Macbeth Plot


The Macbeth Plot ensures a comprehensive understanding of the psychological tragedy that is Macbeth. The play of Macbeth, the 16th century king of Scotland is widely based on material from Holinshed’s Chronicles of 1587 written as extensive volumes detailing the collective history of Britain, Scotland and Ireland.

Macbeth borders well on the psychological aspects of murder, guilt, power and revenge. Written between 1599 and 1606 it is divided into 5 acts and is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy.

The play begins dramatically with a gothic setting of thunder and lightning where a meeting is being concluded by three witches who proclaim they would meet again on the same heath (field) with Macbeth. Their rhymic conversation suggests that there is a great battle being fought in the vicinity.

Meanwhile, in the camp of King Duncan and his sons Malcolm and Donalbain, a messenger reports how the valiant Macbeth has defeated the traitorous thane of Cawdor Macdonwald and his primary supporter, the King of Norway Duncan decides to proclaim  Macbeth the new thane of Cawdor.

The witches have now reconvened on the grim and gloomy heath right in the path of Macbeth and his friend Banquo. Both are on their way back to Scotland when they encounter the witches. Macbeth is greeted with the title of thane of Glamis and thane of Cawdor, The third witch prophecies him to be the king of Scotland. The witches also prophecy that Banquo will beget a line of kings although he himself would not achieve anything.

As soon as the witches depart, Ross and Angus both noblemen arrive proclaiming Macbeth as the new thane of Cawdor. Macbeth then contemplates the witch’s prophecy with a shady plan of killing Duncan to achieve the throne however he dismisses the thought momentarily with the justification that if it was his fate to be king he could be so without murder.

Macbeth confides with his wife the lady Macbeth via a letter detailing the possibility of killing the king to which she wholehearted agrees. Lady Macbeth is a controversial figure, cold and ruthless. Even as she plays the perfect host to King Duncan and his sons who arrive at Macbeth’s castle in Inverness to stay the night, she plots and plans their eventual murder. Although Macbeth struggles with his conscience into justifying the act and fulfilling the prophecy, he ultimately relents to his wife’s wishes and decides to murder Duncan in his bedchamber while he is asleep.

Banquo is troubled by the witch’s prophecy but Macbeth insists he humor them. Act II contains the classic scene of how Macbeth struggles with his thirst for power and conscience against murder. However ambition and the influence of Lady Macbeth are too great. He is seen following an imaginary dagger to the king’s chamber. The sinister plot is marked with the eerie proclamations of one of Duncan’s shouting “MURDER; in his sleep. Macbeth kills Duncan and is immediately overcome with a sense of fear but Lady Macbeth dismisses it as a natural feeling that would vanish by washing the guilt on his hands with water. She urges Macbeth not to think too much about it or else he may go mad.

Before dawn Macduff a nobleman and one of the central figures of the play come to Macbeth’s castle to visit the king. Instead Macduff discovers Duncan’s dead body. Macbeth raises an alarm and cleverly kills the two guards who he accuses of killing the King. Duncan’s sons, Donalbain and Malcolm realizing danger, flee from the castle. Malcolm to England and Donalbain to Ireland.

Banquo expresses his surprise at how Duncan could be killed in Macbeth’s castle. Macduff relates to Ross that Duncan’s sons fleeing invite suspicion upon themselves. Ross agrees and states that the sovreighnity falls upon Macbeth who has already gone to the castle of scone to be crowned king.  When Ross asks macduff if he will attend the coronation he refuses saying he would go to fife in Ireland. This summary of Macbeth may well question why the two sons aren’t killed by Macbeth, perhaps it was Shakespeare’s climactic ending which prevented the killing of the princes.

Banquo fears that Macbeth may have killed Duncan. Macbeth senses his suspicion. Moreover he recollects the witches’ prophecy about Banco’s lineage and hires murderers to kill both Banquo and his son fleance in the forest. The plot partially succeeds where Banquo is killed but fleance escapes.

Once Macbeth learns of Banquos dearth he is plagued all the more by guilt and sees Banquo’s ghost at a banquet being thrown in his honor. Lady Macbeth asks the guests to leave and tries to calm down Macbeth but he is in turmoil. It is here that he proclaims his famous speech on death summing up his destined character. He feels too trapped in blood too escape killing again. He then plans to meet the witches again.

The three witches meet with their leader Hecate who chastises them in dealing with Macbeth whom she labels an ingrate, a selfish and spiteful man. Hecate then instructs the three witches to meet her again. She plans to play upon Macbeth’s false sense of security. Hecate connives to use the witch’s prophecy against Macbeth blinding him with ambition and power to the point of losing fear of death which would become his own undoing. In another part of the castle, Lennox and another noble are discussing about an army being amassed in England against Macbeth.

ACT IV begins with Macbeth meeting with the witches. In reply this answers the witches conjure up three ghostly apportions which prophecy that Macbeth should beware Macduff. Macbeth cannot be harmed nor anyone born of woman and neither should he fear defeat until the woods of Birnam forest march upon Duinsane castle. Macbeth demands to know more until the witches show him Banquo’s head followed by a line of kings suggesting that the prophecy remains.

When Macbeth orders Macduff to be killed, Macduff flees but his family including his son is killed in his stead. However his wife manages to escape. He meets Malcolm who is raising an army in England. Malcolm tests Macduff s loyalty by pretending to be of poor character similar to Macbeth which disgusts Macduff.

In this summary of Macbeth, Act V could well be the most significant act in Macbeth as it culminates in climax for almost every central character. While Malcolm and Macduff are gathering in the words outside Duinsane castle, Lady Macbeth goes and and ultimately kills herself. She is constantly plagued by guilt where she feels her hands are always stained with blood

The first of the witches prophecies come true as Malcolm’s army led by Macduff use camouflage of trees making it appear as if Birnam woods are marching upon Duinsane castle. Macbeth readies for battle.

The battle ensues and Macduff succeeds in engaging Macbeth in battle. When Macbeth smirks and jests with Macduff proclaiming that no woman born can harm him Macduff reveals that he was taken from woman by way of a caesarian delivery. Macduff then kills Macbeth and proclaims Malcolm rightful king of Scotland.

This summary of Macbeth is a literary version of Macbeth without opinionated content to mask the true occurrences of the play keeping in mind its central characters’.

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