Macbeth, fully The Tragedy of Macbeth, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. It was probably first performed in 1606. It was first published in the Folio of 1623, possibly from a prompt book, and is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy. James VI and I was patron of Shakespeare’s playing company, and some people say that Macbeth is the play which most clearly indicates Shakespeare’s relationship with him.
Thunder and lightning.
Who should our next meeting be with?
Should our next meeting be with Macbeth?
Yes, with Macbeth.
So we’ve decided then.
Your general, Macbeth, who is the Thane of Glamis as well as your kinsman, and Banquo have defeated the allied forces of Norway and Ireland, who were traitorously led by Macdonwald and the Thane of Cawdor.
I praise him for his bravery and his prowess in battle.
King Duncan, I have been wounded.
How about this weather, Banquo?
How about it. How about our victory in war, Macbeth?
How about it. All this talking and we’ve wandered onto this heath.
The Three Witches enter.
Hello. We are three witches, and we will tell you our prophecies.
Who are you? What prophecies?
The Witches ignore him.
WITCHES (to Macbeth)
All hail, Thane of Glamis. All hail, Thane of Cawdor. All hail, you will be King hereafter.
A long silence.
What about my fortunes?
You will be less than Macbeth, but yet, happier than him. You will be less successful than Macbeth, but yet, more successful than him. You will father a line of kings, but you? Will not be one.
I wonder what these pronouncements could possibly mean.
That was a paradox. I wonder what it means.
The witches have disappeared.
And here is Thane Ross.
Macbeth, I’m here to bestow on you a title: Thane of Cawdor.
That was the first prophecy, and now it’s been fulfilled. I was skeptical before, but now I’m beginning to feel like I have ambition to be king.
Macbeth and Banquo reach King Duncan
Welcome. I applaud you both for your success in battle, and Macbeth, I declare that I will be spending the night at your castle in Inverness. Also, I have named my son, Malcom, as my heir.
There is a MESSENGER.
It is I, the Messenger, here to deliver your message.
Send a message ahead to my wife, Lady Macbeth, about the witches, who told me their prophecy that I will eventually be king, of which I am still currently skeptical. She is at my castle in Inverness.
LADY MACBETH receives the message:
Lady MacBeth, it is I, your husband’s Messenger, here to deliver a message to you.
I have received his message.
MACBETH arrives at Inverness with LADY MACBETH.
I’ve arrived at Inverness.
Macbeth, I don’t share your skepticism regarding the prophecies from the witches. I wish that you would kill Duncan so that you will take the throne.
I don’t think I should kill Duncan.
No, you should kill Duncan. The fact that you don’t want to kill Duncan makes me fundamentally challenge your manhood.
Now I’m convinced to kill Duncan, and I plan to do it tonight.
The plan is that we will get Duncan’s two chambermaids drunk in the night, and then in the morning, blame them for the murder. They will have no defense because, since they will have been drunk, they won’t remember anything from the night.
Yes, that’s the plan.
Duncan is sleeping, so now I have the opportunity here to stab him. I am still going to stab him right now even though I am still feeling skeptical about the prophecies in general and I did hallucinate a bloody dagger.
Macbeth stabs Duncan.
The fact that I have just killed Duncan has me shaken up.
Lady MacBeth bursts into the chamber.
I’m taking charge of the rest of this plan.
Lady Macbeth takes the dagger from Macbeth and places it on Duncan’s sleeping servants.
LADY MACBETH (cont’d)
In accordance with the second step of our plan, I’ve placed the bloody dagger with the sleeping servants.
Early the next morning. Lennox and Macduff arrive.
We’ve arrived at Inverness, MacDuff.
Yes, we have, Lennox.
A porter opens the gate.
The gate is open.
LENNOX & MACDUFF
Thank you, Porter, for opening the gate.
Macbeth is there.
Hello, Lennox and Macduff. This way is King Duncan’s chamber.
They get to the chamber.
That’s King Duncan’s body! He’s been stabbed.
The guards enter the chamber.
We, King Duncan’s Guards, profess—
Macbeth kills the guards.
Why did you kill the guards?
I did so because I am in such a fit of rage because the guards killed King Duncan.
I am Malcom! I am fleeing to England because I fear whoever wanted to kill King Duncan must also desire the demise of his son, too!
I am Donalbain! I am fleeing to Ireland because I fear whoever wanted to kill King Duncan must also desire the demise of his son, too!
Back in Inverness:
BANQUO (to the audience)
Both sons of King Duncan are now suspects because they have fled the country. As a kinsman of King Duncan, Macbeth has now assumed the throne as the new King of Scotland. I feel skeptical of Macbeth as king… And the witches said in their prophecies that my descendants would be the ones to inherit the throne. Not only am I skeptical of Macbeth… I’m suspicious of him, too.
The witches said in their prophecies that I would be king, but the witches also said that Banquo’s descendants would inherit the throne, too. So I’m feeling uneasy about the state of my kingship. I invited Banquo to a royal banquet, and I was surprised to find that both he and his son, Fleance, will be riding out to attend, because I really only invited Banquo. I fear that Banquo is becoming suspicious of me…
Macbeth hires TWO MURDERERS.
We’re the Murderers.
Murderers, I’ve hired you two out to find and kill Banquo and Fleance. Later, I will hire and send a third murderer.
The Murderers go. Later. Macbeth hires a THIRD MURDERER.
Third Murderer, some time has passed, but I have also hired you to kill Banquo and Fleance before they arrive.
Time passes. The MURDERS return.
We did kill Banquo, but Fleance fled from the scene.
I am furious. As long as any of Banquo’s heirs are alive, my power is not secure.
At a banquet in the castle.
Lords and Lady Macbeth, I invite you all to a night full of drinking and merriment!
Drinking and merriment!
The attendants of the banquet drink and be merry. Banquo’s ghost enters the room and it sits in Macbeth’s place at the table.
The ghost of Banquo is here! In my chair! At this banquet!
That outburst was startling.
That chair is empty.
I am desperate for you to understand that Macbeth is actually just afflicted with a harmless malady that would be familiar to us all.
The ghost of Banquo departs… and then it returns again.
The ghost of Banquo is here again! In my chair again! At this banquet again!
Lords, please leave.
We will do so.
Macbeth visits The Witches.
I am disturbed, and I’m visiting you three witches so that you will clarify your prophecies and reveal the truth to me.
To answer your questions, we will summon apparitions that are horrible, but they will offer further predictions that will ultimately put your fears about the original prophecies to rest.
The Witches conjure an armoured head.
The first apparition is: this conjured head.
The second apparition is: this bloody child.
No one who is born of a woman will be able to harm you.
The third apparition is: a crowned child holding a tree.
CROWNED CHILD HOLDING A TREE
You will be safe until Great Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Hill.
I’m relieved because I know that all men are born from women, and I know that forests don’t move. Will any of Banquo’s sons ever rule Scotland?
The Witches conjure.
We have conjured a procession of eight crowned kings.
All eight of these kings look similarly to Banquo…
The eighth king at the end of the procession has a mirror.
The mirror is reflecting even more kings.
The reflections of the kings also are similar in appearance to Banquo.
…Oh, I’ve realized that this apparition means that all of Banquo’s descendants will acquire the kingship of many different countries.
Now we will do our wild dance.
Hoo-hoo ha-ha, hoo-hoo ha-ha ~
They dance and vocalize and disappear. Lennox enters.
Macduff has fled to England.
Seize Macduff’s castle. I most cruelly order murderers to slaughter Macduff, his wife, and his children.
Some time passes.
Everyone in Macduff’s castle has been put to death, though he himself was not there.
I am feeling racked with the guilt of the crimes that Macbeth and I have committed, those crimes being killing King Duncan, framing his servants, and killing his guards.
Gentlewoman, Lady Macbeth has been sleepwalking lately.
What a strange habit for her to develop, Doctor.
Lady Macbeth enters with a candle, in a trance.
She seems to be in a trance.
The murders of King Duncan, Lady Macduff, and Banquo fill me with deep sorrow, and I am trying to get the stain of blood off of my hands but nothing can wash it off. I pressured Macbeth to kill Ducan, which has caused the rest of the murders. This is an ironic reversal because earlier I had claimed to Macbeth that “a little water clears us of this deed,” and that has turned out not to be true in my case.
Lady Macbeth leaves.
It is astonishing how Lady Macbeth has descended into madness.
It is such a marvel.
In England, Macduff and Ross:
We’re in England. MacDuff, your castle is surprised; wife and babes savagely slaughter’d.
The fact that this news has reached me at all strikes me with grief. I vow revenge for their deaths.
I have successfully raised an army here in England, and I plan to challenge Macbeth’s forces.
I will join you in that ride, Malcolm.
Then I will lead you, my army, and Siward, Earl of Northampton, against Dunsinane castle.
SCOTTISH NOBLE 1
We, the Scottish Nobles, support this invasion.
SCOTTISH NOBLE 2
We, the Scottish Nobles, are appalled by Macbeth’s tyrannical behavior.
SCOTTISH NOBLE 3
We, the Scottish Nobles, are frightened by Macbeth’s murderous behavior.
Later, a camp in Birnam Wood:
I order you to cut down all of these trees around our camp in Birnam Wood. Carry the limbs of the trees so that our numbers are camouflaged when we continue towards Macbeth’s ranks at Dunsinane.
In the castle:
I have just received the news that Lady Macbeth has killed herself, and I feel that I am sinking now into a despair that is both deep and pessimistic.
She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
— To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Despite my previous reflections on the brevity and meaninglessness of life, I will still fortify Dunsinane as I wait for the English army to approach for battle. I feel certain that the prophecies from the witches will mean that I will be invincible in this battle, because all men are born of women and forests cannot move on their own.
A Messenger arrives:
I am a Messenger, and I have arrived with this message: The English army is advancing on Dunsinane. They were shielded with tree limbs that they cut from Birnam Wood.
That fulfills one of the witches’ three prophecies, and I am struck with fear.
In the battle:
This battle is coming to its culmination.
Macbeth, I’m here to confront you.
I’m going to kill Siward.
Macbeth kills Siward:
The English forces have overwhelmed my army and my castle, but Macduff, I have no reason to fear you, because I cannot be killed by any man born of women, which you must be.
But I was from my mother’s womb untimely ripp’d… I am not literally of woman born.
This fulfills the second prophecy… And I have just realized now, too late, that I have misinterpreted the witches’ prophecies. Though I’m doomed, I’ll continue to fight.
The remaining prophecy is the only one that is left to be fulfilled.
I’m going to behead you.
Macduff beheads Macbeth.
Here is Macbeth’s head.
Order has been restored. My last reference I’ll make to Lady Macbeth is that ‘tis thought, by self and violent hands, that she took her own life.
What was the method of her suicide?
That is undisclosed. I am now the King of Scotland, and I declare that I have benevolent intentions for the country. I invite you all to see me be crowned at Scone.