In Act I, Scene III of Macbeth, Macbeth refers to a happy prologue. If the prologue is happy, what will the epilogue be? 

In Act I, Scene III of Macbeth, Macbeth refers to a happy prologue. If the prologue is happy, what will the epilogue be?

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jpn001 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After Macbeth learns that King Duncan has made him Thane of Cawdor, as the weird sisters foretold, Macbeth reconsiders their words. This leads him to think not only of what has already come to be, but also of what the weird sisters predicted for the future. He begins to consider becoming king as the "main event," so to speak, and he thinks of what he has already gained as being the prologue:

Two truths are told,
As happy prologues to the swelling act
Of the imperial theme.

The prologue is happy not only because of the honors bestowed upon Macbeth, but because the bestowal of those honors has made Macbeth trust the prescience of the weird sisters. He is looking forward, not with skepticism but with anticipation, to a future as king of Scotland.

However, what the weird sisters have not foretold are the consequences of Macbeth becoming king. As Macbeth begins to embrace the idea that he will be king, he starts down the path that will lead him to madness and ruin. This is the tragedy of Macbeth - that his ambition, fueled by the weird sisters’ prophecy and by his wife, leads him from happy prologue to tragic epilogue.