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Plot Summary

Scotland is in the middle of a war against several nations aided by some Scottish traitors, most notably the Thane of Cawdor (a thane is the equivalent of an English earl). King Duncan of Scotland has a brilliant general named Macbeth, who nearly single-handedly wins the war for Scotland. On their ride back from the battlefield to King Duncan, Macbeth and his best friend Banquo run across three witches. They tell Macbeth that he will be Thane of Cawdor and then will become the King of Scotland. They predict that Banquo will father a line of Scottish kings but will not be one himself. Macbeth and Banquo refuse to believe the strange predictions until a messenger arrives from Duncan that Macbeth has been named Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth now believes that he will become king since his first prediction came true. When Macbeth and Banquo meet up with Duncan, the king declares that they will celebrate their victory at Macbeth's castle.
Lady Macbeth receives a letter from Macbeth informing her of the witches' prophecies, and she concludes that they should murder Duncan so that Macbeth can become king right away. Macbeth arrives at his castle, just ahead of the others, and Lady Macbeth tells him that they must murder Duncan tonight. Duncan and the others arrive at the castle to celebrate. After the feast, everyone goes to sleep, but Macbeth and Lady Macbeth stay up to carry out their plan to murder Duncan. At first, Macbeth says that he refuses to kill Duncan, but Lady Macbeth convinces him to go through with it. After Macbeth murders Duncan, he has regrets and fears about the consequences. Lady Macbeth says that there is nothing to worry about. Macduff, the Thane of Fife, arrives at the castle right after Duncan is murdered. Macduff asks Macbeth (now all cleaned up and in his sleeping clothes) to see Duncan. To his shock, Macduff discovers that Duncan has been murdered, and he wakes up the entire castle to make everyone know what has happened. All the thanes meet to discuss what they should do next. Duncan's two sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, decide to skip out on the meeting and flee because they are worried that whoever killed their father might kill them next. When Malcolm and Donalbain run away, the other thanes conclude that they must be guilty, and they crown Macbeth the new king of Scotland.
Since his prophecies has come true, Macbeth worries that Banquo's prophecy will come true also. In order to prevent Banquo's children from becoming kings, Macbeth hires two murderers to kill Banquo and his only son Fleance. The murderers succeed in killing Banquo, but Fleance manages to escape. Macbeth is hosting a banquet for his friends when he finds out from the murderers that Fleance escaped. When he returns to the party, Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo sitting in his chair and he starts to go crazy (no one else can see the ghost). Lady Macbeth tells everyone that the party is over because she is afraid that Macbeth might say something that gives them away. The other thanes, witnessing Macbeth's strange behavior, conclude that he must have killed Duncan and Banquo. Some of the thanes go to England to find and bring back Malcolm, the rightful heir to the Scottish throne.
Macbeth's world in chaos, he seeks out the witches for advice. They tell him that he should beware Macduff. They then tell him that only a man not born of woman can harm him and that he will reign until the forest moves towards his castle. Macbeth takes these prophecies to mean that no one will harm him and that he will rule forever. Macbeth sends assassins to the castle of Macduff to murder Macduff's wife and children. Macduff, meanwhile, is in England trying to convince Malcolm to return. After Malcolm is convinced that Macduff is honest, he reveals that he has ten thousand English soldiers to support him in the war against Macbeth. The other thanes join up with Malcolm and Macduff's army to lay siege to Macbeth's castle. Lady Macbeth, now gone crazy thinking about the murders they've committed, kills herself. Macbeth, with no reason left to live but determined to fight to the very end, confronts Malcolm's army assured by the witches' prophecies that he will succeed. Macbeth then sees from his castle window what seems like the forest moving towards him - it's actually Malcolm's army covering themselves with branches from the trees in the forest. Then Macbeth faces Macduff in single combat because Macbeth knows that no man of woman born can harm him. Macduff reveals to Macbeth that he was ripped from his mother's womb early, which makes him not of woman born. Macduff kills Macbeth and cuts off his head to present to Malcolm, who is declared the new King of Scotland.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Scenes 1.1 and 1.2
Scene 1.3 - An open place
Scenes 1.4 and 1.5
Scenes 1.6 and 1.7
Scenes 2.1 and 2.2
Scene 2.3 and 2.4
Scene 3.1
Scenes 3.2 and 3.3
Scene 3.4
Scenes 3.5 and 3.6
Scene 4.1
Scene 4.2
Scene 4.3
Scenes 5.1 and 5.2
Scenes 5.3 and 5.4
Scenes 5.5, 5.6, 5.7, and 5.8
Scenes 5.9, 5.10, and 5.11



 






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