What three messages does Macbeth receive from the three apparitions in Macbeth?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The three apparitions tell Macbeth to beware Macduff, no man born of woman can harm him, and that he is safe until the forest comes.

Macbeth is starting to feel uneasy at the end of Act 3.  He decides he needs to confer with the witches.  This time, Hecate is involved—the stakes are higher.  Macbeth is greeted by a series of apparitions, and each one has an important message for him.

First, an “armed head” warns Macbeth:

Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! Beware


Beware the Thane of Fife. (Act 4, Scene 1)

Macbeth thanks them for the warning, but is not concerned.  He feels like he can handle Macduff.

Second, a “bloody child” assures Macbeth:


Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to


The power of man, for none of woman born

Shall harm Macbeth. (Act 4, Scene 1)

Macbeth is satisfied with this answer.  He figures that he must be safe, because every man was born of a woman.  Yet this apparition seems to contradict the last apparition that told him to beware Macduff. 

Third a “crowned child” promises that:

Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until

Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill

Shall come against him. (Act 4, Scene 1)

Macbeth is confused.  After all, how could a forest come to him?  He must be safe.

The warnings all come true, but not in the way Macbeth expects.  The forest does come, because Malcolm has the soldiers pretend to be trees by carrying branches.  When he find out that Macduff was born of C-section, and therefore not technically born of a woman, he feels deflated.  He gives up.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In act 4, scene 1, Macbeth visits the Three Witches for a second time in order to learn more information about his future. When he arrives, the Three Witches conjure several apparitions that enigmatically depict Macbeth's future. The first apparition is a head wearing an armored helmet that tells Macbeth to beware of Macduff. The second apparition appears as a bloody child, who encourages Macbeth to be bold and confident because no man born of a woman will harm him. The third apparition appears as a child wearing a crown and holding a tree. The child tells Macbeth not to worry about those individuals who conspire against him because he will not be defeated until Birnam Wood marches to fight him at Dunsinane Hill. Macbeth drastically misinterprets these apparitions and becomes overconfident. Later on in the play, each prophecy comes true, and Macbeth is killed by Macduff, who was "Untimely ripped" from his mother's womb.