Scene Summaries and Quotations

Act One

 

Scene 1

  • The three witches enter and are introduced to the audience.

  • ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair’

  • ‘When shall we three meet again/In thunder, lightning or in rain’

 

Scene 2

  • Duncan sees the captain and hears a report of Macbeth fighting bravely in the battlefield.

  • ‘For brave Macbeth--well he deserves that name--

       Disdaining fortune, with his brandish'd steel,

       Which smoked with bloody execution,’

 

Scene 3

  • Witches assemble to begin their mechanisms against Macbeth, and meet with Macbeth and Banquo.  Macbeth is then informed that he has become the Thane of Cawdor, reinforcing the witches’ prophecies.

  • ‘What are these

       So wither'd and so wild in their attire,

       That look not like the inhabitants o' the earth,

      And yet are on't?’

  • ‘you should be women,

       And yet your beards forbid me to interpret

       That you are so.’

  • ‘All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!’

  • ‘Good sir, why do you start; and seem to fear

       Things that do sound so fair?’

  • ‘Lesser than Macbeth, and greater.’

  • ‘nothing is/ But what is not.’

  • ‘Look, how our partner's rapt.’

  • ‘If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me,

       Without my stir.’

 

Scene 4

  • Duncan thanks Macbeth for his work and then names Malcolm his heir, which poses a problem for Macbeth.  They decide to celebrate at Dunsinane.

  • ‘He was a gentleman on whom I built/ An absolute trust.’

  • ‘Stars, hide your fires;/ Let not light see my black and deep desires:’

 

Scene 5

  • Lady Macbeth receives Macbeth’s letter and begins scheming to kill Duncan, but is worried about Macbeth’s goodness.  She asks to be unsexed, and instructs Macbeth to kill Duncan.

  • ‘yet do I fear thy nature;/ It is too full o' the milk of human kindness’

  • ‘Hie thee hither,/ That I may pour my spirits in thine ear;’

  • ‘unsex me here,’

  • ‘look like the innocent flower,/ But be the serpent under't.’

 

Scene 6

  • Duncan and Lady Macbeth talk and exchange pleasantries, Duncan’s naivety is shown, as well as his goodness.

  • ‘This castle hath a pleasant seat;’


Scene 7

  • Macbeth is debating whether to kill Duncan, Lady Macbeth persuades him and he decides to do so.

  • ‘that we but teach/ Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return/ To plague the inventor:’

  • ‘I have no spur/ To prick the sides of my intent, but only/ Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself/ And falls on the other.’

  • ‘But screw your courage to the sticking-place,’


 

Act II

Scene 1

  • Banquo and Fleance walk at night, worried by something which is about to happen.  There are no stars in the sky. Macbeth sees an image of a dagger before him, which points his way to Duncan.

  • ‘There's husbandry in heaven;/ Their candles are all out.’

  • ‘Is this a dagger which I see before me,/The handle toward my hand’

  • ‘Fatal vision’

  • ‘or art thou but/ A dagger of the mind’

Scene 2

  • Macbeth kills Duncan and he and Lady Macbeth discuss the crime, with Macbeth becoming increasingly paranoid and regretful of what he has done.

  • ‘Had he not resembled/ My father as he slept, I had done't.’

  • ‘But wherefore could not I pronounce 'Amen'?’

  • ‘Macbeth shall sleep no more.'

  • ‘Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood/ Clean from my hand?’

  • ‘To know my deed, 'twere best not know myself.’

Scene 3

  • Porter scene, a Porter compares Dunsinane to the gates of hell.  The scene connects the two halves of the play - before Duncan’s murder and after it.  Provides a moment of relief for the audience with some humour. The Porter gives three riddles comparing Macbeth to three different damned characters, a farmer, a tailor and an equivocator, showing how Macbeth has now damned himself.  Porter plays the role of the wise fool, a comic character who actually reveals a lot of truth.

  • Macduff and Lennox enter, talking about the chaotic night, and find Duncan dead.

  • ‘Here an equivocator that….could not equivocate to heaven’ - an equivocator is somebody who says something ambiguously so the real trust isn’t understood.

  • ‘some say, the earth/ Was feverous and did shake.’

  • ‘Most sacrilegious murder hath broke ope/ The Lord's anointed temple,’

  • At the end of the scene Malcolm flees to England and Donalbain to Ireland.

 

Scene 4

  • Old Man and Ross discuss the unnatural effects which Duncan’s death has had on the country.

  • ‘A falcon, towering in her pride of place,

       Was by a mousing owl hawk'd at and kill'd.’


 

Act III

Scene 1

  • Banquo enters, commenting that he thinks that Macbeth has killed Duncan, he is going to ride away, but will return by the evening feast.  Macbeth is now planning to kill Banquo because he is worried that Banquo will usurp him, and employs murderers to do so.

  • ‘I fear,/ Thou play'dst most foully for't:’

  • ‘Fail not our feast.’

  • ‘To be thus is nothing;/ But to be safely thus.’

  • ‘Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown,’

 

Scene 2

  • Lady Macbeth and Macbeth discuss Banquo and their safety on the throne.  Roles begin to reverse, Macbeth is now the one killing people while Lady Macbeth is ignorant.  

  • 'Tis safer to be that which we destroy/ Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy.’

  • ‘on the torture of the mind to lie/ In restless ecstasy.’

  • ‘Duncan is in his grave;/ After life's fitful fever he sleeps well’

  • ‘Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck,’

Scene 3

  • The murderers join together to murder Banquo and Fleance escapes.

Scene 4

  • The Feast after the Coronation, Macbeth welcomes his guests as the murderers inform him they killed Banquo, but not Fleance.  Banquo’s ghost appears and Lady Macbeth tries to calm everyone who can’t see why Macbeth is acting out against nothing.

  • ‘Thou canst not say I did it: never shake/ Thy gory locks at me.’

  • ‘When all's done,/ You look but on a stool.’

  • ‘the times have been,/ That, when the brains were out, the man would die,/ And there an end; but now they rise again,’

  • ‘It will have blood; they say, blood will have blood:’

  • ‘I am in blood/ Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more,/ Returning were as tedious as go o'er:’

Scene 5

  • Witches meet Hecate, their leader.

  • This scene probably wasn’t written by Shakespeare.


Scene 6

  • Lennox and a Lord discuss what has happened recently, beginning to suspect Macbeth.  They tell us that Macduff didn’t come to the coronation and instead at home in Fife, and they suspect that he is suspicious of Macbeth.

 

Act IV

Scene 1

  • The audience sees the witches making a foul potion around a cauldron when Macbeth enters and asks them for more prophecies about what is going to happen to him.  They show him four visions - severed head, bloody child, child crowned with a tree and Banquo’s line of Kings. Macbeth doesn’t understand the true meanings of these visions and leaves with a false sense of security that he cannot be killed.  Macbeth decides to kill Macduff as the witches told him to kill the Thane of Fife.

  • ‘for none of woman born/ Shall harm Macbeth.’

  • ‘Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be until/ Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill/ Shall come against him.’

 

Scene 2

  • Murderers go to kill Macduff’s family and we see Lady Macduff upset that Macduff has abandoned them without telling them what has happened, questioning how good a person Macduff is.  Important points are that Macduff is flawed and the Lady Macduff is clearly an excellent woman who acts as a foil for Lady Macbeth.

 

Scene 3

  • Malcolm and Macduff open, Malcolm testing Macduff’s loyalty to his country by saying that he is an even worse than Macbeth is.  Eventually Macduff passes the test and a messenger enters, telling Macduff that his wife and children have been killed. They resolve to get revenge on Macbeth, setting the stage for the final scene.

  • ‘But I have none: the king-becoming graces,’

  • ‘I [...] abjure/ The taints and blames I laid upon myself,/ For strangers to my nature.’

  • ‘But I must also feel it as a man:’

 

Act V

Scene 1

  • Doctor and Gentlewoman are discussing Lady Macbeth who is sleepwalking, re-reading a letter and insisting she has light with her - she is haunted by her crimes and desperate for repentance.

  • ‘Why, it stood by her: she has light by her/ continually; 'tis her command.’

  • ‘Out, damned spot!’

  • ‘Yet who would have thought the old man/ to have had so much blood in him.’

  • ‘What, will these hands ne'er be clean?’

  • ‘yet I have known/ those which have walked in their sleep who have died/ holily in their beds.’

  • ‘there's knocking at the gate’

Scene 2

  • Soldiers enters saying that the Scottish rebels (Macduff and Malcolm) are coming with the English army to invade Dunsinane.  They tell us that Macbeth is losing his grip on power and that his men are not loyal to him.

Scene 3

  • Macbeth, overconfident, is preparing for a siege.  He refuses to believe reports that an army is nearing because he thinks he invincible.  Going mad, he is insulting his servants in the way that Lady Macbeth used to insult him, his crazed mind can clearly be seen.   He asks the doctor about Lady Macbeth, and threatens the doctor to find some way of curing her, even though her disease isn’t physical.

  • ‘I will not be afraid of death and bane,

        Till Birnam forest come to Dunsinane.’

  • Repeated command for the soldiers to bring Macbeth his armour.  This might be seen as a metaphor for Macbeth trying to mentally protect himself and refusing to believe what is about to happen.  Repeatedly throughout the play we get quotes suggesting that Macbeth costumes himself as a means of self-deception.

 

Scene 4

  • The soldiers near Birnam wood, with a huge army, Malcolm instructs the soldiers to cut down branches to disguise the army as they move nearer.  

 

Scene 5

  • It is revealed that Lady Macbeth has killed herself, and Macbeth himself begins to give up on life - realising that he has been so haunted by what he has done that he is emotionless, and he just wants time to end.  He is now numb to everything. Yet we admire him for his resolution to fight onwards, despite sees meaning in nothing, despite knowing that he is doomed.

  • ‘She should have died hereafter’ - either can interpreted as Macbeth mourning Lady Macbeth’s death, or saying ‘she would have died anyway’, showing how he has given up on the world.  

  • ‘I have almost forgot the taste of fears;’

  • ‘To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

        Creeps in this petty pace from day to day’

  • ‘Out, out, brief candle!’

  • ‘I pull in resolution, and begin

        To doubt the equivocation of the fiend

       That lies like truth:’

  • ‘At least we'll die with harness on our back.’

 

Scene 6

  • The combined armies split up to invade the Castle, Macbeth is losing.

Scene 7

  • Macbeth meets Young Siward and kills him, whilst Macduff seeks Macbeth out.  Macbeth still showing some overconfidence here.

  • ‘Let me find him, fortune!/ And more I beg not.’

  • ‘They have tied me to a stake; I cannot fly,’ - Macbeth compares to a captive animal being taunted, yet this also compares him to the witches, by whom he has been damned.

 

Scene 8

  • Macbeth and Macduff fight, Macduff reveals he wasn’t born of a woman and they continue to fight offstage until Macbeth is killed.  Macbeth’s head in then brought on, mirroring that of the Thane of Cawdor. Malcolm becomes King and everyone leaves to be crowned at Scone.  The audience in this scene is meant to question the other character’s reductive assessment of the Macbeths, for whom we still have some amount of sympathy.

  • ‘my soul is too much charged/ With blood of thine already.’

  • ‘Of this dead butcher and his fiend-like queen,’

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