Macbeth Prophecies

What are the six prophesies in Macbeth?

Expert Answers
sagetrieb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Macbeth meets with the witches in Act 4 Scene 1, the witches call up an apparition, an Armed Head, which tells Macbeth “Beware Macduff,” who ends up killing Macbeth. Then, a Bloody Child appears, that says “none of woman born / Shall harm Macbeth,” which reassures him, because he doesn’t know Macduff had a Caesarean birth. A Crowned Child appears next, holding a tree in his hand, who tells him that he will not be “vanquished” until “Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill / Shall come against him,” which turns out to be the way his enemies creep up on  him, hidden in trees cut from Birnam Wood, at the final battle on Dunsinane Hill. The fourth apparition is a “row of eight kings,” the last holding a mirror, and then Banquo, smiling. The apparition says nothing, but the image foretells that Banquo will not be king but related to a king, clearly the subsequent king, of Scotland.  These follow the 2 earlier prophesies made at the beginning in Act 1, Scene 3, when the witches predict Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor, then King of Scotland (54). However, they follow this up by telling Banquo, “thou shalt get kings, though thou be none,” meaning kings will be in his lineage, although he himself will not be king (70). All the predictions come true.


Here is the film adaptation of the witch scene:


kessjs | Student

The witches initially call Macbeth the Thane of Glamis, the Thane of Cawdor, and the King of Scotland. Macbeth 's original title is the Thane of Glamis. He receives the title of the Thane of Cawdor after the war that ends at the beginning of the book. Finally, he becomes King of Scotland when he murders King Duncan and Duncan's sons run away. The witches also tell Banquo, at this time, that his descendants will take the throne.

Later, the witches conjure apparitions. The first apparition, in the form of an armed head, tells Macbeth to beware Macduff, the Thane of Fife. The second apparition, a bloody child, tells Macbeth that no man born of a woman will harm him. The third is of a crowned child with a tree in his hand, who tells Macbeth that he won't be defeated until Birnam Wood comes against him. All three of this relate to Macduff murdering Macbeth: Macduff is not considered to be born of a woman because he was born by cesarean section; Macduff and his army use branches of trees of Birnam Wood to disguise themselves as they walk up to Macbeth's castle.

The witches also conjure up eight ghostly kings, followed by Banquo. These symbolize the descendants of Banquo, who do end up taking the throne.

sampu88 | Student

The prophecies made by the Witches regarding Macbeth included him becoming Thane of Cowdor and eventually the King of Scotland. They told Banquo that he would be 'lesser but greater', 'not so happy but much happier' and that though he would never become king, his descedants would reign the Throne. The told Macbeth towards the end of the play, in Scene IV, that he should beware of the Thane of Fife, Macduff (as told by the armed head), that he would not be hurt by anyone born of a woman (as told by a bloody child) and that he would not be defeated unless Birnam Wood comes marching to fight him at Dunsinane Hill (as told by a child with a crowned head and holding a tree in his hand).