene 3
  • In most of his tragedies, Shakespeare balances scenes of intense drama or action with lighter scenes – which often contain crude, offensive humor. Macbeth is no different. Act 2, scene 3 immediately follows Duncan’s murder and Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s unexpected(?) admission that they feel guilt. This scene is commonly called the “porter” scene.
  • The persistent knocking of Macduff and Lennox (two of Duncan’s very loyal thanes) wakens the castle’s porter, who shuffles toward the gate – still a little drunk from the night before – to admit the knocker.
  • Why does the porter take so long to open the gate?
act 2 scene 3 cont
Act 2, Scene 3, cont.
  • Macduff and Lennox have come to meet Duncan and leave with him from Inverness (the castle). Macbeth – who has “just awakened” – tells Macduff to go ahead and get Duncan. Macduff, of course, comes back screaming the news that the King’s been murdered.
  • Macbeth acknowledges that he killed the King’s obviously guilty guards – he says he could not restrain his anger at their treachery.
  • Macduff tells Lady Macbeth that the details of murder scene are so terrible that “the reciting of [them] in a woman’s ear would kill her as she heard [them].”
  • Macolm and Donalbain – the King’s sons – agree to leave Scotland.
act 2 scene 4
Act 2, Scene 4
  • Outside Macbeth’s castle, an Old Man and Ross (another thane loyal to Duncan) talk of the strange occurrences of the night before. “The heavens [were] troubled by men’s sins, punishing this bloody world.” Besides the night’s storminess, the two also observed that the sun was dark – “snuffed out by the darkness of night” – and that Duncan’s beautiful and well-bred horses killd each other and became cannibals.
  • Macduff and Ross seem to agree that Malcolm and Donalbain’s quick departure from Scotland makes them look guilty.
  • Macbeth, says Ross, is in Scone for his coronation. Macduff makes it clear that he has no intention of attending.
act 3 scene 1
Act 3, Scene 1
  • Macbeth invites Banquo to be the guest of honor at a feast. Banquo says he will attend – he has been ordered to, after all, but that he’ll be a few minutes late. He wants to go riding with his son, Fleance.
  • Macbeth’s 3rd soliloquy:

“To be king is nothing but to be safely king…My immortal soul I have given to the devil to make the children of Banquo kings!”

  • By convincing them that Banquo is the cause of their misfortunes, Macbeth persuades two seedy characters to assassinate Banquo and Fleance in the evening as they return to the castle for the feast.
act 3 scene 2
Act 3, Scene 2
  • Like her husband does, Lady Macbeth says (to herself) that “We gain nothing and sacrifice everything when we get what we want without achieving happiness.”
  • Lady M notices that her husband is upset and preoccupied. She presumes that he is still distracted by Duncan’s murder. He tells her that he has something “awful and infamous” planned – but will not reveal any other details of his plan to murder Banquo.
  • Could Macbeth’s distraction and upsetment be that he is not comfortable with having hired men do his own dirty work? Could he be upset that he has chosen a coward’s way to kill his once-best friend?
act 3 scene 3
Act 3, Scene 3
  • Banquo’s murder.
  • Fleance escapes!
  • Who is the third murderer? If it’s Macbeth, why don’t the other two assassins recognize him? Could it be that he’s in disguise? Remember: “Borrowed robes.” Could Macbeth be disguised (i.e. wearing “borrowed robes”) so that the other two guys don’t spot him?
act 3 scene 4
Act 3, Scene 4
  • The banquet. Macbeth “worries” that Banquo’s late.
  • The first murderer delivers the news that Banquo is dead, but Fleance is escaped. Why does Macbeth act like he isn’t aware of this?
  • Banquo’s ghost appears, and Macbeth starts screaming at what all the others see as an empty chair. Lady Macbeth tells them to pay no mind to Macbeth’s disturbing behavior. “He has been like this since boyhood, “ she says.
act 3 scene 5
Act 3, Scene 5

We did not read this scene. In it, the “chief of the witches”, Hecate, acknowledges that they (the witches) have a firm grasp on Macbeth.

act 3 scene 6
Act 3, Scene 6

Lennox, who is loyal to Duncan, makes sarcastic remarks about Macbeth to another (unnamed) thane. “Banquo shouldn’t have been out riding late, by himself, alone. He got what he deserved.”

Lennox reveals that Macduff has gone to England, there to join forces with Malcolm and various English noblemen (with the blessing of England’s king, Edward) to raise an army against Macbeth.


We’ve heard three soliloquies from Macbeth up to this point in the play.

Remember: a soliloquy is a long speech that a character delivers aloud and which no other character overhears. The purpose of a soliloquy is to reveal a character’s inner thoughts to the audience. In movies, soliloquies are done using a “voice over,” where we hear a character’s voice, but see that he or she is not speaking.

Soliloquies are usually referred to by their first lines.

I, vi, 1-28: “If it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well it were done quickly.”

II, I, 33- 63: “Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand?”

III, 1, 48-72: “To be thus [king] is nothing, but to be safely thus…”

act 4 scene 1
Act 4, Scene 1

Macbeth’s returns to the witches and demands more information. They agree to reveal to him three apparitions:

  • A helmeted head. This apparition warns: “Beware Macduff; beware the Thane of Fife.”
  • A bloody baby. The second illusion delivers this warning: “Macbeth cannot be harmed by any man born of woman.”
  • A crowned child holding the branch of a tree. This third apparition promises that “Macbeth will not be defeated until Birnam Wood (a forest near his castle) comes to Dunsinane hill (the hill on which Macbeth’s castle is built).”
act 4 scene 2
Act 4, Scene 2

Lady Macduff wonders why her husband has abandoned her and gone so hastily to England. She observes that “even when our actions are not traitorous, our fear can make us look like traitors (lines 3-4).” Regardless of her husband’s true intent, Lady Macduff tells her friend Ross that he has betrayed her and his children… and that he may, in fact be a coward.

Lady Macduff and all of her children are brutally murdered in their undefended castle by Macbeth’s henchmen.

act 4 scene 3
Act 4, Scene 3

Macduff meets with Malcolm in England. Malcolm confides in Macduff that he (Malcolm) is lustful and greedy. Malcolm wonders if Macduff could support his right to the throne knowing that his evils would make Macbeth look “white as snow” and “innocent as a lamb.”

At first, Macduff reassures Malcolm, suggesting that no one can be as evil as Macbeth has been in his short reign. Soon, though, Macduff admits that not only is Malcolm not fit to be king, he’s not fit to live! (103-4)

Malcolm confesses that he was only testing Macduff’s loyalty. Malcolm is pleased that Macduff has shown himself to be loyal to Scotland, NOT JUST to whoever happens to be on Scotland’s throne.

act 5 scene 1
Act 5, Scene 1

Lady Macbeth’s maid has summoned a doctor to try to cure Lady Macbeth of sleepwalking. The doctor observes that Lady Macbeth’s seeming wakefulness but absolute unawareness of anything happening around her is quite unnatural (Remember: “Macbeth has murdered sleep” – II, ii, 35).

Lady Macbeth mentions the murders of Duncan, Banquo, and Macduff. All the while she scrubs her hands, trying to wash away imaginary blood that her guilt causes her to see. “Out, damned spot!”( V, i, 27). This reminds us of what Macbeth says in Act II (Can all great Neptune’s ocean wash [Duncan’s blood] from my hands?” (ii, 58-9). Lady Macbeth replies (ironically) that “A little water will clear us of this [bloody] deed.” (II, ii, 66-7).

act 5 scene 2
Act 5, Scene 2

English soldiers along with Malcolm and Macduff have assembled near Macbeth’s castle.

Cool lines:

“Now [Macbeth] feels his hidden murders sticking to his hands.” (Angus: V, ii, 17-8). Sticking… like drying blood.

“His followers act only because they are commanded to do so, not out of love.” (Angus: V, ii, 18-9).

“Now he feels his title of King draped loosely round him, hanging like a giant’s robe upon a dwarf-like thief.” (Angus: V, ii, 19-20).

act 5 scene 3
Act 5, Scene 3

Macbeth’s men are abandoning him in droves.

Those who remain are terrified of the obviously superior English force gathering near the castle.

Despite his professed confidence in the “safety” guaranteed by the witches’ prophesies, Macbeth seems to be giving-way to panic and fear.

act 5 scene 4
Act 5, Scene 4

Malcolm orders the soldiers in the woods to “each hew down a branch and carry it before him, thus to conceal the size of our force and trick Macbeth’s reconnaissance into making a false report of us.”

Birnam Wood will appear to be coming to Dunsinane.

act 5 scene 5
Act 5, Scene 5

Macbeth hears the news that his wife is dead.


His reaction: “She should have died later.” Now is inconvenient. (V, v, 17).

act 5 scene 6
Act 5, Scene 6

The English forces under Malcolm, Macduff, and Siward capture Macbeth’s castle.

act 5 scene 7
Act 5, Scene 7

Macbeth kills Young Siward (“You’re obviously a man that was born of woman!”) [V, vii, 12].

Outside, the English forces report that Macbeth’s few remaining men do not even fight. Several have come face-to-face with Malcolm himself and done nothing.

act 5 scene 8
Act 5, Scene 8

Macduff confronts Macbeth (“Turn, hell-hound, turn!” [V, viii, 3]). Macduff reveals to Macbeth the news that he (Macduff) “was from his mother’s womb untimely ripp’d.” (V, viii, 15-6).

Macduff kills Macbeth.

Siward ironically observes that they have been very successful with almost no deaths.

Malcolm immediately assumes his rightful place as King.


The following information, from www.scotchclans.com, explains how the “sons of Banquo” went on to be kings of Scotland (as foretold by the witches).

The Stewart family records its traditional descent from Banquo, Thane of Lochaber, who makes an appearance as a character in William Shakespeare's Macbeth. Historically, however, the family appears to be descended from an ancient family who were senechals of Dol in Brittany.

They acquired lands in England after the Norman conquest and moved to Scotland when David I ascended to the throne of Scotland. The family were granted extensive estates in Renfrewshire and East Lothian and the office of High Steward was made hereditary in the family.

It is through marriage with the daughter of Robert the Bruce that we can begin to trace the descent of the Royal House of Stewart. The royal line of male Stewarts continued uninterrupted until the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. As a family, the Royal Stewarts held the throne of Scotland, and later that of England, in the direct line until the death of Queen Anne in 1714. In fact, the present Royal family still has Stewart blood links.