In Macbeth, what were the three predictions of the witches?

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karaejacobi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are two scenes in which Macbeth receives predictions from the witches. In act 1, both he and Banquo receive predictions, and in act 4, he is shown three apparitions that give further information and warnings to him.

In act 1, scene 3, Macbeth and Banquo are walking from a battlefield on the heath and come across three witches. The witches hail Macbeth Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor, and King (of Scotland). At this point in the play, Macbeth is already Thane of Glamis, but he is surprised to hear the other two prophesied titles. He will learn later in the scene that King Duncan has, in fact, named him Thane of Cawdor after the former Thane of Cawdor betrayed the crown and fought with Norway. This makes Macbeth believe that the witches' predictions are correct and that he will be king someday.

He decides to take matters into his own hands, of course, and starts plotting to kill Duncan, which he does off-stage in act 2. In act 1, Banquo also learns that he will not be a king but he will "get kings," meaning he will be the father of kings. This is important later because Macbeth's paranoia leads him to have Banquo and his son, Fleance, murdered—however, Fleance actually escapes.

Once Macbeth has been king for a little while, and has committed several more murders to keep his power, he demands more information of the witches. At the beginning of act 4, the witches show him three apparitions. The first tells him to "Beware Macduff" (IV.i.71). Macbeth admits that he already is worried about Macduff, and later in act 4, he sends murderers to kill Macduff's family. Next, the second apparition says that Macbeth cannot be killed by any man "of woman born" (IV.i.80). The third apparition says he will remain king "until / Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill / Shall come against him" (IV.i.92-94). The second and third apparitions seem to state impossibilities, so Macbeth's confidence increases after this meeting with the witches.

He does not adequately prepare for the coming war with England that will eventually depose him from power. All of these predictions do come true in act 5, as well. Macduff is the character who kills Macbeth, and it turns out that he was cut from his mother's body because she died before he could be born naturally. As the English army approaches Macbeth's castle on Dunsinane Hill, they disguise themselves with foliage, so it appears that the forest is actually approaching the castle. 

 

 

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Macbeth and Banquo first encounter them in Act 1, Scene 3 of the play, the three witches make three predictions:

The Second Witch predicts that Macbeth will be made Thane of Cawdor.

"All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!

The Third Witch predicts that Macbeth will become king.

All hail, Macbeth, that shall be king hereafter!

Then Banquo asks them to predict his own future.

If you can look into the seeds of time

And say which grain will grow and which will not,

Speak, then, to me, who neither beg nor fear

Your favors nor your hate.

The First Witch calls Banquo, "Lesser than Macbeth and greater," and The Third Witch makes the the third prediction:

Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none.

So all hail, Macbeth and Banquo!

Macbeth learns very quickly that he has been named Thane of Cawdor by King Duncan, who had ordered the present Thane of Cawdor to be executed for treason. This sudden fulfillment of the first prediction in the very same scene makes a strong impression on both Macbeth and Banquo. It will lead to the murders of both Duncan and Banquo.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In act 4, scene 1, Macbeth travels to visit the Three Witches in order to learn more about his fate. After demanding that the witches give him additional insight into his future, the witches present three enigmatic prophecies to Macbeth. The first apparition appears as a head wearing an armored helmet. The apparition tells Macbeth to "beware of Macduff!" before vanishing. The second apparition appears as a bloody child, who commands Macbeth to laugh at other men because no one born of a woman will harm him. The third apparition appears as a young child wearing a crown and holding a tree in his hand. The apparition tells Macbeth not to fear anything and encourages him to be proud like a lion because he will not be defeated until Birnam Wood marches to fight him at Dunsinane Hill. These three prophecies give Macbeth false hope and confidence as he begins to feel invincible. Unfortunately, Macbeth drastically misinterprets the prophecies, which results in his tragic downfall.

just-s | Student

thane of glamis, thane of cawdor and to be king

kimpdancer | Student

You need to specify which act you are talking about, first of all.

In Act 1, the three predictions are thane of glamis, thane of cawdor, and king of scotland.

In Act 3(?), The three predictions are beware of Macduff, no one born of woman will harm Macbeth, and no man will harm him until Birnam wood moves.