Explain how the witches' prophecies were fulfilled in act 5 of Macbeth.

The first prophecy warning Macbeth of Macduff comes to fruition in the final scene when they meet face-to-face. Macduff defeats Macbeth during the final battle and decapitates him. The second prophecy comes to fruition when Macbeth learns that Macduff was "untimely ripped" from his mother's womb. The third prophecy is fulfilled when Malcolm's army uses limbs from Birnam Wood as camouflage when they approach Macbeth's stronghold.

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In act 5, we see the fulfillment of a number of prophecies made earlier by the Weird Sisters. In act 4, the witches warned Macbeth to beware of Macduff. Sure enough, Macbeth's nemesis arrives on the scene in act 5 and challenges him to duel. In the ensuing fight, Macduff kills Macbeth and proudly holds aloft his severed head.

Still on the subject of Macduff, another of the witches' prophecies was fulfilled, in a roundabout way, by Macduff's killing of Macbeth. The witches had told Macbeth that “none from woman born” would ever harm him. As one can imagine, Macbeth was lulled into a false sense of security by this prophecy, as everyone is born from a woman. This led him to believe that he was untouchable and that no one could kill him.

Unfortunately, the witches' prophecy did come true, but not in the way Macbeth thought it would. For Macduff, the man who eventually kills him, was actually born by Caesarian section. In other words, he wasn't born of a woman in the natural way.

The final prophecy to be fulfilled concerns Birnam Wood. The witches had told Macbeth that he would never be vanquished until Birnam Wood moved to Dunsinane Hill. Macbeth seemed on firm ground with this one. After all, whoever heard of a wood moving?

But as always with the witches' prophecies, this one's open to interpretation. In actual fact, what happens is that some of the rebel forces ranged against Macbeth camouflage themselves with tree branches from Birnam Wood, giving the impression that Birnam Wood is indeed moving to Dunsinane Hill.

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Macbeth visits the witches for the second time in act 4 and receives several seemingly positive prophecies. The first prophecy Macbeth receives informs him to "beware Macduff," who is the thane of Fife and Macbeth's primary enemy. This prophecy comes to fruition in the last scene of the play when Macduff kills Macbeth during the final battle. Macduff ends up beheading Macbeth, and Malcolm is restored to the Scottish throne.

The second apparition instructs Macbeth to be "bloody, bold, and resolute." The apparition also tells Macbeth to laugh and scorn the power of man, as "none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth." This prophecy gives Macbeth false hope and confidence that he can never be defeated in battle. This prophecy is also realized in the last scene of the play when Macbeth faces off against Macduff, who informs him that he was "untimely ripped" from his mother's womb. Essentially, Macduff was not born naturally from a woman and had a cesarean birth. Macduff's cesarean birth makes him the exception, and he is capable of harming Macbeth.

The third apparition instructs Macbeth to be "lion-mettled." He will never be vanquished until Birnam Wood travels to Dunsinane Hill. Macbeth takes this prophecy literally, because he knows that uprooting an entire forest and moving it to his stronghold is an impossible feat. However, this prophecy comes to fruition in act 5, scene 5 when Malcolm's army approaches Macbeth's castle, holding limbs from Birnam Wood as camouflage. Macbeth's messenger tells him, “I looked toward Birnam, and anon methought / The wood began to move.” Macbeth severely misinterprets the prophecies and becomes consumed with false confidence after listening to each apparition.

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The Weird Sisters first show Macbeth an "armed head" that tells him, "Beware the Thane of Fife!" (4.1.82). This warning comes to fruition when Macduff, the Thane of Fife, plans to dethrone Macbeth with the help of Malcolm, Duncan's older son and heir. When Macduff hears that Macbeth has had his wife and children murdered, however, he vows revenge.  Then, in act 5, scene 8, Macduff does kill and behead Macbeth. Thus, we understand why the apparition looked like a disembodied head: it presaged Macbeth's fate.

Next, the Weird Sisters show Macbeth a "bloody child" who tells him:

Laugh to scorn

The power of man, for none of woman born

Shall harm Macbeth. (4.1.90-92). 

The appearance of this apparition gives us a clue as to how its words will come to fruition. A child born naturally is not particularly bloody; the mother has to be cut in order for there to be a significant amount of blood.  Therefore, it makes sense when Macduff tells Macbeth that he was "from his mother's womb / Untimely ripped" (5.8.19-20). In other words, Macduff was born via C-section and did not have a natural "birth," so to speak. Macduff, then, was not "of woman born" (in a very technical way of speaking) and can, in fact, harm Macbeth.

The third apparition is a "child crowned, with a tree in his hand." It tells Macbeth that he will "never [be] vanquished [...] until / Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill / Shall come against him" (4.1.105-107). This apparition's words come to fruition when, as a strategy to shield his army's numbers, Malcolm tells his troops, "Let every soldier hew him down a bough / And bear 't before him" (5.4.6-7). In this way, it looks as though Birnam Wood is actually moving toward Macbeth's castle.

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The first prophecy of the witches in Macbeth by William Shakespeare is fulfilled by the advance of the army in camouflage. Just before this, Macbeth leaves, calling for his armour. The Doctor starts contemplating desertion. Malcolm's army moves forward, screened with branches from Birnam Wood (important).

Macbeth: I will not be afraid of death and bane

Til Birnam Forest come to Dunsinane.

Which it does as the wood is seen to "move."

Then in the battle with Macduff, Macbeth realises with horror that his opponent wasn't "born of woman" in the normal way and with these words shows us he has realised the fruition of the witches' prophecy: "thou opposed being of no woman born."

He then vows to fight on rather than suffer the humiliation of being taken into custody.

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