Search billions of records on Ancestry.com

MacBeth's Summaries





Act 1

Act 2

Act 3

Act 4

Act 5




Act I, Scene 1 (A desert place)
The witches plan to meet after the battle, which we find is a rebellion in Scotland. They are summoned by their familiars and end with the theme of the play.







Act I, Scene 2 (A camp near Forres)
The king and his thanes are at a camp and hear word of the battle from the bleeding sergeant. The sergeant had saved Malcolm earlier. He says that the battle was doubtful, with the rebel Macdonwald receiving reinforcements and luck. However, Macbeth managed to fight well, and killed the slave Macdonwald. A second attack by the Norweyan lord angered Macbeth and he met their attacks so the Norwegians got their butts kicked. The sergeant goes to get some medical attention, and then Ross tells the rest of the story. Norway and the rebel Thane of Cawdor were met by Macbeth and were defeated. The Norwegian king Sweno was forced to pay ten thousand dollars. Macbeth is given the rebel Cawdor's title.







Act I, Scene 3 (A camp near Forres)
The witches meet again, as planned. One has been killing pigs. Another witch is getting revenge on the captain of the Tiger, who's wife has not given her a chestnut. Winds summoned by her will blow in every direction, making the sailor throw up and never sleep, though the ship will never be lost. The witch has the pilot's thumb. Then Macbeth comes. The witches sing a little song. Macbeth comments on the good and bad day, then Banquo sees the witches. They look human in some ways, but don't in others. The witches hail Macbeth as Thane of Glamis, his current title, as well as Cawdor, which he doesn't know he is to receive, and King, which is a complete shock. Banquo is suprised that Macbeth isn't ecstatic at the prophecy, and asks the witches why they have no prophecy for him. The witches make important predictions to Banquo, as lesser but greater, less happy but happier than Macbeth. They also say his children will become Kings. Macbeth wants to know more. The witches vanish, and the two puzzle over the disapperance. Ross and Angus come. Ross tells them the kind heard of his victory in battle. They tell him the King will honor him in person, but that he has also received the title of Cawdor. Macbeth asks why he is given someone else's title and is told of the treason. Now Macbeth starts thinking the prophecy might come true. Banquo is still worried. Macbeth is scared as he considers killing the king to complete the prophecy. Banquo says he is getting used to his new title. Macbeth comes out of his thinking and thanks the men. He tells Banquo they will talk later.



Act I, Scene 4 (Forres, The Palace)
The king asks if Cawdor is executed yet and if the people who did it are back yet. Malcolm says the aren't back but someone who saw it said Cawdor confessed and apologized, at peace with himself so that death was not a problem, and the way he left was be tter than the way he lived. Duncan makes a comment important to theme, saying he trusted Cawdor, because he was deceptive in the way he acted. When Macbeth arrives, Duncan thanks him for what he did, saying he can never repay him. Macbeth says he was just doing his duty. Duncan says Macbeth will grow, and Banquo will be close to his heart. Banquo also expresses his loyalty, saying the benefit would be for Duncan. Duncan says he is happy despite troubles, and declares his son Malcolm his successor, making Malcolm a problem in Macbeth's getting the throne. Duncan decides to go to Macbeth's castle, and Macbeth goes to tell his wife. Macbeth talks of how he is having dark thoughts about trying to become king. Duncan comments on how great Banquo is and then follows him.







Act I, Scene 5 (Inverness, Macbeth's Castle)
Lady Macbeth is reading a letter from Macbeth, which tells about the witches prophecy. Lady Macbeth says that her husband is too nice to get the greatness he is promised. She decides to help him gain the crown. A messenger tells her the King is coming. Lady Macbeth decides that Duncan will be killed while staying there. She tries to get rid of all kind thoughts so that she can do the deed. She tells her husband to appear normal, even while he plans to kill the King.



Act I, Scene 6 (Before Macbeth's Castle)
Duncan talks about how pleasant the castle is. Banquo notes how the birds are abundant, marking it for a nice place. Duncan greets Lady Macbeth, who returns the formality and assures her loyalty. She leads them into the castle.



Act I, Scene 7 (Macbeth's Castle)
Macbeth contemplates the crime and says he should do it soon if he does it. If this was all there was to it, and all he had to worry about was the afterlife, he would do it. But he is also judged here, and murdering may lead to his own death. He is supposed to be loyal to Duncan as a relative and subject and host. And Duncan is such a nice, great leader that whoever kills him will be damned. Everyone will be sad. There is nothing to make him do it except ambition, which is like a spur but also like a rider who jumps on a horse but falls off the other side. Lady Macbeth says Duncan almost finished dinner. Macbeth doesn't want to kill someone who has done him so well. Lady Macbeth asks what happened to his hope that he had so much. She will not love him if he doesn't do this, what he wants. Macbeth doesn't want to do it, and Lady Macbeth asks what happened since he was so willing to do it before. She says that if she had sworn to, she would kill a baby suckling at her breast. Lady Macbeth says they won't fail because they will get the King's attendants drunk and make it look like they did it. Macbeth comments on his wife's mannly mettle, and starts to believe his wife. She says it will look like the servants did it, so Macbeth agrees to do it, while hiding what he did from his face, a refernce to the theme.







Act II, Scene 1 (Court of Macbeth's Castle)
Banquo and Fleance are walking around and wondering at the time. Banquo is worried about the dark thoughts in his head. Macbeth comes up and Banquo asks why he isn't sleeping when Duncan went to bed happy and sent them gifts. Macbeth responds that he wasn't as good a host because he was unprepared. Banquo dreamt of the witches and Macbeth says they should talk about that later. Banquo wants to maintain his loyalty to the king. Macbeth dismisses his servant and then imagines a dagger before him, but he isn't sure if it is real. He says it encourages to do the deed, showing him how. In the night, he dreams of Hecate and the witches, of a wolf howling the time for murder, and compares his stealthy approach to that of Tarquin. In horror, he resolves to do the deed.







Act II, Scene 2 (Court of Macbeth's Castle)
Lady Macbeth says that the alcohol that made the attendants drunk has given her courage. Omens of death wish the king good night, and Macbeth is going to kill him as the drunk attendants are unconscious. When Macbeth shows up she is afraid they woke up and it didn't work. She would have done it if Duncan didn't look like her father. But he did it, after some trouble. One attendant woke up and said "Murder" but then they went back to sleep. Donalbain either said "God bless us" or "Amen" in response to Duncan saying it. Macbeth is troubled because he could not say "Amen". Lady Macbeth says not to think that way. Macbeth says he heard a voice saying he murdered sleep, which is described as such a sweet and pleasant thing. She tells him not to think of such sickly things and to wash his hands. She then agrees to put the daggers back, because Macbeth doesn't want to. She says only kids fear death and sleep. She will get some blood on the attendants to make them look guilty. Macbeth is troubled by knocking and says that nothing can wash his hands clean, and the blood will make the seas red. Lady Macbeth feels bad to have red hands but to be innocent of the crime itself. She tells him to wash his hands and retire and put on his nightgown so that they will not be suspicious to the watchers. Macbeth wishes he did not know what he had done.







Act II, Scene 3 (Court of Macbeth's Castle)
The porter hears knocking and says that a porter at hell would have a busy job. He pretends to be the porter of hell, and imagines the sort of people who would come, such as a farmer who didn't get the high prices wanted, a traitor, and a tailor who tried to overprice his garments. Finally he lets Macduff and Lennox in, and they have a discussion about drinking. The porter tells how drink causes red noses, sleep, and urine. He also says it causes lechery, though it takes away the performance. Macbeth comes and greets Lennox and Macduff. Macbeth leads Macduff to the king. Lennox comments on weird things that happened during the night. Macduff returns, having discovered the murder. He is in hysterics, telling them of the horror of horrors and calling for an alarm. He compares the events transpiring to Judgement Day, when the dead rise up to a trumpet. Lady Macbeth comes and asks what is going on. And Macduff tells Banquo when he enters. Macbeth reenters commenting on how awful life is with the death of his king. Malcolm and Donalbain are then informed what happened. Lennox says it looked like the chamber attendants had done it. Macbeth says that in his fury, he killed the attendants. Malcolm and Donalbain are afraid and agree to leave. Banquo says they should reassemble to investigate the matter. Malcolm, in a comment relevant to the theme, says it is easy to show a false sorrow. They both agree it is not safe there and depart.



Act II, Scene 4 (Outside Macbeth's Castle)
The old man says this is the worst night he has ever seen. Ross speaks metaphorically of the battle between light and dark. The old man compares it to an owl killing a great falcon. Ross then talks of the mysterious event with the horses of Duncan getting loose and eating each other. Macduff says it is thought the attendants did the murder. He thinks they were paid by Malcolm and Donalbain. Macbeth is said to have gone to Scone to get the crown. Duncan's body is said to be buried. Macduff and Ross bid each other farewell. The old man bids them farewell with a comment alluding again to the theme.







Act III, Scene 1 (Forres, the Palace)
Banquo comments on how Macbeth has everything he was promised, but he thinks Macbeth gained it through evil. But Banquo hopes now that his prophecies will come true and his kids will be kings. Macbeth invites Banquo, his chief guest, to a feast. Banquo and Fleance are riding that afternoon, but can be back by supper. Macbeth says that Malcolm and Donalbain, their cousins whom guilt rests upon, are in England and Ireland but don't admit to the crime. Macbeth bids them farewell then tells the servant to fetch the murderers. While waiting, he deliver a soliloquy about how it is insufficient to be king, unless he is secure. He fears Banquo, with his wisdom and temper, will try to unseat him, as the prophecies said his children would be kings. Macbeth fears he has given up his soul and committed an evil act, just to put Banquo's descendants on the throne. He tells fate to fight him to the death. Macbeth has been convincing the murderers that Banquo is a bad person over the course of two earlier meetings. Macbeth tells the murderers they have a special role as men, and the murderers say they have had a rough life and would do anything. Macbeth tells them to kill Banquo, their mutual enemy. He compares his battle with Banquo to fencing, but says he can't kill him himself. He tells them to do it carefully, and to kill Banquo's son Fleance as well.



Act III, Scene 2 (The Palace)
Lady Macbeth sends a servant for Macbeth, then says something that reminds of Macbeth's earlier soliloquy. It is no good to be insecure in what you have, and you might as well be destroyed. She asks Macbeth why he is keeping to himself and acting worried when he can't change what he has done. Macbeth says there is still a threat, and he wishes he were one of the dead who are in peace, than have such constant worries. Lady Macbeth tells him to act happy. Macbeth says his wife needs to remember that, too, and that they need to flatter Banquo to cover up for their dark plans. Lady Macbeth says not to kill Banquo and that they won't live forever. Macbeth says they can be happy after Banquo and Fleance are dead, which will happen that night. Macbeth doesn't want to tell his wife of his plans so that she can be innocent. He says this evil deed will help what was badly begun.



Act III, Scene 3 (A Park Near the Palace)
A new murderer appears, claiming to be sent by Macbeth. Banquo approaches and they kill him, but Fleance escapes. They go to tell Macbeth.



Act III, Scene 4 (A Park Near the Palace, Hall in the Palace)
At the banquet, they seat themselves according to rank. Lady Macbeth goes to play hostess, while Macbeth meets with the Murderer. He learns Fleance escaped and says he is now surrounded by fears instead of being calm and safe. Macbeth is grateful that at least the snake is gone, thought the worm Fleance will likely return. He tells the murderer they will meet again. Lady Macbeth tells him to be a good host, otherwise the guests might as well be eating at home or paying for the meal. Macbeth then sees a ghost of Banquo sit in his chair, but Ross and Lennox tell him to sit since they don't see the ghost. Lady Macbeth tells the guests to wait, that this is just a temporary fit. She tells Macbeth that it is just his imagining from fear. Macbeth says he is just ill and drinks wine to Banquo. He tells the ghost to go away, that it is not real. Lady Macbeth tells the lords to leave after Macbeth continues to act strangely. He wonders then where Macduff is. He says he will go to see the witches again.



Act III, Scene 5 (A Heath)
Hecate is angry because the witches have been dealing with Macbeth without consulting her. She says he will be told his destiny at the cave the next day. The various spells she contrives will lure him into a false sense of security. The witches prepare for her return.







Act III, Scene 6 (Forres, The Palace)
Lennox thinks it is suspicious how Macbeth has been acting and how two people killed their fathers. Macduff is reported to be in the English court, rallying forces to remove Macbeth.






Return to Index Page

Margaret Stewart-Zimmerman
May 22, 1998 - 2010