What would the structure for a battle speech in Macbeth look like, and what key points should be included in it?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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If you have seen the movie Brave Heart there are the same Scotsmen as those of Shakespeare's Macbeth. When William Wallace addresses the men, they shout that he is not Wallace since he is "seven feet tall." Wallace replies,

Yes, I've heard. Kills men by the hundreds. And if HE were here, he'd consume the English with fireballs from his eyes, and bolts of lightning from his arse.

[Scottish army laughs]

In writing a speech such as this, keep in mind that these men are rather uncivilized. So use figures of speech such as the one about fireballs and bolts of lightning....

Since you do not indicate that the speech must be against Macbeth, one place where you could put a battle speech is early in the play where the Captain describes what a fierce fighter Macbeth is. Along with this description, this officer can report on what Macbeth said to his troops. Thus, in Act I, Scene 2, there is the camp near Forres, the captain reports on the battle. Can he not, then, also report on Macbeth's battle speech before he and his troops attack Macdonwald? Remember that Duncan's soldiers are losing before Macbeth arrives, so Macbeth must inspire them.

Men, we approach the villain! Fight we must to save our king! These blackguards want our lands, they want our homes, they want our wives. We must drive them away; we must kill them! Fight and you may die. But if you die, you die with honor, for you have saved our land, our Scotland! They will never take our FREEDOM. They will never take our LAND! Aye, men, follow me. We shall eat these men alive. We shall slit them open and their hearts will be ripped from them, pulsing with their traitorous blood!

You come her to fight. Will you fight?! Will you fight with me?!! FIGHT!

Alba gu bràth! ["Scotland forever!"]

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auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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If we, as readers of Macbeth, are honest, there is no need for a battle speech in the play--which is undoubtedly why William Shakespeare did not include one. 

In the first battle of the play, Macbeth does not need to give a grand speech in order to get his men to follow him. Instead, he simply leads by example. He fights valiantly against the Scottish rebels, and his men follow his lead.

The only other battle in the play happens in the final act, and by then everyone is so ready to get rid of the bloody tyrant Macbeth that no one has to "pump up" the troops to swarm the castle and kill him. 

Nevertheless, if you have to add a battle speech, it would be most suitable to Act V scene vi, when Siward, Malcolm, and Macduff are about to lead their men into battle. Not one of the three speaks great, emotional words to their men--but they could have. 

Siward is from England, so he is probably not the right person to deliver this speech. Malcolm is the heir to the throne, so he could certainly deliver it. Macduff's entire household, including his wife and kids, were brutally and needlessly murdered by Macbeth, so he is also qualified to give this speech. Pick your man and shape your speech from there.

A simple listing of the facts about Macbeth would be sufficient to remind the troops what Macbeth has done to Scotland. Start with a quick persuasive opening, and then begin.

  1. Macbeth killed the rightful king while Duncan was staying in his own home--a double insult and crime.
  2. Macbeth accused Malcolm and Donalbain of the murder so he could usurp the throne. 
  3. Macbeth has routinely murdered anyone who he, in his paranoia, perceives as a threat to his throne.
  4. The people of Scotland have suffered mightily at the hands of this false king. 
  5. Even England believes Macbeth must be removed from the throne and killed, as they have sent troops to help Scotland regain a proper king.
  6. If Macbeth is not stopped now, the murders will continue.

Anything else that you think Macbeth has done could be added to this list, including the personal feelings of wither man about losing his family member(s).

The result is a powerful indictment of Macbeth, something that should move every soldier to want to be the one who gets to strike the fatal blow. Finish the speech with a call to action and you've got a terrific and inspiring battle speech.

So that is the basic structure: Capture everyone's attention, list the wrongs that Macbeth must now pay for, and call the men to act. Think of this speech as a pre-game speech in which a coach gives his team members all the reasons they need to beat their opponent. 

Your language should be persuasive and inspiring, and whoever gives it should make it clear that the men are fighting a just cause, are saving Scotland from any more terror, and are going to fight side-by-side with their leaders.

Compare this with Siward's final words to the troops:

Fare you well.
Do we but find the tyrant's power tonight,
Let us be beaten, if we cannot fight.

Neither Macduff's nor Malcolm's speeches are any better, so your battle speech has little competition. What is obvious is that the men, at least at this point, do not need much urging to kill Macbeth.

For more great information on Shakespeare, Macbeth, or any other of his plays, visit the excellent eNotes site linked below. 

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