It´s Shakespeare's shortest and bloodiest tragedy, Macbeth tells the story of a brave Scottish general (Macbeth) who receives a prophecy from a trio of sinister witches that one day he will become king of Scotland. Consumed with ambitious thoughts and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan and seizes the throne for himself. He begins his reign wracked with guilt and fear and soon becomes a tyrannical ruler, as he is forced to commit more and more murders to protect himself from enmity and suspicion. The bloodbath swiftly propels Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to arrogance, madness, and death.
Macbeth - Macbeth is a Scottish general and the thane of Glamis who is led to wicked thoughts by the prophecies of the three witches, especially after their prophecy that he will be made thane of Cawdor comes true. Macbeth is a brave soldier and a powerful man,
For brave Macbeth (well he deserves that name),
Disdaining Fortune, with his brandished sword,
Which smoked with bloody wxecution
but he is not a virtuous one. He is easily tempted into murder to fulfill his ambitions to the thro-ne, and once he commits his first crime and is crowned king of Scotland, he embarks on further atrocities with increasing ease. Ultimately, Macbeth proves himself better suited to the battlefield than to political intrigue, because he lacks the skills necessary to rule without being a tyrant. His response to every problem is violence and murder. Macbeth never seems to contemplate suicide:
Why should I play the Roman fool and die
On mine own sword?
Instead, he goes down fighting, bringing the play full circle: it begins with Macbeth winning on the battlefield and ends with him dying in combat.
Lady Macbeth - Macbeth's wife, a deeply ambitious woman who lusts for power and position. She is intensely ambitious
The Three Witches - Three "black and midnight hags" who plot mischief against Macbeth using charms, spells, and prophecies. Their predictions prompt him to murder Duncan, to order the deaths of Banquo and his son, and to blindly believe in his own immortality.
Banquo - The brave, noble general whose children, according to the witches' prophecy, will in-herit the Scottish throne. Like Macbeth, Banquo thinks ambitious thoughts, but he does not trans-late those thoughts into action.
King Duncan - The good king of Scotland whom Macbeth, ambitious for the crown, murders. Duncan is the model of a virtuous, benevolent, and farsighted ruler. He is taken to be an old man, honourable, trusting and humble in carrying out the duties of his position. Duncan is too trusting, to ready to accept what seems to be true.
There´s no art
To find the mind´s construction in the face:
He (Cawdor) was a gentleman on whom I built
An absolute trust
Macduff - A Scottish nobleman who discovered the murder of Duncan. He represents the main opposition to Macbeth.
Malcolm - The son of Duncan, whose restoration to the throne signals Scotland's return to order following Macbeth's reign of terror. Malcolm becomes a serious challenge to Macbeth with Macuduff's aid (and the support of England). Prior to this, he appears weak and uncertain of his own power, as when he and Donalbain flee Scotland after their father's murder.
Lady Macduff - Macduff's wife. The scene in her castle provides our only glimpse of a domestic realm other than that of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. She and her home serve as contrasts to La-dy Macbeth and the hellish world of Inverness.
Donalbain - Duncan's son and Malcolm's younger brother.
The play begins with the brief appearance of a trio of witches and then moves to a military camp, where the Scottish King Duncan hears the news that his generals, Macbeth and Banquo, have defeated two separate invading armies. Following their pitched battle with these enemy forces, Macbeth and Banquo encounter the witches as they cross a moor. The witches prophesy that Macbeth will be made thane of Cawdor and eventually king of Scotland. They also prophesy that Macbeth's companion, Banquo, will beget a line of Scottish kings, although Banquo will never be king himself. The witches vanish. Then some of King Duncan's men come tell Macbeth that he has indeed been named thane of Cawdor. Macbeth is intrigued by the possibility that the remainder of the witches' prophecy might be true, but he is uncertain what to expect. He visits with King Duncan and writes ahead to his wife, Lady Macbeth, telling her all that has happened.
Lady Macbeth suffers none of her husband's uncertainty. She desires the kingship for him and wants him to murder Duncan in order to obtain it. When Macbeth arrives at Inverness he and Lady Macbeth plan to get Duncan's two chamberlains drunk so they will black out. The next morning they will blame the murder on the chamberlains, who will be defenseless, as they will remember nothing. While Duncan is asleep, Macbeth stabs him. When Duncan's death is disco-vered the next morning, Macbeth kills the chamberlains and easily assumes the kingship. Duncan's sons Malcolm and Donalbain flee to England and Ireland, respectively, fearing that whoever killed Duncan desires their demise as well.
Fearful of the witches' prophecy that Banquo's heirs will seize the throne, Macbeth hires a group of murderers to kill Banquo. They ambush Banquo on his way to a royal feast, but they fail to kill his son, Fleance, who escapes into the night. At the feast that night, Banquo's ghost visits Macbeth. When he sees the ghost, Macbeth raves fearfully.
Frightened, Macbeth goes to visit the witches in their cavern. There, they show him a sequence of demons and spirits who present him with further prophecies: he must beware of Macduff who opposed Macbeth's accession to the throne. When he learns that Macduff has fled to England to join Malcolm, Macbeth orders that Macduff's castle be seized and, most cruelly, that Lady Mac-duff and her children be murdered.
When news of his family's execution reaches Macduff in England, he is stricken with grief and vows revenge. Prince Malcolm, Duncan's son, has succeeded in raising an army in England, and Macduff joins him as he rides to Scotland to challenge Macbeth's forces. The invasion has the support of the Scottish nobles, who are appalled and frightened by Macbeth's tyrannical and murderous behavior. Lady Macbeth, meanwhile, becomes plagued with fits of sleepwalking in which she bemoans what she believes to be bloodstains on her hands. Before Macbeth's oppo-nents arrive, Macbeth receives news that she has killed herself, causing him to sink into a deep and pessimistic despair. Nevertheless, he awaits the English and fortifies Dunsinane, to which he seems to have withdrawn in order to defend himself, certain that the witches' prophecies guaran-tee his invincibility. He is struck numb with fear, however, when he learns that the English army is advancing on Dunsinane shielded with boughs cut from Birnam Wood. Birnam Wood is inde-ed coming to Dunsinane, fulfilling half of the witches' prophecy.
In the battle, Macbeth hews violently, but the English forces gradually overwhelm his army and castle. Though he realizes that he is doomed, Macbeth continues to fight until Macduff kills and beheads him. Malcolm, now the king of Scotland, declares his benevolent intentions for the co-untry and invites all to see him crowned at Scone.
Major conflicts - The struggle within Macbeth between his ambition and his sense of right and wrong and struggle between the murderous evil represented by Macbeth and Lady Macbeth and the best interests of the nation, represented by Malcolm and Macduff
Themes - The corrupting nature of unchecked ambition, the relationship between cruelty and masculinity and the difference between kingship and tyranny.
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William Shakespeare: Macbeth
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