• Created by: ishrat13
  • Created on: 16-09-17 14:48


act 1, scene 1: Witches plan to meet Macbeth through "thunder and lightning". 

act 1, scene 2: King Duncan is told of the success of the battle and plans to reward brave Macbeth with the title 'Thane of Cawdor' for having defeated rebel forces in battle.

act 1, scene 3: Witches tell Macbeth he will be King 'All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Cawdor' and that Banquo 'shall father Kings yet not be one yourself'. 

act 1, scene 4: Duncan announces his son, Malcolm, will be the next King of Scotland and Macbeth worries.

act 1, scene 5: Lady Macbeth reads a letter from Macbeth, shares his ambition and calls on evil spirits to give her strength to undertake the murder of Duncan.

act 1, scene 6: King Duncan and his followers approach Macbeth's castle and are welcomed by Lady Macbeth.

act 1, scene 7: Macbeth leaves the state dinner worried by what he will have to do (kill Duncan) Lady Macbeth stirs up his spirit again.

1 of 16


act 2, scene 1: Worried about the murder he is about to commit, Macbeth sees a vision of a dagger. Banquo and his son Fleance are going to bed whilst Macbeth prepares to kill Duncan.

act 2, scene 2: Macbeth murders Duncan, althought afterwards Lady Macbeth criticises him for being distressed. She helps to cover up the murder and states that 'a little water clears us of this deed'. They then go to bed and pretend innocence,

act 2, scene 3: Macduff and Lennox go to call upon the King and see he's dead. Macbeth slays Duncan's guards to cover his crime but says he did it in fury because they murdered Duncan. Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donaldbain, slip away in fear of their lives.

act 2, scene 4: Ross and an old man discuss the unnatural events that occurred on the night of Duncan's murder. They learn from Macduff that the king's two sons have fled. Macbeth succeeds to the throne but Macduff will not attend Macbeth's coronation.

2 of 16


act 3, scene 1: Banquo suspects Macbeth of treachery and Macbeth orders his murder and the murder of his son, Fleance.

act 3, scene 2: Lady Macbeth is uneasy and Macbeth reassures her that everything is under control but he refuses to tell her what he is planning (banquo's murder etc)

act 3, scene 3: Banquo is murdered but Fleance escapes.

act 3, scene 4: Banquo's ghost appears at Macbeth's banquet and terrorises Macbeth, whose behaviour indicates his guilt to fellow guests.

act 3, scene 5: Macbeth, now acting independently of his wife, plans to see the witches again. The witches and their queen, Hecate, prepare the audience for the next meeting with Macbeth.

act 3, scene 6: Malcolm is in England and Macduff has gone to join him leaving his wife and children behind at his castle. The English King is raising an army to fight against Macbeth.

3 of 16


act 4, scene 1: Macbeth visits the witches and discovers that he should fear Macduff, but that no man born of a woman can harm him. He also learns that he will never be beaten until Birnan Wood comes to Dunsinane. After leaving the witches, Macbeth orders the murder of Macduff's wife and children.

act 4, scene 2: Lady Macduff and sons are killed.

act 4, scene 3: In England, Malcolm tests the loyalty of Macduff, who has recently arrived there from Scotland.

- Plans are in hand for an invasion of Scotland by the English King, then Macduff hears of the murder of his entire family by Macbeth's orders.

- When Malcom informs Macduff that England will provide an army under Seyward to defeat Macbeth, Macduff vows personally to kill Macbeth.

4 of 16


act 5, scene 1: Lady Macbeth suffers from a guilty conscience. She walks in her sleep and dreams of her and her husband killing Duncan.

act 5, scene 2: The English army marches towards Dunsinane and discuss Macbeth who is showing signs of panic. Macbeth fortifies his castle at Dunsinane and prepares for a long siege.

act 5, scene 3: Macbeth is told of the army and recalls the witches prophecies. He discusses his wifes condition and goes off into battle.

act 5 scene 4: Malcolm's soldiers camouflage themselves with branches from trees of Birnan Wood to mask their approach. 

act 5, scene 5: Macbeth learns his wife has died - apparently by suicide - but he is unconcerned, as his life appears to lack any meaning. He is enraged when a messenger tells him that Birnan Wood is coming to Dunsinane.

act 5, scene 6: Malcoms army reaches Macbeths castle and the battle starts.

act 5, scene 7: Macbeth encounters Young Siward and kills him. Macduff who was born by Caesarean kills Macbeth in single combat. Macduff hails Malcolm as King of Scotland.

5 of 16


He is generous , bestowing honours on his warriors and gifts on their wives. 

"More is thy due than more than all can pay" - he says he cannot praise Macbeth enough.

He is fair and just in his leadership.

"this Duncan Hath bourne his faculties so meek hath been, So clear in his great office" - Macbeth says Duncan used his power so gently and he's been so incorruptible in his great office.

Duncan is well respected and liked.

"tears shall drown the wind" - When Macbeth contemplates his motives for murder he thinks about how Duncan's death will be mourned.

6 of 16


Macbeth is the fatal protagonist of the play whose tragic rise and fall is told. Although he is initially presented as brave and valiant, we witness how ambition drives Macbeth to betrayal, brutality and ultimately his death.

Macbeth is first and foremost a warrior - courage is his defining quality. "For brave Macbeth - well he deserves that name" - The Captain describes Macbeth's bravery in the battle.

He is not essentially a brutal character. In fact, Lady Macbeth worries that her husband might be too kind to kill the King.  "Yet do I fear thy nature/ It is too full o'the milk of human kindness/ To catch the nearest way" - mildness and pure white colour of milk suggests Macbeth has these attributes too.

Banquo observes that the witches' prophecies have come true, but he fears that Macbeth has accelerated events with dishonesty. "Thou hast it now: king, Cawdor, Glamis, all/ As the weird women promised, and, I fear/ Thou play'dst most foully for't" - echoes the witches claim that "fair is foul"

Finally, Macbeth is thought of as a mass murderer "this dead butcher" - Malcolm doesn't even use his name.

7 of 16

Macbeth 2

At the end of his soliloquy, Macbeth admits he has "no spur/ To ***** the sides of my intent, but only/ Vaulting ambition" - this reveals his fatal flaw to the audience and suggests the tragedy to come. Shakespeare shows us that Macbeth knows King Duncan is 'meek' and 'great' but still his ambition is stronger than his respect.


Macbeth has been obsessed with the need for security since assassinating Duncan. Shakespeare portrays him as frightened of what he cannot control. This is shown in his need to visit the witches and find the certainty of 'security'. One factor in establishing the trustworthiness of the prophecies in Macbeth's mind is the speed with which they happen: he becomes 'Cawdor' immediately after the witches say he will; now, having been told to watch out for Macduff, Shakespeare has Lennox appear with the same warning. The effect of this is that Macbeth (and, to an extent the audience) feels secure at this point that the prophecies can be trusted.

8 of 16

Lady Macbeth

As Macbeth's wife, she persuades her husband to commit murder and helps him to cover up his actions. Her downfall precedes Macbeth's, as guilt and isolation lead her to her mental breakdown and death.

Duncan trusts Lady Macbeth as the gracious wife of one of the most important lords "our honoured hostess" and "Fair and noble hostess"  - the repetition of 'hostess' emphasises how inhospitable her actions will be.

Macbeth has affection for his wife, and trusts her to help him with his plans "my dearest partner of greatness" - he sees her as an equal

Macbeth compliments his wife by saying her strength makes her like a man "Bring forth men-children only!/ For thy undaunted mettle should compose/ Nothing but males" - there is nothing 'soft' or femenine in her

Malcolm's final judgement is that Lady Macbeth was like a devil "fiend-like queen" - this associates her with hell

9 of 16

Lady Macbeth 2

Shakespeare does not present Lady Macbeth as equal to Macbeth - it is not their tragedy, but his. Her role is vital - Macbeth is tempted to do evil and Lady Macbeth is the key human agent;She is the one Macbeth trusts and loves who ensures his temptation is thorough and complete.  

Lady Macbeth is presented as determined to bring about the witches' prophecy - the way she calls on the spirits of the evil seems to parallel the witches' spells. She asks the spirits to "unsex me here" and "take my milk for gall". Despite her initial overpowering presence, she is not a heroic character herself. This is shown in her collapse once Macbeth withdraws his confidence from her.

When she reads Macbeths letter:

  • her response is direct and to the point
  • her husband must have what he has been promised
  • no fine points of conscience or loyalty seem to worry her
10 of 16


  • In the play, Banquo warns Macbeth against trusting the witches' prophecies
  • suspects something before and after the murder of king Duncan
  • murdered by Macbeth's orders and appears as a ghost at his banquet
  • appears as an apparition in the witches' cave, confirming that his offspring will become future kings of Scotland and more

He will not become king himself, but his descendants will "Lesser than Macbeth, and greater"

The King appreciates Banquo's qualities and honours him "Noble Banquo/ That hast no less deserved, nor must be known/ No less to have so" - the word 'noble' suggests generosity of spirit, warmth and compassion

Macbeth tests Banquo's loyalty to the king "If you shall cleave to my consent, when 'tis/ It shall make honour for you" - In his reply, Banquo makes it clear that he is loyal and committed to the king

Banquo is genuinely a superior person - with qualities of boldness, discretion and understanding "in his royalty of nature/ Reigns that which would be feared... He hath a wisdom doth guide his valour"

11 of 16


Macduff is the honourable thane who ultimately brings retribution to Macbeth. He is the man of destiny, "not born of woman".                     In the play, Macduff:

  • discovers Duncan's murder , suspects Macbeth's guilt and refuses to attend his coronation - Macbeth begins to fear him
  • abandons his castle and flees to England without his family - his family are murdered in his absence 
  • hunts out and kills Macbeth in single combat   Macduff's peers hold him in esteem and affection, referred to by Banquo as, "Dear Duff"

Macbeth goes from hot to cold in his reaction to Macduff; at his deepest level he knows he should fear Macduff - a warrior too - which is why he attempts to destroy him "Then live, Macduff: what need I fear of thee?" - Ironically Macbeth thinks the prophecy will save him.

There is something impulsive and irrational in Macduff's behaviour "His flight was madness: when our actions do not/ Our fears do make us traitors" - fear makes him leave his wife and children

Macduff is a passionate and true man "Macduff, this noble passion... thy good truth and honour" - Malcolm sees he can be trusted

12 of 16

The Witches

The witches embody demonic intelligences; they provide information, but do not directly invite human beings to commit crimes. In the play, the witches seem evil and appear to provide information about the future. This destabilises the present by tempting Macbeth.

They are presented as agents of evil and are deceptive and dangerous "And oftentimes to win us to our harm/ The instruments of darkness tell us truths" - they use truth itself to influence a terrible outcome

Their message is compelling and attractive "Would they had stayed" - Macbeth is fascinated by them

The witches are infected or diseased and those who trust them will be damned - as Macbeth is "infected be the air whereon they ride/ And damned all those that trust them" 

Shakespeare suggests they embody evil - this is fixed and elemental. They do not change, unlike Macbeth. Their information tempts Macbeth - but they do not invite him to murder Duncan or even suggest that he does. Shakespeare suggests that information is morally neutral until human beings begin to interpret it. Thus the witches symbolise evil, but man is free to resist them. Macbeth is tragic partly because he comes to depend upon their information.

13 of 16


Ambition is the fundamental theme and the driving force of Macbeth's life. It is also the theme that informs the Shakespearean idea of tragedy. In Macbeth the hero's greatest weakness (causing him to fall from grace and inevitably die) is ambition.

  • Macbeth acknowledges his 'vaulting ambition' specifically when he is contemplating the murder of Duncan. This acknowledgement comes after he has considered all the good reasons for not murdering Duncan - only ambition is left to overrule Macbeth's troubled confidence.
  • Although the influence of both Lady Macbeth and the witches is strong, their power over Macbeth is only possible because his ambition is already there.
  • On first meeting Macbeth we find him startled and fearful of something that sounds 'so fair'. This seems to be because his ambition has already triggered treasonous thoughts.
  • Macbeth, then, is a hero but one who is fatally undermined by his ambition. The consequences of this ambition form the fabric of the play.                                    Macbeth and Banquo each receive prophecies from the witches. However, where Banquo is wary of the 'Weird Sisters', Macbeth's ambition is fuelled by their claim that he will become king. When Malcolm is given the title 'Prince of Cumberland' by his father, Macbeth's reaction shows how he sees the natural heir to the throne as an obstacle: 'That is a step/ On which I must fall down, or else o'er leap/ For in my way it lies'.
14 of 16

The supernatural

The theme of the supernatural appears in the play in various guises - as the witches, as visions and in Lady Macbeths incantations.

  • Witchcraft has four functions in the play: it exposes the evil hiding within Macbeth; it directs his evil to particular deeds; it highlights the forces of evil at work in the world; and it creates a powerful atmosphere in the play.
  • The witches only appear in four scenes. However, they are the first characters we meet and their evil sets the scene for everything to come: thunder and lightning suggest the havoc that Scotland is about to experience. The witches know they will tell Macbeth something that will prey on his mind. The witches' knowledge is like a drug to Macbeth. He is hooked on them from the start - 'would they had stayed' - and continually wants more. This leads him to seek them out later. Banquo warns against trusting supernatural knowledge, but Macbeth will not listen.
  • Macbeth is particularly affected by the supernatural, with his visions of the dagger (2.1) and Banquo's ghost (3.4).
  • When Lady Macbeth calls on the dark forces (1.5) she is asking demonic spirits to possess her mind and body so that all her human pity can be removed. 
15 of 16


Revenge is an important theme and is contrasted with the idea of justice being done. 

  • When Duncan asks whether the traitorous Cawdor has been executed, he is asking for justice.
  • Macbeth's execution of Duncan's guards is not a example of justice, even though Macbeth claims to act in revenge for Duncan's murder. When Banquo's ghost appears, apparently seeking revenge for his death, Macbeth notes that 'Blood will have blood'.
  • Later, when Macbeth summons the witches, the ghost of Banquo 'smiles' at him (4.1), implying that his revenge is complete and that his descendants will be kings.

Perhaps most importantly of all in terms of the play is Macduff's vengeance. By murdering Macduff's family Macbeth sets against himself the one man who can defeat him. Macduff's mission for revenge is entirely personal - he promises that Macbeth escaping from him is as likely as heaven forgiving him (4.3)

PATTERNS OF REVENGE: Malcolm and Donaldbain lose their father (Duncan) to Macbeth, as does Fleance, and the sons want revenge. The sons of Macduff and Old Seyward are killed and so the fathers will also seek retribution. 'It will have blood; they say, blood will have blood' (3.4) Macbeth hopes that murdering Duncan can be the 'be-all' and 'end-all' of the matter but revenge is not so easily set aside.

16 of 16


No comments have yet been made

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all Macbeth resources »