In Macbeth, what happened in Act 1? What are the main events?

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Act 1 Scene 1: The audience is introduced to the witches. They do some cool rhyming, but only one thing of importance is said. They will meet again in front of Macbeth after the battle. 

Act 1 Scene 2: Duncan is debriefed on the battle by a wounded captain. Duncan is told how great Macbeth fought and how instrumental he was at fighting off the Norwegians. The captain also told Duncan that the Thane of Cawdor committed treason by fighting with the Norwegians against Duncan. Duncan orders the man executed and the title "Thane of Cawdor" transferred to Macbeth. 

Ace 1 Scene 3: Macbeth and Banquo meet the witches. Some more cool rhyming. The witches greet Macbeth by his original title, and as the "Thane of Cawdor." They also greet Macbeth as the future king. Macbeth doesn't understand this and asks for more details, but the witches start rhyming at Banquo. They tell Banquo that he will never be king, but his kids will be. Then they vanish.  

Ross and Angus show up and tell Macbeth that he is now Thane of Cawdor. He can't believe it, and he is shocked that the prophecy has come true already. Banquo warns Macbeth the dangers of half truths. Temptation starts to grab Macbeth, and he wonders if he will have to murder Duncan to be king, or if it will simply happen. 

Act 1 Scene 4: It's at Duncan's palace or castle. Duncan gets a report that the original Thane of Cawdor is dead. Duncan expresses great thanks to Macbeth and Banquo. Duncan then invites himself over to Macbeth's castle for dinner. Probably the most important part of this scene though is Duncan announcing his son, Malcolm, as the heir to the throne.  Macbeth now wonders exactly how he can be king. 

Act 1 Scene 5: The main event of this scene is introducing Lady Macbeth as a power hungry, conniving woman. She tells Macbeth that Duncan cannot be allowed to live another day and to leave the plans to her. 

Act 1 Scene 6: Lady Macbeth and Duncan meet, and Lady Macbeth is the very picture of hospitality. 

Act 1 Scene 7: Macbeth convinces himself that he is not going to kill Duncan. Lady Macbeth is super angry and calls into question Macbeth's manhood. She explains her plan, and Macbeth is amazed at its bold simplicity. He agrees to kill Duncan. 

For more summary and analysis of Macbeth, check out our video study guides: