macbeth

macbeth

The play opens as three witches plan a meeting with the Scottish nobleman Macbeth, who at that moment is fighting in a great battle. When the battle is over, Macbeth and his friend Banquo come across the witches who offer them three predictions: that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland, and that Banquo's descendants will become kings.

Banquo laughs at the prophecies but Macbeth is excited, especially as soon after their meeting with the witches Macbeth is made Thane of Cawdor by King Duncan, in return for his bravery in the battle. He writes to his wife, Lady Macbeth, who is as excited as he is. A messenger tells Lady Macbeth that King Duncan is on his way to their castle and she invokes evil spirits to help her slay him. Macbeth is talked into killing Duncan by his wife and stabs him to death. No-one is quite sure who committed this murder and no-one feels safe, but Macbeth is crowned king.

Now that Macbeth is king he knows the second prediction from the witches has come true, but he starts to fear the third prediction (that Banquo's descendants will also be kings). Macbeth therefore decides to kill Banquo and his son, but the plan goes wrong - Banquo is killed but his son escapes. Macbeth then thinks he is going mad because he sees Banquo's ghost and receives more predictions from the witches. He starts to become ruthless and kills the family of Macduff, an important lord. Macbeth still thinks he is safe but one by one the witches' prophecies come true, Lady Macbeth cannot stop thinking about Duncan, becomes deranged and dies. A large army marches on Macbeth's castle and Macbeth is killed by Macduff.

This is just the basic story and there are lots of extra characters and details you can include. However, do not fall into the trap of retelling the story in your essay - you will get no marks for it because the examiner already knows what happens. Instead, use the plot to support your work and ideas. Let's have a look at how you can do this

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macbeth

Macbeth

We know that Macbeth is a brave and valiant soldier, ready to die for his king, Duncan. However, the prophecies of the witches have a powerful effect on him, especially when he learns the first has come true, and he becomes the Thane of Cawdor. He thinks more and more about being king, and he is easily persuaded to agree to murder Duncan. However, he often appears weak - he starts to have visions, he asks lots of questions, he cannot make a decision and never really seems sure of himself. For instance, he panics just after the murder and has to rely on his wife to find an alibi.

Later in the play he appears to be more in control and less reliant on his wife. For instance, he plans to murder Banquo without even telling his wife. He also ignores his visions and makes decisions quickly, giving orders rather than asking questions. At times he is full of confidence but he is also distant and seems to ignore the death of his wife. When he realises he will also die, he 'will not yield' and fights to the very end.

Knowing the facts about a character is only the start - we need to be able to use these effectively. One way to do this is to have details or quotes from the play to support our ideas. For instance:

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