The Tragedy of MacbethMain Characters
Duncan – King of Scotland, evidently a mild-mannered king, murdered by Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.Malcolm- son of Duncan. When Duncan is murdered, Malcolm, fearful of meeting the same fate, flies to England.Macduffurges Malcolm toretrunto Scotland and claim his throne.
Character List Continued
Macbeth – General of the King’s army, afterwards King of Scotland. He recoils at first from the murder of Duncan even though he is ambitious to become king. Under the prodding of his wife, he murders King Duncan.Banquo– General of the King’s army. Macbeth murdersBanquobecause Macbeth realizes thatBanquosuspects that Macbeth murdered Duncan.
Macduff– Macbeth’s special nemesis. SinceMacduffhas been born without the labor of his mother, he can circumvent the prophecy made to Macbeth by the witches.Lady Macbeth – wife to Macbeth. She has often been played as a villainess. She seems more bloodthirsty than her husband in the early stages of the play. Her sleepwalking scene in Act V shows that she possesses a conscience.
Angus – Scottish nobleCaithness– Scottish nobleDonalbain– younger son of DuncanFleance–Banquo’sson, who manages to escape his father’s fateHecateLennox – Scottish nobleLadyMacDuff– killed by order of Macbeth
Supporting Characters Continued
Menteith– Scottish nobleRoss – Scottish nobleSeyton– an officer attending MacbethSiward– Earl of NorthumberlandYoungSiward– Northumberland’s sonThree Witches – the weird sistersGentlewoman; an old man; an English doctor and a Scotch doctor; Captain; a drunken porter etc.
The probable date of composition is 1606. The only text is to be found in the First Folio (1623), a version which many scholars believe to be garbled.
Duncan, King of Scotland, has found it necessary to meet two threats to his kingdom. The first threat, a rebellion led by Macdonald, has been put down by Macbeth andBanquo. Then theNorweigianslaunched an attack on Scotland. When Macbeth andBanquomeet three witches, they hail Macbeth first as Thane ofGlamis, next thane of Cawdor , and finally as one who shall be king hereafter. Macbeth’s ambition begins to grow. When King Duncan decides to stay the night at Macbeth’s castle, Lady Macbeth
Act I Continued
Reinforces Macbeth’s desire to kill King Duncan while he sleeps at their home.Although Macbeth realizes there are many reasons why he shouldn’t commit the crime, he determines to proceed.
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth go ahead with their plans for murder. Lady Macbeth drugged the King’s servants whom she plans to blame for the crime. Macbeth enters the King’s chamber and stabs King Duncan. Lady Macbeth smears the blood on the King’s servants, so they will be blamed for the murder.Macduffand Lennox have traveled here to meet the King, and they discover the murdered king. The servants are immediately blamed and Macbeth then kills them to avenge the death( to keep them quiet). The King’s sons Malcolm andDonalbainfear for their lives and
Act II Continued
flee to England and Ireland . Because of their quick departure, they are believed to be accomplices in the murder of their father. Macbeth is then chosen tobe king.
Act III Summary
Scene 1At the king’s palace atForres,Banquoreveals that he suspects Macbeth of having murdered Duncan. Macbeth invitesBanquoto a banquet that night and learns thatBanquoand his sonFleancewill come. Macbeth hires three murderers to killBanquoandFleance.
Scene 2Lady Macbeth expresses her discontent in a brief soliloquy. She urges Macbeth to be fearless and more cheerful. Macbeth says that he envies Duncan, who is at peace, and says that he fearsBanquoand his children. He also says that a dreadful deed will soon be accomplished. He tells Lady Macbeth nothing of his plans to haveBanquoandFleancemurdered.
Scene 3Near the palace the murderers killBanquo.Fleanceescapes.Scene 4The banquet atForresis under way when one of the murderers calls Macbeth aside to tell him thatBanquois dead butFleanceis not. Macbeth alone among the guests seesBanquo’sghost. He speaks to it, causing the other guests to think he is mad.He and Lady Macbeth say that he is ill, and Lady Macbeth dismisses the guests. Macbeth says that he will send forMacduffand visit the witches.
Scene 5At a witches’ haunt, Hecate, the queen of the witches, meets the weird sisters and berates them for leaving her out of their dealings with Macbeth.Scene 6A conversation in the palace brings developments up-to-date. Lennox explains his suspicions of Macbeth and asks a Scottish lord whereMacduffis in England, raising an army against Macbeth. Macbeth, he reports summonedMacdufbutMacduffrefused to come.
Scene 1The weird sisters chant before a caldron. Macbeth enters demanding to know the future. The witches show him three apparitions (an armed head, a bloody child, and a child wearing a crown), and theses visions give him advice and make predictions. The first tells Macbeth to beware ofMacduff; the second says that no one born of woman will hurt Macbeth; and the third tells him that he will not be conquered untilBirnamWood comes toDunsinane.
Act IV Scene 1 Continued
When Macbeth demands to learn more, the witches show him another apparition: eight kings, includingBanquo, who points to these kings as his descendants and holds up a mirror to indicate the continuation of his line. The witches vanish, and Lennox appears and tells Macbeth thatMacduffhas fled to England. As the scene ends Macbeth is planning to murder LadyMacduff, her children, and anyone else ofMacduff’slineage.
Scene 2AtMacduff’scastle, Ross tells LadyMacduffthatMacduffhas gone to England. Ross leaves and asMacduffhas gone to England. Ross leaves, and as LadyMacduffand her young son talk, a messenger arrives and warns them to flee. The murderers arrive immediately and kill first her son and then her.Scene 3In England,Macduffattempts to secure Malcolm’s aid in fighting Macbeth. Malcolm first testsMacduff’sloyalty to Scotland.
Act IV Scene 3 Continued
AfterMacduffproves his integrity, Malcolm tells him that an army is ready to attack Macbeth. Ross then tellsMacduffthat his wife, children, and servants have been murdered.Macduffprays to meet Macbeth in battle.
Scene 1At the castle atDunsinane, Lady Macbeth’s lady-in-waiting and doctor discuss Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking. As they talk, Lady Macbeth enters, walking in her sleep. She rubs her hands repeatedly as if to rid them of the blood that she imagines stains them. From Lady Macbeth’s words the onlookers infer that theMabethsmurdered Duncan. The doctor will not speak of his suspicions.
Scene 2InBirnamWood, nearDunsinane, Malcolm,Macduff, and their forces gather. The Scottish lords discuss their plans and Macbeth’s reported state of mind.Scene3Inside the castle atDunsinane, Macbeth, because of the witches’ prophecies, feels confident that he is invincible. A servant brings news of the approaching army.
Scene 4The troops have gathered nearBirnamWood to attack Macbeth. Malcolm orders the soldiers to carry branches from the woods as camouflage.Scene 5In the castle atDunisnane, as Macbeth awaits the approaching army, an offstage cry is heard.Seyton, Macbeth’s attendant, enters with news that lady Macbeth is dead. Macbeth delivers his famous soliloquy(“tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…”). A messenger brings the news thatBirnamWood is approaching the castle.
Scene 6On the field near the castle, Malcolm orders his troops to throw down their camouflage and attack.Scene 7Elsewhere on the field, Macbeth kills YoungSiward, son ofSiward, the earl of Northumberland. Macbeth exits withMacduffin pursuit.
Scene 8Elsewhere on the field,Macduffconfronts Macbeth, who at first refuses to fight him, warning him that no one born of a woman can harm him.Macduffexplains that he was not born of a woman but by Caesarean section. Macbeth still refuses to fight, butMacduffgoads him by vowing to place him in a cage and display him as a fallen tyrant. Their fight begins and continues offstage. Ross reports toSiwardthat YoungSiwardhas died bravely.Macduffreturns with the head of Macbeth and acclaims Malcolm king of Scotland. Malcolm promises to restore peace and order to Scotland.