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

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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, ...

See
This Answer Now

Start your subscription to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your Subscription

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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Videos

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The protagonist of William Shakespeare's Macbeth is an ambitious soldier named Macbeth who is rewarded with a title and land for his valor and loyalty to King Duncan of Scotland. Just before this promotion, three witches predicted that this would happen, so now Macbeth believes their other two predictions: that Macbeth will be king and that no one "born of woman" can kill him. His trusted friend Banquo is present for all of this and receives his own predictions from the witches

Back home, Lady Macbeth gets the news from Macbeth about the witches' predictions and immediately wants to her husband become quick more quickly (though Macbeth is not so sure, deciding that if he is going to be king, it will have to happen naturally). Duncan comes for a visit with his loyal and trusted subject on whom he has just bestowed a title (Macbeth), and Lady Macbeth shames her husband into plotting Dincan's murder. She wants to kill Duncan but cannot bring herself to do it; Macbeth does the deed and now the trouble begins. 

The Macbeths blame Duncan's murder on the king's two sons; they flee to avoid the accusations. Macbeth becomes king, but he is troubled by his guilt--though it does not stop him from killing Banquo to ensure that he can stay in power. 

Things go quite badly for Scotland with the Macbeths at the helm, and both of them suffer from their guilt as others gather armies and try to save Scotland. Killing has become easier for Macbeth, and he foolishly relies on the witches' predictions that he cannot be harmed. This is a mistake.

One of the sons comes back with an army and Macbeth is vanquished in a way that makes the ambiguous prediction correct. 

The primary theme of the play centers on the Macbeths' ambition; however, it is the witches who complicate matters in this play. “Confusion now hath made his masterpiece.” 

For a more detailed summary, see the eNotes link below; however, reading the play is important to capture the intricacies of the plot as well as the questions Shakespeare raises about human nature.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Macbeth is a Scottish nobleman who supports the king -- King Duncan -- and fights hard for him in battle.  But then some witches prophesy that he will become king.

When his wife hears this, she eggs him on (not that he's unwilling) to kill Duncan so Macbeth can become king in his place.  Macbeth does this and becomes king.

Once he is king, Macbeth is pretty brutal.  He kills various people because he worries that they will replace him (or his sons) as king.

In the end, Macbeth makes everyone angry at him.  The son of King Duncan leads a rebellion and Macbeth is killed (soon after his wife kills herself).

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Well, in a nutshell, an honorable man falls from grace and is punished for it. 

Macbeth, recognized for his military skill and integrity, is given a prophecy by three witches.  They tell him that he will receive two titles other than the one he has--one of those is "King".  He does get the other title, and dreams of becoming King of Scotland.  He tells his wife, and everything else is history.  Together, the two plot to make the prophecy come true.  They kill King Duncan, frame his sons, and rise to the throne.  Macbeth also kills his best friend and attempts to kill his son, Fleance, as a result of the prophecy.  To ensure his throne, he has others murdered.  Lady Macbeth can't take it and kills herself.  Macbeth vows to fight the good fight until the end, and he is beheaded.  Duncan's son, Malcolm, comes to the throne and Scotland is again a peaceful realm.

There is much detail that I have left out of this extremely succinct rendition.  I suggest you fill in the blanks with the detailed analysis here at enotes.

Good Luck!

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on