In Macbeth, how is Macbeth described in Act I, Scene II? With whom is he associated and how does the scene foreshadow events to come?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Before Macbeth appears on stage, one of Duncan's officers details the recent battle between Duncan's forces and the King of Norway, supported by the Scottish traitor Macdonwald. According to this captain, Macbeth fought furiously for King Duncan, displaying extraordinary strength and courage. Despite overwhelming odds and in spite of grave danger to himself, Macbeth fought his way through the enemy, found Macdonwald, and "unseamed him from the nave to th' chops, / And fixed his head upon our battlements. Macbeth then redoubled his efforts when Norway mounted a new attack with fresh troops, beating back that enemy, as well.

In his account of the battle, the captain includes Banquo in his narrative, as Macbeth and Banquo have fought valiantly together. King Duncan asks if Macbeth and Banquo were "dismayed" by the second attack by Norway's forces. The captain says they were, "As sparrows eagles, or the hare the lion." Thus, Macbeth and Banquo are both associated with overwhelming strength and superiority.

The captain continues his description of the battle, commenting upon its ferocity: "Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds, / Or memorize another Golgotha, I cannot tell--" His image of the bloody slaughter of battle foreshadows the blood that will be spilled as the result of Macbeth's lust for power.

kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this scene, Macbeth is described as a brave and skilled warrior. This is shown by the captain's description of the recent battle in which he talks about Macbeth's fearlessness. Specifically, he talks about how Macbeth overcame a group of enemy soldiers to get to Macdonwald, whom he then cut from the "nave to th'chops" (from the stomach to the jaw).

In another account from Ross, Macbeth is compared to the husband of Bellona, the Roman goddess of war. This comparison is important because it confirms Macbeth's status as a fierce warrior and prompts King Duncan to announce that he will be rewarded with the title, Thane of Cawdor.

Macbeth's ruthlessness and determination on the battlefield not only foreshadows his brutal murder of King Duncan, it also foreshadows Macbeth's own demise in Act V, when he too, is cut down and destroyed.