Macbeth Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Macbeth book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Macbeth Short Summary

What is a short summary of Macbeth?

When the play begins, Macbeth is a brave and loyal thane to King Duncan. However, after hearing a prophecy that he will become king himself, Macbeth is overcome by ambition and greed. Encouraged by the prophecy and his scheming wife, he kills King Duncan and seizes the throne. Afterwards, Macbeth’s guilt, fear, and paranoia lead him to commit even more murders to secure his power. His confidence in the prophecies eventually leads to his downfall, and he is overthrown and killed by those he has wronged.

Expert Answers info

janeyb eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2007

write400 answers

starTop subject is Literature

Macbeth is a play of contradiction and ambition. Driven to becoming King, Macbeth will kill all and any that get in his way. He puts his faith in the words and prophesies of three witches, after their first one (that he will become Thane of Cawdor) comes through. Macbeth's wife, Lady Macbeth, is instrumental is Macbeth's ambition, egging him on when he fears he has gone to far, and scheming of greatness. See the link below for the enotes summary page.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

lolcasey110403 | Student

Summary for hamlet?

cathyluv | Student

Act 1

Macbeth, the once heroic protagonist, had won both battles against the rebel army as well as the Norwegian army. On hearing this, King Duncan decided to reward Macbeth with the title of Thane of Cawdor as well as pay him a visit at his castle. Meanwhile, on their way home, Macbeth and Banquo meet the 3 witches which we have encountered in Act 1 Scene 1. The 3 witches prophesy that Macbeth will be Thane of Cawdor (he does not know the king entitled him already) and future king of Scotland. They then tell Banquo that he will be the father of a long line of kings. As soon as the witches disappear, Macbeth receives the news that he has been made Thane of Cawdor. It is here that belief in the witches kindles inside Macbeth, so much so that he reveals his hopes for the crown. He immediately sends word to his wife, Lady Macbeth, who driven by her ambition convinces her husband to murder the king and take fate into his own hands.  

Act 2

The act of murder is carried out, however it has left Macbeth in great distress and in a state of shock. Lady Macbeth criticizes her husband for being weak but helps him to cover up the deed to look innocent. When Duncan's body is discovered and Macduff and Macbeth go by the King's side. Macbeth conveniently kills the guards so that he can blame them and no one can say otherwise. Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, flee the country out of fear that someone is out to get them. As foretold, Macbeth is crowned king of Scotland. Macduff has his doubts about Macbeth and does not attend the coronation.

Act 3

Banquo suspects Macbeth of treachery. Macbeth is aware with this, along with the fact that Banquo is destined to be ancestor to a line of kings. This gives him enough 'reason' to hire 2 murders to get rid of Banquo along with his son Fleance. Banquo's ghost appears to Macbeth during the banquet, terrorizing him. Lady Macbeth tell their guests to leave due to Macbeth's supposed fits. He then decides to visit the witches and demand more prophesies. Whilst all this is going on, Macduff had fled to England to get Malcolm back on the throne.

Act 4

Through visiting the witches, Macbeth acquires somewhat comforting news. He is told that he should fear Macduff, however, no one of woman born can hurt him. He is also told that he will not be beaten until Birnam woods moves to Dunsinane. Macbeth gets the impression that he is indestructible, even though he has based all the prophesies on face value. He orders the murder of Macduff's family and servants as pay back to Macduff for openly disapproving with Macbeth being king. In England, Macduff's loyalty is tested by Malcolm and after seeing that he is indeed loyal to his country, even to the extent of sacrificing his family, he agrees to provide an army and accompany him to Scotland to take down Macbeth.

Act 5

On hearing that an English army is heading their way for battle, Macbeth prepares for battle with what little remains of his army. Lady Macbeth has broken down under the strain of recent events and commits suicide. However this is the very least of Macbeth's worries as his life appears to lacks meaning. Macbeth could not believe his ears when he was told that Birnam wood was in fact moving to Dunsinane... the English army was camouflaged with branches. Macduff goes to fight Macbeth and it is here that Macbeth learns that Macduff was born by Caesarian (not considered woman born in those times) and so, like the rest of the witch's prophesies, the last foretelling has come true. Macbeth is killed and Macduff hails Malcolm as king of Scotland.

zumba96 | Student

The King had two sons, Malcolm and Donalbain. They fled after they heard of their father's death. Once Macbeth became King, he thought he had no worries. But Macbeth knows that Banquo knew of his plan to kill Duncan, so Macbeth hired three murders to kill Banquo and his son Fleance. They killed Banquo, but Fleance got away. After Macbeth heard of the success of the murder he became insane.

Macbeth went to the witches to see what he had to fear. The witches showed him some apparitions, which told him what to fear. There were three of them. The first one said to look out for the Thane of Fife, which was Macduff. The second apparition said that none born of a woman would kill him. Last the thrid one said to not worry until Great Birnam (the forest) comes to your castle. Macbeth thought he had it made from what the apparitions said.

Just to be safe, Macbeth tried to find ways to get Macduff to come back so he could kill him. Macbeth had Macduff's family murdered. Once Macduff heard of this, he wanted Macbeth's head. So Macduff went to his friend Malcolm, who was in England. They talked and came up with a plan to get Macbeth. Macduff said "I want to kill Macbeth." Malcolm and Macduff got an army ready and left for Macbeth. Macbeth heard of the plan Malcolm and Macduff made and was planning to hold them out. Well once Malcolm's army got to the castle they planned to cut branches off trees from Birnam forest and use it as cover. Macbeth's army started leaving him and going to Malcolm's side.

Macduff got inside and was on the look for Macbeth. Once he found him they began to fight. Macbeth said "You can't defeat me. None born of a woman can harm me." But Macduff wasn't born of a woman, he was cut out of her womb early. So Macbeth knew he was doomed. After the fight Macduff cut off his head, and the castle was back in the right hands. Malcolm became the new king.

megypye | Student

Macbeth is a play about the perils of ambition. Macbeth, encouraged by his wife, attempts to remove the obstacles preventing him from being king. These obstacles happen to be other characters in the play. He accepts the prophecy of witches as a guide for what will be, and misjudges what they tell him. In the end his overconfidence leads to his own death, believing that he cannot be harmed when he really is just a mortal like everyone else.

suvodip89 | Student

Macbeth is Shakespeare's profound and mature vision of evil. It is a play depicting destruction, wrestling with creation. It is a study of the disintegration and damnation of a man. And yet Macbeth is a tragic hero. Therein lies Shakespeare's art, evolving from a deep understanding of the complexity of human nature.

bleepbleep | Student

This drama is one of the great tragedy themed plays by William Shakespeare. The themes illustrated in the play include ambition, fate, deception and treachery. Three witches  decide to confront the great Scottish general Macbeth on his victorious return from a war between Scotland and Norway. The Scottish king, Duncan, decides that he will confer the title of the traitorous Cawdor on the heroic Macbeth. Macbeth, and another General called Banquo, happen upon the three witches. The witches predict that he will one day become king. He decides that he will murder Duncan. Macbeth's wife agrees to his plan. He then murders Duncan assisted by his wife who smears the blood of Duncan on the daggers of the sleeping guards. A nobleman called Macduff discovers the body. Macbeth kills the guards insisting that their daggers smeared with Duncan's blood are proof that they committed the murder. The crown passes to Macbeth. More murders ensue and the bloodied ghost of Banquo appears to Macbeth. Lady Macbeth's conscience now begins to torture her and she imagines that she can see her hands covered with blood. She commits suicide. Macduff kills Macbeth and malcolm becomes king

not4long | Student

Macbeth finds some witches who tell him that he will be king. Not stopping to think about how stupid it is to take advice from witches, he decides to make it happen and kills the current king. He then kills his best friend, since the witches told them the friend's children would be kings. At this point he has completely descended into the pit of darkness and ends up being taken down when he goes over the line and massacres a guy's family.

Well, Macbeth gets what he deserves. And yet you have to feel sorry for him. He lets his wife get him caught up in dreams of power and glory. Then, on the other hand, he starts being just plain evil. So who knows? Just work it out for yourself.