How are the prophecies proclaimed by the three apparitions in Act IV, Scene 1 fulfilled in Act V of "Macbeth"?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In act 4, scene 1, the Three Witches present Macbeth with three apparitions that enigmatically depict his future and offer misleading prophecies, which make Macbeth overconfident and lead to his downfall. The first apparition tells Macbeth to beware of Macduff. The second apparition tells Macbeth to be bold, courageous, and confident because no man born of a woman will ever harm him. The third apparition encourages Macbeth to be as proud and brave as a lion because he will not be defeated until Birnam Wood marches to fight him at Dunsinane Hill.

Later on in the play, each one of these prophecies proves true, and Macbeth ends up losing in the final battle. In act 5, scene 1, Malcolm tells his army to break off branches from Birnam Wood to conceal themselves as they march towards Macbeth's castle. In the next scene, Macbeth's messenger informs the king that it looks as if Birnam Wood is moving towards the castle. The first and second prophecies are also fulfilled after Macbeth dies at the hands of Macduff after learning that Macduff was not naturally born of a woman. In act 5, scene 8, Macduff tells Macbeth that he was "untimely ripped" from his mother's womb, which means he had a Caesarean birth. 

troutmiller eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Beware Macduff" shows that Macduff could be the one to kill and overthrow Macbeth.  He does, and this is tied in to the second apparition.

"Man not born of woman" is referring to Macduff.  His mother died before he was born and he was taken from her, but she did not give birth to him.  He is the one to finally defeat Mabeth. When he explains this to Macbeth as they are fighting, Macbeth sees his fate is near.

"Birnam Wood to Dunsinane" occurs when the men carry limbs and branches with them to camoflage so that Macbeth doesn't see them coming.  Macbeth doesn't think that the trees will begin walking, but once they appear to be moving, he realizes his fate.


kc4u | Student

The First Apparition warns Macbeth against Macduff--'Beware of Macduff'. Macbeth is already apprehensive of the Thane of Fife and contemplates his killing. The prophetic warning thus confirms Macbeth's apprehension. Later, in Act V, Macduff beheads Macbeth and the warning comes true.

The Second Apparition, a bloody child, assures Macbeth that no man born of a woman can ever cause any harm to Macbeth. Unable to see through the equivocation, Macbeth feels relieved that Macduff can do him no harm. But later in the Fifth Act, Macduff reveals to Macbeth's disillusion that he was born untimely, and not strictly born of the mother's womb. Macbeth realises how the seemingly assuring prophecy was couched in deceptive language.

The Third Apparition, a crowned child with a tree in its hand, further assures Macbeth that he can never be vanquished until the Birnam Woods comes to the Dunsinane hill. Once again, Macbeth in his credulous over-confidence fails to see the equivocation and feels safe. In the Fifth Act, Malcolm instructs his ten thousand-strong army that each soldier should take a leafy branch from the Birnam Woods to use the same as a cover while marching towards the Dunsinane castle as a tactic of camouflage to shadow their numbers. A servant, confused and alarmed, reports to Macbeth that he has seen a 'moving grove'.