How are the prophecies proclaimed by the three apparitions in Act IV, scene 1, fulfilled in Act V of Macbeth.  

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What is interesting about these prophecies is that are not fulfilled in the manner Macbeth expects. As such, they provide an example of situational irony.

The first prophecy, for example, is that Macbeth should beware Macduff. While Macbeth knows that Macduff poses a risk to his power, he does not realize that it is Macduff who will kill him in act V. Part of the reason for this is that Macbeth is told in the second prophecy that he cannot be harmed by anyone of "woman born." Because everyone has a mother, Macbeth assumes that this means nobody can kill him. What he fails to realize, however, is that this prophecy alludes to the practice of a Cesarean section. When it is revealed in act V that Macduff was born in this way, it becomes clear to Macbeth (and the reader) that he has finally met his match.

Similarly, Macbeth is lured into a false sense of security by the final prophecy: that he cannot be defeated until "Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him." Again, Macbeth believes that is impossible, since trees cannot grow legs and walk. However, in act V, Malcolm orders his men to cut down branches from the trees of Birnam Wood and wear them as camouflage while they march on Macbeth at Dunsinane. The fulfillment of this final prophecy, though unexpected, spells the end for Macbeth.

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troutmiller eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The first prophesy is that Macbeth is to "Beware Macduff."  He should beware because Macduff will be the one to kill him.

The second is that "None Born of Woman" can destroy Macbeth.  Macbeth now thinks he is invincible.  However, Macbeth finds out in Act V that Macduff was "untimely ripped" from his mother's womb.  So he wasn't officially "born of woman."

The last prophesy is about the woods making their way up the hill to his castle.  He doesn't believe this could happen either.  However, the men decide to cut down branches with leaves to camouflage their numbers as they make their way to his castle. 

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