2. “The Scottish Play”
• It is believed to be bad luck to speak
the word ‘Macbeth’ in a theatre
• Legend has it you will lose all your
friends involved in the production—
• The legend says that an early actor to
play Macbeth died when a real knife
was used instead of a stage knife
• Other strange occurrences and mishaps
surround the play
3. Elements of
• Protagonists die
• Catharsis (release of pent up
• Anti-hero or tragic hero
• Hamartia – fatal flaw (Macbeth’s is
ambition and obsession)
4. Ask yourself the
• Have you ever given in to temptation?
• Do you believe in prophecies?
• How do you personally decide what is good
and what is evil?
• What is the difference between greed and
• Do you believe “you reap what you sow”?
• Do you believe our lives are led by fate or our
5. Rate each statement on a scale of 1-10.
1 =disagree completely to 10 = agree wholeheartedly
Be prepared to explain your reasoning.
1. People who are striving to get ahead often step on other people.
2. Being powerful usually is the same thing as being happy.
3. One mistake can often lead to another.
4. Everyone is capable of murder under the right circumstances.
5. People who are involved in criminal activities can still feel love, fear, and concern for
6. The Many Meanings of Macbeth
• A historical thriller
a fast-moving, action-packed
murder mystery demonstrating that
crime doesn’t pay
• A psychological study of a
• A play of political and social
how oppressive and hierarchical
society can corrupt individuals
• A play of illusions
the effect of the mysterious or
supernatural on humans
• A play of ideas or themes
for example, “appearance versus
• A tragedy
the fall of a great person brought
about by a fatal flaw in their
7. Motifs – recurring objects or ideas
• Sight, Light, Darkness,
• Babies and children
• Heaven and Hell
8. So this is a comedy… right?
• Macbeth is one of
Shakespeare’s most famous
tragedies (it is also his
• Aside from the violent nature
of the plot Shakespeare uses
several literary devices to
enhance the feeling of evil
He creates a serious and
sinister mood by having most of
the play take place at night
There is a heavy emphasis on
the supernatural (witches,
dreams, spells, and ghosts)
9. Witches & Witchcraft
• A witch-mania characterized the
• Most people believed in witches
and circulating pamphlets
containing tales of witches and
witchcraft were the equivalent of
today’s popular newspapers.
Henry Fuseli, The Three Witches
10. Witches and Witchcraft
• Witches were said to have “diabolical” powers. They could:
predict the future
bring on night in the daytime
cause fogs and tempests
curse enemies with fatal, wasting diseases
cause nightmares and sterility
take demonic possession of any individual
raise evil spirits by concocting a brew
• It was believed that witches allowed the devil to suck their blood.
Accused witches were examined for the “Devil’s Mark” - a red mark on
their body from which the devil had sucked blood.
• The witches were a symbol of evil, and Shakespeare
uses this fear of the devil to give his plays an
additional eerie atmosphere and haunting effect.
• They intrigue the audience to see if they are correct
in their prophecies.
• The witches are the most striking voice of
unnaturalness and disorder. Lady Macbeth offers no
comment on the witches, the „metaphysical aid‟,
who promise so much to her husband.
• It is Macbeth who needs the witches to tell him
what is in his own mind, but is too afraid to
acknowledge – he refers to them as „instruments of
13. Tragic Hero
• “Man of high standard who falls from
that high because of a flaw that has
affected many” - Aristotle
• Macbeth is one of the most famous
examples of the tragic hero.
• Just as other tragic heroes, Macbeth
has a “fatal flaw” or hamartia
• In Macbeth’s case, it is ambition and
• A strong desire to achieve the highest levels of success,
usually with hard work
• Both Lady Macbeth and Macbeth himself are very
ambitious social climbers
• They are willing to do anything to achieve their goals, no
matter who stands in their way
• They prophecy of Macbeth being king is the driving force
behind their actions – they feel that their ambition is
justified and fated
• No remorse for their deeds; not motivated by greed, just
• Witchcraft is a prominent idea in Macbeth – the play begins
with the three witches and the scene sets the tone of the play
• Witches are the catalyst for all of the events – they start it all
by planting the seed of ambition in Macbeth's obsessive mind
• The witches predict that Macbeth will be king and the Thane
of Cawdor – the second prophecy comes true minutes after it is
given, which validates the rest in the mind of Macbeth
• Are the witches the cause of everything? Or is Macbeth crazy
(justifying his own ambition with "fate")? Is Macbeth
responsible for his choices if they are predicted? Did they
appear to Macbeth only to mess with him and see how far he
• One of Shakespeare's most violent
plays (especially given how short it is)
• Violence is used to fulfill the goals of the characters
• The play begins and ends with a war; initially Macbeth
is presented as the perfect warrior – strong and loyal
• His change throughout the play chronicles his fall
• Masculine honor
• Cowardice/Emotion vs. "Manliness"/Cruelty: Do you
need to be a man to be cruel?
• There are moments when Macbeth's ambition is
checked by his guilt (usually in his soliloquies)
• He has a conscience that he is attempting to silence
or rally into violence
• The voices of the witches and his wife drive him
to cruelty, in addition to his own ambition
• Would Macbeth commit the tragic acts of the play
without the influence of the women?
• Lady Macbeth is also driven mad by her choices
towards the end of the play
18. Good vs. Evil
• Macbeth starts as the hero - a loyal warrior
• However, no human is entirely good or entirely evil, so
with the influence of the right forces, even a hero like
Macbeth becomes corrupted - he lets the darker side of
his brain, his ambition, win.
• The witches never actually tell Macbeth to commit the
acts that he does - but because he allows his dark side
to win, he sees murder as the best path to his goals
• Lady Macbeth is a corrupting influence at the beginning
– Macbeth (the good side) loses his fight against her
arguments when she calls him unmanly and a coward.
• Macbeth's betrayal of Duncan – as the
most loyal warrior, his early betrayal
sets up the theme
• At the start of the play, Macbeth returns
from administering justice to a traitor -
is rewarded with the traitor's lands and
• Macbeth's promotion to Thane
of Cawdor gets rewarded with violence;
as the host, he is supposed to keep
his guest safe - betrayal of the code of
• Friendship means nothing to Macbeth
once he sets out on his path to the crown
20. Act One Scene 1
• Characterization: Are the witches
actual supernatural beings?
• Important lines: "Fair is foul, foul is
Chaos, reversal of the natural order
Suggests a rebellion
Makes you question reality and
• Summary: The three witches are
introduced. They inform the reader that
they are going to meet with Macbeth.
• The scene sets the tone for the entire
• Themes: Supernatural, witches/evil
22. Act One Scene 2
• Summary: Duncan (king of
Scotland) is introduced. A soldier
comes to Duncan to tell him that
Macbeth has killed the rebel
Macdonwald. However, the battle
continues as the Norwegian lord
began a new assault. He was aided
by the Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth
was able to defeat them. Duncan
orders the Thane of Cawdor to be
killed and give Macbeth the title.
• Theme: Betrayal (talk of a traitor)
Duncan seems to be a competent
leader, loved and in control. He
trusts his men, and especially
Is he a bad judge of character?
(His previous subject was just
executed for treason)
Macbeth: brave soldier,
courageous, loyal to his country.
24. Act One Scene 3
• Summary: The witches appear again. They give
3 predictions to Macbeth (Thane of Glamis,
Thane of Cawdor, king one day) and one to
Banquo (you will father kings). Scarcely have the
predictions been made than Ross and Angus
arrive to tell Macbeth that he has been made
Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth and Banquo react
differently. Banquo recognizes evil as such but
Macbeth is now encouraged to put further trust
in them since one of the predictions already came
• Themes and Symbolism: Fear and Darkness
(of the heart)
Notice how Macbeth gets afraid when the witches
mention he will be King. This symbolism is associated
with the main theme of the play which is gradual ruin
of a man through his yielding to evil. Is he afraid of
his own dark thoughts and ambition?
Macbeth: The seeds of ambition are planted.
Questions his perceptions and sanity. He already
starts thinking ghastly thoughts of murder in
his aside: "Imagined horrors are worse than
real fears. Just thinking about murder is enough
to rattle my nerves and paralyze me. Only
what's going on in my head seems real" (I.iii.134-
Banquo: loyal friend and subject; suspicious
of the predictions and not influenced by
them. He is the voice of reason and serves
as a warning.
"But sometimes to tempt us to evil, the devil
wins our confidence with trifling bits of truth"
26. Act One Scene 4
• Summary: Malcolm is describing the execution
of the thane of Cawdor. Macbeth and Banquo
enter and are thanked by Duncan for their
loyalty and service. He promises to reward
them with more honors. Duncan then names
his son Malcom as the heir to the throne
(Prince of Cumberland). As an honor to
Macbeth, Duncan invites himself and the court
to Macbeth’s castle. Macbeth leaves
immediately of the castle but he is upset that
Malcolm has been named heir (stands in the
way of Macbeth's plan to kingship).
Macbeth: Ambition: he is upset he is not
next in line for the throne
"Stars stop shining! Let darkness hide my
wicked ambitions! The work the hand
must do is not for the eye" (I.iv.50-53) -
succumbing to the darkness in his mind
Duncan: not a good judge of character;
trusted the previous Thane of Cawdor,
who was a traitor; appointed a man who
is potentially plotting his murder as the
next Thane of Cawdor.
"You can never tell from a man's face what
is going on in his mind. I trusted him
27. Act One Scene 5
• Summary: Lady Macbeth is reading a letter
her husband has sent telling her about the
prophecies and their partial fulfillment. She
expresses her determination that the third
prophecy will also come true. However, she also
believes that Macbeth is not capable of the
direct action required – the murder of Duncan –
and decides she must spur him on.
• A messenger arrives with the news that Duncan
is on his way to Inverness. She knows this will
be an ideal opportunity to carry out her plan
and wants her femininity to be replaced with
• Macbeth arrives.
Lady Macbeth: CRUELTY – she
seems violent and even more
ambitious than her husband; criticized
her husband for not
being ruthless enough "to do what needs
to be done"
"Rid me of the natural tenderness of my
sex and fill me head to toe
with direst cruelty...Make me remorseless,
so that no urgings of conscience can
alter my foul plans..." (I.v.40-53)
All of her references are to darkness and
secrets and hidden motives – evil
"Look like the innocent flower, but be the
snake that's lying under it" (I.v.64-65)
29. Act One
• Summary: Duncan, Malcolm,
Donalbain, Banquo, Lennox, Macduff,
Ross, and Angus arrive at Inverness.
Duncan comments on the sweetness of
the air. Banquo notes that martlets, a
species of bird that usually nests in
churches, have nested in the castle.
• Lady Macbeth warmly greets the king
and the thanes, though Macbeth is
nowhere to be seen.
• Themes: Manhood and Guilt
At this point, Macbeth feels more
guilt at the prospect of the murder
than his wife.
Duncan: ironic that he considers the
castle so beautiful - he is doomed to
be murdered in it. (Also of note,
this peace and beauty is what
Macbeth loses after the actions of
the next act)
31. Act One Scene 7
• Summary: Macbeth, alone, agonizes about
whether to kill Duncan. He'd be willing to
murder Duncan if he thought that would be the
end of it. But he knows that "we get what's
coming to us" (1.7.10) - karma. Also, Macbeth
notes, Duncan is a guest, kinsmen, and good
king. He decides ambition is not enough to
justify the murder.
• Lady Macbeth enters, asking where he's been.
Macbeth tells her they won't murder Duncan.
She questions his manhood. Macbeth replies:
"I'll dare do anything that is worthy of a man;
who dares do more isn't human" (1.7.46-47).
But Lady Macbeth continues: she says she has
nursed his baby, but if she'd known her
husband was such a coward she'd have rather
"dashed [the baby's] brains out" (1.7.56).
• Macbeth asks what will happen if they fail.
Lady Macbeth assures him they won't fail if
they have courage. She outlines the plan:
she'll give Duncan's bedroom attendants
enough wine to ensure they black out from
drunkenness. Then she and Macbeth will
commit the murder and frame the attendants.
Macbeth, impressed by her courage, agrees.
• Themes: Ambition/Violence/Manhood/Fate-
Lady Macbeth and Macbeth debate about
manhood and courage. She says it's taking what
you want. He says it's the power to put
responsibility before selfishness, the power to not
take what you want.
Lady Macbeth's tragedy is that she doesn't
realize that murdering Duncan will torment and
ultimately destroy her. Macbeth's tragedy is more
profound: he does realize it, and still gives in to
his ambition. He knows that murdering Duncan
will only end up leading to more bloodshed, and
ruin his honor, which he prizes.
33. Act Two, Scene 1
• Summary: Banquo and Fleance are
talking just before they go to bed. Banquo's
sleep has been troubled due to
the weird sisters.
• Macbeth enters and Banquo tells them that
Duncan is happy being at Macbeth’s
castle. Macbeth and Banquo agree to discuss
the prophecies at a later date.
• When he is left alone, Macbeth imagines a
dagger which is leading him towards
Duncan. Suddenly a bell rings which is a
prearranged signal from Lady Macbeth that
Duncan’s servants are asleep and Macbeth
can carry out the murder.
Hecate: the goddess of the witches
Banquo: admits to having "evil thoughts"
in his dreams (related to the prophecies)
but remains loyal to Duncan – wants to
remain "free from evil" when Macbeth
asks for his support
Themes: Darkness (midnight)
and references to loyalty and violence
(dagger scene - "clots of blood," "wicked
dreams," wolves and ghosts)
Ambition: Banquo has been tempted by
ambition (troubled sleep).
Manhood - Banquo believes a true man is
honorable (used to be the same thing
Chaos in Nature: as Macbeth nears
murder, nature acts up
34. The Floating Dagger
• Another form of the
supernatural is the air
drawn dagger which leads
Macbeth to his victim.
When the dagger appears
to him, Macbeth finally
becomes victim to the
delusions of his fevered
brain. The dagger points
to Duncan's room and
appears to be covered in
36. Floating Dagger
• This dagger encourages or “pushes” Macbeth to commit
the crime. Although it is meant to encourage Macbeth
to do the murder, it is at the same time, showing the
audience that what Macbeth is about to do, although it
being obvious, is evil. Shakespeare uses the
supernatural to guide the audience to show what evil
is. You begin to notice, as you read through the play,
that supernatural is used in all places where evil is
• Even if we decide the dagger comes sent from the
supernatural realm, is it sent from heaven or hell?
Does it encourage or discourage the deed? Does the
blood it bears seek to appall or enthral? The text, it
seems, provides no definitive answer, and from this we
are probably to feel the same duality, the same
uncertainty, as Macbeth.
37. Act Two, Scene 2
• Summary: Lady Macbeth is waiting
for Macbeth to murder Duncan and return to
her. She is very tense. She admits that she
was unable to kill Duncan (weakness).
• Macbeth returns and describes the sound he
heard - "Macbeth does murder sleep – Sleep
no more" (guilt = sleeplessness). His hands
are bloody and he is upset that he couldn't
say "Amen" (evil).
• He has brought the daggers and refuses to
return to the scene of the crime (shame) so
Lady Macbeth has to do it. She returns with
bloody hands – claims water will rid them of
• Characterization: Macbeth - rejected by Heaven
(cannot pray) - begins his fall
• Lady Macbeth – finally shows weakness
and hesitation ("If Duncan hadn't looked like my
father in his sleep, I'd have done it myself")
• Themes: Guilt and Madness – this begins the
downward spiral (from hero to tyrant)
39. Act Two, Scene Three
• Summary: The castle is awakened from drunken sleep by
the knocking at the castle gates. As the porter moves to
the gate, he pretends to be the porter of the gate of hell.
Eventually he opens the gate to Macduff and Lennox, who
have been asked by Duncan to awaken him early. Macbeth
enters, coming to investigate who has been knocking.
• Macduff goes to Duncan's chamber, while Lennox
describes the unnatural disturbances of the night. Macduff
returns, announcing that the king has been murdered.
• Macbeth and Lennox go to view the murder. Macbeth
confesses to killing the guards, since he attests that they
were the murderers (claimed he was too angry to let
them be questioned).
• Malcolm and Donalbain leave the country and many
assume them to have murdered the king.
• Themes: Natural Order and the
Divine Right of Kings (Macduff): the murder
against a king appointed by God
is unnatural – the action has chaos in the
world. Nature responds with storms
and unnatural behavior of animals.
• Everyone is being "natural" and honest in
their grief except for Lady Macbeth and
Macbeth. They wear masks – snakes acting
like the innocent flower (Lady Macbeth
fainting). All of their actions are now to
protect their secret – warping them and
causing madness, fear and suspicion.
• Characterization: Macduff (loyal/natural
order) vs. Macbeth
40. Act Two, Scene 4
• Summary: More unnatural events are
occurring in response to the murder –
animals, the darkness, noises, weather.
• Malcolm and Donalbain have been accused
• Macbeth has been named King in the
absence of Duncan's sons. Macduff refuses
to attend the coronation and returns to his
home in Fife – hint that the changes
occurring are not for the better. He does
not trust Macbeth.
Violence/Ambition: Macbeth's plan has
worked. If he succeeds in being a good
king, maybe all will be well...but...does
Macduff suspect him? Violence =
paranoia and fear = more violence.
41. Act Three, Scene 1
• Summary: Banquo is suspicious that Macbeth
fulfilled the witches' prophecy by foul play,
but remains silent, waiting for the prophecies
to get fulfilled for him as well.
• Macbeth and Lady Macbeth announce that a
banquet will be held that night; Macbeth
invites Banquo, who is planning on riding
through the forest with his son.
• We learn that Macbeth is obsessed with the
withes' prophecy to Banquo and considers his
former friend a threat. He hires two assassins
and convinces them that Banquo is their
enemy so they kill him (and his son).
Macbeth: obsession and suspicion – it is not
enough to be king, he states, he must be safe
(which means eliminating everyone he sees as a
threat). Fears Banquo due to his characteristics
(wisdom, regal demeanor, courage). Madness
and guilt – has corrupted his mind for the
benefit of Banquo's family, since the witches
claim Banquo's family will rule after Macbeth.
Macbeth wants to challenge fate – and kill
• Themes: Fate, Ambition, Violence and Guilt
(wants to make sure Duncan's murder was
worthwhile, not for the benefit of Fleance).
Guilt pushes Macbeth to commit more
43. Act Three, Scene 2
• Summary: Lady Macbeth expresses her
unhappiness with their situation ("wish
fulfilled brings no contentment" due to
constant worry about discovery).
• Both she and Macbeth are suffering from
troubled thoughts, sleeplessness, nightmares
and a loss of appetite.
• They attempt to hide their fears and
agitations for the upcoming feast.
• Macbeth hints that he has made plans for
some significant actions, but refuses to give
her details (concern for her sanity?)
Macbeth: spends time alone, lost in thoughts
(morbid ones); constant fear of danger; mental
agony – thinks it would be better to be
Duncan, dead, since he sleeps the peaceful
sleep of the dead; must but on a mask in
public – pretense, warped reality. Takes
control from his wife. He had to be convinced
to murder Duncan (did not want to go back to
the room); now he is no longer affected by
violence and organizes Banquo's murder
without his wife's influence.
Lady Macbeth: also showing signs of guilt and
unhappiness with their choices. Not part of
the plot to kill Banquo – Macbeth attempts to
shield her from more violence. Did the murder
of Duncan take a greater toll on her than on
him? She becomes passive and attempts to
regain both of their humanity (the feast),
while Macbeth plots more violence.
• Themes: Guilt, Madness
In order to keep power built on violence, more
violence is needed.
45. Act Three, Scene
• Summary: As they wait in the
early evening for Banquo and Fleance
to pass by, the two murderers are
joined by a third. It appears he has
been sent by Macbeth who no longer
trusts anybody. When Banquo and
Fleance arrive, carrying a torch,
one murderer puts out the light and
the other two stab Banquo. Fleance
• Themes: Fate, Violence, Betrayal
Macbeth's attempt to control fate (by
killing Banquo and Fleance) backfires –
Fleance escapes, which makes the lords
suspicious of Macbeth.
46. Act Three, Scene 4
• Summary: The guests are welcomed to the
banquet. One of the murderers informs
Macbeth that Banquo is dead but that Fleance
escaped – cause for more fear. Macbeth is
upset, but called back to his duty as a host by
his wife, who reminds him they must put on
their masks and act happy.
• Banquo's ghost enters and sits at the table (in
Macbeth's seat) - only seen by Macbeth (guilt).
The guests, who do not see the ghosts, are
started by Macbeth's reaction – he is horrified
and is clearly losing his mind (shouting at the
• Lady Macbeth attempts to calm the guests,
blaming Macbeth's behavior on a long-term
illness (fake). She chastises Macbeth quietly,
telling him it is all in his head and to conquer
his fears like a man.
• Themes: Appearance vs. Reality, Madness
and Guilt, Manliness.
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth attempt to act
normal, but Macbeth's mask falters when his
imagination manifests the ghost of Banquo at
the banquet (a sign of his madness and guilt).
The imagined ghost is a sign of Macbeth's
weakness of mind – he is emotional at the
betrayal of his best friend (called unmanly by
Lies and secrets to keep power, but the lies
become less and less effective as they become
effected by guilt and violence.
Lady Macbeth: the last time she has any sort
of control in the play (you can see it waver in
this scene already as her husband slips
further away from her and reality)
48. Banquo's Ghost
• The appearance of Banquo's
ghost provides insight into
Macbeth's character. It shows
the level that Macbeth's mind
has recessed to. When he sees
the ghost he reacts with horror
and upsets the guests.
• Banquo's ghost is the
supernatural symbol of the
acts that Macbeth committed
and also the other, more
peaceful path that Macbeth
could have chosen.
49. Banquo's Ghost
• Banquo's ghost serves to show the path that Macbeth
could have chosen as well as serving as a reminder of
Macbeth's deeds. It is in this way that Banquo haunts
Macbeth in two ways. Banquo's ghost serves as a
reminder of the horrors Macbeth committed to gain the
crown and the innocent blood he spilled. Banquo's
haunting unnerves Macbeth and unsettles his
• Blood hath been shed ere now, i‟ th‟ olden time, / Ere
human statute purged the gentle weal: / Ay, and since
too, murders have been performed / Too terrible for the
ear. The time has been/ That, when the brains were out,
the man would die, /And there an end. But now they
rise again/ With twenty mortal murders on their crowns/
And push us from our stools. This is more strange/ Than
such a murder is. (3.4.75-83)
50. Act Three, Scene 5
• Summary: The weird sisters meet with Hecate, the
goddess of the witches. She rebukes the witches for
meddling with Macbeth without first consulting her,
but says that she will help them when Macbeth comes
to see them tomorrow. She plans to show him visions
that will give him confidence and confuse him even
more (tempt him to do more evil – lead the former
hero to a tragic fate).
• Themes: Supernatural
The witches - (many production leave this scene out,
keeping the witches more neutral). Here, they are seen
as agents of evil, purposefully leading Macbeth down a
path of violence.
51. Act Three, Scene 6
• Summary: Lennox says to a Lord that he feels
it is a pity that Banquo was killed. He goes on
to imply that Macbeth is responsible for both
Duncan’s and Banquo’s deaths; even though the
general consensus is that Fleance killed his
own father, as did Malcolm and Donalbain.
• Lennox does not believe either had anything to
do with the deaths of their fathers.
• Macbeth has stolen Malcolm’s birthright to be
king and Malcolm is in England trying to
secure an army to gain his birthright back.
Macduff has gone to join in his effort.
• Lennox and the Lord hope that Malcolm will be
successful in restoring peace to the suffering
and violent Scotland.
• Themes: Ambition, Betrayal and
After Banquo's murder, the lords are
starting to see Macbeth for the tyrant that
he is – suspicion
Macbeth: will do anything to keep power;
holds the throne with the use of fear – his
subjects obey out of fear, not love.
Macduff: will do anything to save his
52. Act Four, Scene 1
• Summary: Witches perform the "double, double,
toil and trouble" spell – notice some of the nasty
• "Something wicked this way comes" - as Macbeth
approaches to ask the witches for guidance.
• Apparition 1: (floating head) - beware Macduff –
confirms Macbeth's fear
• Apparition 2: (a bloody child) - "no man of woman
born shall harm Macbeth" - Confidence – Macbeth
now believes himself to be untouchable, since all
men are born from women (false sense of security).
• Apparition 3: (a child wearing a
crown, holding a tree; a procession of
kings) - It says that Macbeth will not
be defeated until Great Birnam Wood
marches to Dunsinane Hill. Macbeth
is pleased: since forests don't march,
he must be invincible!
Macbeth begins to resemble the
witches – both unnatural and evil (they
have a more casual relationship)
• Theme: Fate, Evil
54. Act Four, Scene 2
• Summary: At Fife (Macduff's castle),
Lady Macduff is angry and demands to
know why Macduff has gone
to England. She thinks he is a cowards
and a bad father, leaving them
• Lady Macduff jests with her son about
being fatherless and son to a traitor. The
boy thinks if traitors allow themselves to
be hanged they must be fools, since there
are undoubtedly more traitors than
honest men in the world – pessimistic
• Murderers enter and kill the household.
Manhood: Does a real man sacrifice the
safety of his family for the good of his
son points out that the majority of the
people in the world have a selfish
and villainous streak. Common good
vs. Selfishness and ambition.
Evil: Macbeth has finally ordered the
murder of the innocent, completing his
fall. His loss of humanity is
complete. The seeds of his own self
destruction are sown.
56. Act Four, Scene 3
• Summary: In England, Macduff urges Malcolm
to quickly raise an army against Macbeth. But
Malcolm says Macduff might actually be
working for Macbeth, a suspicion heightened by
the fact that Macduff left his family behind and
unprotected in Scotland.
• Malcolm then adds that he delays attacking
Macbeth because he fears that he himself
would perhaps be even a worse ruler. Malcolm
describes himself as so lustful, vicious, and
greedy that he makes Macbeth look kind.
Macduff cries out in horror, and says he will
leave Scotland forever since there is no man fit
to rule it. Malcolm then reveals that none of his
self-description was true: it was a trick to test
Macduff's loyalty. Malcolm now believes that
Macduff is loyal to Scotland and not Macbeth,
and that he has an army of ten thousand men
commanded by the English Lord Siward, ready
to invade Scotland.
• Ross tells Macduff his family has been
murdered. Macduff cries out in
anguish. Malcolm tells him to fight it
like a man. Macduff responds that he
must also "feel it like a man" (4.3.223).
But they agree that Macduff's anger
and grief should be used to fuel his
Macduff proves that his morality and
love of country is greater than his
True manhood, Macduff realizes in his
moment of anguish, involves not just
strength, honor, and loyalty, but also
emotion, feeling, and love.
57. Act Five, Scene 1 - Huge Transformation of Lady
(from ruthless killer to suffering and sorrow)
• Summary: The act opens with Lady Macbeth's
sleepwalking scene, the start of her insanity.
Sleep is associated with a peace of mind and
innocence – sleepwalking is "unnatural" (Lady
Macbeth is unnatural and troubled)
• Lady Macbeth keeps rubbing her hands as if to
wash them while saying "out, damned spot"
(5.1.30) - guilt; stained conscience. Then Lady
Macbeth seems to relive her attempt to
convince Macbeth to kill Duncan, as well as
some of the other crimes.
• The doctor says the disease is beyond his power
to cure, and that "unnatural deeds do breed
unnatural troubles" (5.1.61-62). He also says he
dares not speak about what he's just witnessed.
• Themes: Guilt, Unnatural vs. Natural Acts
Lady Macbeth's guilt makes it impossible for
her to hide the horrors that she and Macbeth
have committed. Her conscience is rebelling
against the unnatural fiend that ambition
has turned her into.
Characterization: Lady Macbeth, who once
naively thought she could just wash her hands
and forget Duncan's murder, is now
sleepwalking and so full of guilt that she
imagines her hands are always covered in
Light Symbolism: The light represents Lady
Macbeth's guard of the darkness and insanity
that’s enveloping her - "She has the light by her
continually; 'Tis her command."
59. Act Five, Scene 2
• Summary: Lennox and other Scottish lords and
soldiers discuss the situation: Malcolm and his
army are at Birnam Wood. Macbeth, in a
constant rage verging on madness, is fortifying
the stronghold of Dunsinane.
• The lords agree that Macbeth is tormented by
his terrible actions, and that those who follow
him do so out of fear, not love. The lords ride to
• Themes: Fate
With the mention of Birnam Wood and
Dunsinane, the audience can see that Macbeth's
fate is approaching.
Macbeth's efforts to maintain power through
violence have, in fact, turned people against
him and made him weak
Macbeth’s powerful reign is falling apart. Lady
Macbeth has been a solid pillar, always there to
be calm and collected. Now that we, the
readers, have seen her falling apart it becomes
clear that Macbeth will soon follow.
60. Act Five, Scene 3
• Summary: Macbeth dismisses all reports about
Malcolm's army, saying he'll fear nothing until
Birnam Wood marches to Dunsinane and
mocking Malcolm as a man born of woman. He
shouts for his servant Seyton to bring his armor,
then muses how sick at heart he feels, how
withered his life has become.
• He asks the doctor about Lady Macbeth, then
commands that the man cure her.
• Themes: Fate, Ambition
Macbeth is fearless because of the prophecies, but he
seems to wish he weren't. He knows his life is awful,
but he's so gripped by ambition that he can't turn
Macbeth seems totally out of touch with reality. He
is a man warped beyond any semblance of
61. Act Five, Scene 4
• Summary: In Birnam Wood, Malcolm
walks with Macduff, Siward, Young
Siward, and others Scottish and
English lords. Malcolm gives orders
that to hide the size of their army, all
soldiers should cut a branch from a
tree and hold it upright as they
• Theme: Fate
The first block in Macbeth's fate falls into place:
Birnam Wood will march on Dunsinane.
62. Act Five, Scene 5
• Summary: Macbeth laughs at the coming army,
but seems bored by his lack of fear. Suddenly, a
woman cries out. Seyton investigates, and
returns with news that Lady Macbeth has died
(suicide). Macbeth gives a speech about life:
"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow /
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,"
concluding that life "is a tale / told by an idiot,
full of sound and fury, / signifying nothing"
(5.5.18-27) - nothing left to live for; grieving,
depressed, without a purpose (regrets his
• A servant rushes in with news that Birnam
Wood is marching toward Dunsinane. Macbeth
rushes to see for himself, and realizes the
witches tricked him. He feels fear for the first
time, calls to raise the alarm, and says that at
least he'll die fighting.
• Theme: Fate
The prophecy gives Macbeth courage, but
also makes his life empty. He almost
seems to look forward to dying.
Macbeth has become so numb because of
his own terrible actions that he can't even
react when his wife dies. All he can do is
comment on how meaningless life is.
64. Act Five, Scene 6
• Summary: Malcolm orders
his men to throw down the
branches they carry. The
first charge against
under Siward and Macduff.
• Theme: Violence
The very quick and sudden
scenes in the second half of
Act 5 capture the chaos of
65. Act Five, Scene 7
• Summary: In the fighting, Macbeth encounters
and fights Young Siward. Though Young Siward is
brave, Macbeth quickly kills him and says in a
mocking tone that he fears no man of woman
• Macduff searches for Macbeth, vowing to kill him
to avenge his family.
• Macbeth and Macduff meet. Macbeth says he has
avoided fighting Macduff because he has too
much blood on his hands already.
• After Macduff defeats Macbeth, he presents his
severed head to Malcolm. Malcolm accepts the
thanes' loyalty and makes them all earls (a
higher rank). He pledges to "plant" a new peace,
and to heal the wounds Macbeth and his "fiend-
like queen" (5.11.35) inflicted on Scotland.
Macbeth dies as he lived—a slave to
ambition. Lady Macbeth convinced him to
sacrifice his honor by questioning his
courage, now Macduff gets Macbeth to fight
for a lost cause to prove his courage.
• Themes: Revenge, Violence, Leadership
Emphasis on Macduff's need for revenge
against Macbeth. The play is building
Macbeth's men don't even fight for him.
His rule is utterly hollow.
Macduff shows his loyalty to king and