Can you briefly summarise each act and scene of Macbeth please? I am reading it with my class but am finding it very difficult to understand.

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mrs-tolley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hi there! You can find a complete summary of the play on eNotes here and eNotes also has the entire text of the play with modern language translations and annotations, which begins here. I hope these help you with your understanding. I'll give you a quick summary of the main events of each act and scene:

Act I

Scene I: The three witches are introduced.

Scene II: The captain of King Duncan's army praises Macbeth and Banquo. Duncan chooses Macbeth to be new Thane of Cawdor.

Scene III: Macbeth meets the three witches. They tell him he will be Thane of Cawdor and eventually king. Macbeth and Banquo discuss their meeting with the witches; Duncan's messengers arrive and tell Macbeth he is Thane of Cawdor.

Scene IV: Macbeth and Banquo meet with King Duncan, who thanks them for their bravery and announces his son, Malcom, as the heir to his throne.

Scene V: Lady Macbeth receives a letter from Macbeth. She vows to push Macbeth to do whatever is necessary to take the crown and fills herself with courage.

Scene VI: Duncan arrives at Macbeth's castle, filled with love and flattery.

Scene VII: Macbeth contemplates the plan to kill Duncan. He's very anxious and worried about what will happen after he murders the king. Macbeth and his wife argue; Lady Macbeth comes up with a plan to get the king drunk, kill him in his sleep, and pin the blame on his chamberlains.

Act II

Scene I: Late at night, Macbeth runs into Banquo and they discuss their encounter with the three witches. Then Macbeth has a strange vision involving a dagger, blood, and Duncan.

Scene II: Lady Macbeth wonders whether her husband will be able to kill the king or she'll have to do it herself when she hears screaming. Macbeth enters the room saying he has killed the king. He hears knocking. He has forgotten to leave the bloody daggers with the chamberlains, though, so Lady Macbeth does it and they go into their chamber to wash their hands.

Scene III: Macduff and Lennox arrive. Macduff finds the king dead. Lady Macbeth pretends to be shocked. Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, arrive. Macbeth says that the chamberlains have done it and he has killed them. Duncan's sons are worried for their own lives and run away.

Scene IV: Macduff tells Ross that Macbeth will be king and that he suspects Duncan's sons of the murder because they have run away.


Scene I: Banquo remember that the witches also predicted his sons would eventually take the throne and starts to consider how he can make that prophesy come true. Macbeth soliloquizes about his fear of his friend Banquo. Macbeth tells two men to kill Banquo and his son Fleance.

Scene II: Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth her mind is full of scorpions and they discuss the upcoming murders and banquet.

Scene III: The murderers kill Banquo but Fleance escapes in the darkness.

Scene IV (the famous banquet scene): The murderers return to tell Macbeth they killed Banquo but Fleance escaped. Macbeth is worried about Fleance. Macbeth goes to the banquet but sees the ghost of Banquo. Macbeth starts to act crazy. Lady Macbeth tries to keep calm and explain his behavior to their guests. Eventually she has to send the guests away, and Macbeth decides to go visit the three witches again.

Scene V: The three witches meet with Hecate, who tells them they shouldn't meddle with Macbeth without her supervision, and takes over.

Scene VI: Lennox suspects Macbeth in the murders and calls him a tyrant. We discover that Malcolm and Macduff have gone to England to seek aid.

Act IV

Scene I (the famous cauldron scene): The three witches encircle a bubbling cauldron and chant spells. Macbeth arrives. A series of visions informs Macbeth to beware Macduff, nobody born of woman can harm Macbeth, and he is safe until Birnam Wood moves to Dunsinane Hill. Macbeth is confused and the final vision is indecipherable. Macbeth decides to capture Macduff's castle and kill his wife and children.

Scene II: Macbeth's hired murderers arrive at Macduff's castle, kill his son, and chase his wife.

 Scene III: Malcolm tests Macduff's loyalty and they become allies. Malcolm prepares to return to Scotland with ten thousand English soldiers. Ross tells Macduff that Macbeth has murdered his wife and children, and Macduff vows revenge.

Act V

Scene I (famous "Out, damned spot" scene): Lady Macbeth appears to be going mad.

Scene II: Scottish lords discuss the approach of the English army to Birnam Wood and Macbeth's activities in Dunsinane Castle.

Scene III: Macbeth boasts that none of woman can harm him.

Scene IV: Near Birnam Wood, Malcolm decides that each English soldier should cut down a bough of a tree and carry it with him when they march on Dunsinane Castle.

Scene V (famous "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" scene): Macbeth recites this famous speech, and then a messenger tells him that the trees of Birnam Wood are approaching.

Scene VI: The battle begins.

Scene VII: Macbeth fights vigorously because he thinks he cannot be harmed (no man born of woman can harm him.)

Scene VIII: Macduff looks for Macbeth to kill him.

Scene IX: Malcolm and Seward enter the castle.

Scene X: Malcolm finds Macbeth. Macbeth tells him no man born of woman can kill him. Malcolm tells Macbeth he was not born, but "from his mother's womb untimely ripped." (born by Cesarean section.)

Scene XI: Macduff carries Macbeth's head and declares Malcolm is now king of Scotland. Malcolm makes his thanes earls and invites his friends to his coronation.