Macbeth Short Summary
Can you provide a short summary of Macbeth?
At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is a brave and loyal Thane to King Duncan. After hearing a prophecy that he will become king himself, Macbeth is overcome by ambition and greed. Bolstered by the prophecy and his wife’s encouragement, he kills King Duncan and takes the throne. Afterwards, Macbeth’s guilt, fear, and paranoia lead him to commit even more murders to secure his power. His confidence in the prophecies eventually leads to his downfall and he is overthrown and killed by those he has wronged.
Macbeth is a play of contradiction and ambition. Driven to becoming King, Macbeth will kill all and any that get in his way. He puts his faith in the words and prophesies of three witches, after their first one (that he will become Thane of Cawdor) comes through. Macbeth's wife, Lady Macbeth, is instrumental is Macbeth's ambition, egging him on when he fears he has gone to far, and scheming of greatness. See the link below for the enotes summary page.
Macbeth, the once heroic protagonist, had won both battles against the rebel army as well as the Norwegian army. On hearing this, King Duncan decided to reward Macbeth with the title of Thane of Cawdor as well as pay him a visit at his castle. Meanwhile, on their way home, Macbeth and Banquo meet the 3 witches which we have encountered in Act 1 Scene 1. The 3 witches prophesy that Macbeth will be Thane of Cawdor (he does not know the king entitled him already) and future king of Scotland. They then tell Banquo that he will be the father of a long line of kings. As soon as the witches disappear, Macbeth receives the news that he has been made Thane of Cawdor. It is here that belief in the witches kindles inside Macbeth, so much so that he reveals his hopes for the crown. He immediately sends word to his wife, Lady Macbeth, who driven by her ambition convinces her husband to murder the king and take fate into his own hands.
The act of murder is carried out, however it has left Macbeth in great distress and in a state of shock. Lady Macbeth criticizes her husband for being weak but helps him to cover up the deed to look innocent. When Duncan's body is discovered and Macduff and Macbeth go by the King's side. Macbeth conveniently kills the guards so that he can blame them and no one can say otherwise. Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, flee the country out of fear that someone is out to get them. As foretold, Macbeth is crowned king of Scotland. Macduff has his doubts about Macbeth and does not attend the coronation.
Banquo suspects Macbeth of treachery. Macbeth is aware with this, along with the fact that Banquo is destined to be ancestor to a line of kings. This gives him enough 'reason' to hire 2 murders to get rid of Banquo along with his son Fleance. Banquo's ghost appears to Macbeth during the banquet, terrorizing him. Lady Macbeth tell their guests to leave due to Macbeth's supposed fits. He then decides to visit the witches and demand more prophesies. Whilst all this is going on, Macduff had fled to England to get Malcolm back on the throne.
Through visiting the witches, Macbeth acquires somewhat comforting news. He is told that he should fear Macduff, however, no one of woman born can hurt him. He is also told that he will not be beaten until Birnam woods moves to Dunsinane. Macbeth gets the impression that he is indestructible, even though he has based all the prophesies on face value. He orders the murder of Macduff's family and servants as pay back to Macduff for openly disapproving with Macbeth being king. In England, Macduff's loyalty is tested by Malcolm and after seeing that he is indeed loyal to his country, even to the extent of sacrificing his family, he agrees to provide an army and accompany him to Scotland to take down Macbeth.
On hearing that an English army is heading their way for battle, Macbeth prepares for battle with what little remains of his army. Lady Macbeth has broken down under the strain of recent events and commits suicide. However this is the very least of Macbeth's worries as his life appears to lacks meaning. Macbeth could not believe his ears when he was told that Birnam wood was in fact moving to Dunsinane... the English army was camouflaged with branches. Macduff goes to fight Macbeth and it is here that Macbeth learns that Macduff was born by Caesarian (not considered woman born in those times) and so, like the rest of the witch's prophesies, the last foretelling has come true. Macbeth is killed and Macduff hails Malcolm as king of Scotland.