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It does get a bit confusing! The Norwegians are attacking King Duncan and Scotland. Allied to the Norwegians are two Scottish traitors, the 'merciless MAcdonwald' and that disloyal traitor the Thane of Cawdor.
Macbeth is responsible for defeating Macdonwald and 'fixed his head on our battlements.'
The captains loyal to Kind Duncan are Banquo and Macbeth and they are described as loyal, valient and bold. After the defeat of MacDonwald the 'Norweyan lord surveying vantage with furbish'd arms and new supplies of men began a fresh assault,' aided by Cawdor. This is also defeated by the Scottish and Macbeth is to gain lands and the title of Cawdor is given as a reward to MAcbeth, this is ironic that Macbeth is rewarded for loyalty as he very disloyal himself in the later scenes.
In Macbeth, one of the first signs that "fair is foul and foul is fair" (I.i.10) is the talk of treachery in Act I, scene ii when MacDonwald, a Scottish soldier, is exposed as a villain. It is ironic that it is Macbeth who apparently stands firm against MacDonwald and fights against him until he is victorious. As the scene says, Macbeth "unseamed him" (22). "Brave Macbeth" (I.ii.16) and Banquo are returning from battle against the king of Norway and, even though the king of Norway tries to take advantage of their apparent preoccupation with MacDonwald, they maintain their vigilance and military prowess upon a fresh attempt from the "Norweyan lord" (31) and fight against him.
Furthermore, the Thane of Cawdor is also exposed to Duncan and his men as a "disloyal traitor" (53) who takes up arms with the King of Norway and begins "a dismal conflict" (54) which the Scots win.
The unsettling circumstances continue and are confirmed by Macbeth when he talks to Banquo of the "foul and fair" day (I.iii.38), and witnesses the strange appearance of the witches who, as Banquo says, "should be women" (45) but clearly are not what they appear. They prophesy that Macbeth is to be Thane of Cawdor and, more surprisingly, king. Macbeth is startled by their appearance and their claims and is unable, at first, to process the information.
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