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Points to Ponder

Lines or boundaries get blurred very often in this play. The morning following Duncan's murder is as dark as night. The witches should be women, but their beards confuse the issue. Lady Macbeth near the end of the play when she goes mad acts as though she is awake even though she sleeps. The ghost of Banquo rises from the dead, thereby confounding the distinction between life and death. In several parts of the play Lady Macbeth and Macbeth summon evil spirits as if they were witches, also. People can't tell polar opposites from each other - night/day, men/women, waking/sleep, living/dead, and human/inhuman. The witches speak in this language of straddling the lines or paradoxes: "fair is foul and foul is fair," or "lesser than Macbeth, and greater." Given how this world seems to operate - without boundaries - is it fair to say that the witches control this world?

Is the witches' prediction that Macbeth will become the King of Scotland a self-fulfilling prophecy, i.e. one that makes itself true by making itself known? Would Macbeth have desired the crown if not for the suggestion of the witches or would he have been content with his current position if he was ignorant? Is this the only self-fulfilling prophecy in this play or are there others? Consider the final three: "Macbeth, beware Macduff;" "none of woman born shall harm Macbeth;" and "Macbeth shall never vanquished be until / Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill / Shall come against him."

From the beginning to the end, this is an extremely bloody and dark play. There seem to be few moments of levity, with the exceptions of Scene 2.3 with the porter and Scene 4.2 with Lady Macduff and her son. This is also one of Shakespeare's shortest plays, and in many of the scenes, the action of one scene seems to spill over into the next. Shakespeare usually mixes many more comic elements in his tragedies. Why not here?

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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