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Act 1 Summary

Scene 1

Three witches speak together during a thunderstorm and attempt to decide when they should meet again. They decide that they will reconvene on a heath after the ongoing battle has concluded ("When the hurly-burly's done"), at which time they will also speak with Macbeth.

Scene 2

Duncan, the king of Scotland, and his son Malcolm, get a report from a wounded captain about the battlefront. The captain reports that Macbeth has slain the rebel, Macdonwald; that the king of Norway sent more troops to fight the Scottish forces; and that Macbeth and Banquo were fighting valiantly when the captain was removed from the field. The thane of Ross soon reports that the loyal Scots won, defeating the traitorous thane of Cawdor. Duncan orders the execution of Cawdor and awards that title to Macbeth, who is already the thane of Glamis.

Scene 3

The witches meet again, and one of them describes her intention to go and torture the husband of a local woman who refused to share her chestnuts with the witch. The others will assist. Their exchange reveals them to be rather malicious and mean-spirited. Just then, Banquo and Macbeth enter, and the witches confront them, hailing Macbeth as the thane of Glamis (a title he already has), the thane of Cawdor (a title he does not yet know he's been awarded), and the future king of Scotland. Banquo wants to know what his future holds, and the sisters tell him that he will never be king himself but that he will "get kings": that is, his descendants will be kings. When Macbeth asks for more information, the witches vanish. Just then, Ross and Angus (Duncan's men) enter and tell Macbeth that he has been named the thane of Cawdor. This makes Macbeth believe that the witches were telling him the truth, though Banquo is still skeptical of their motives.

Scene 4

King Duncan laments that the old thane of Cawdor betrayed him. He trusted the man and thought they were friends. When Macbeth and Banquo arrive, he expresses his gratitude for them, though he declares Malcolm to be his heir to the throne. Macbeth seems, already, to be thinking of what he might have to do in order to become king; he asks that the stars "hide [their] fires" so that his "black and deep desires" for power don't become visible to others.

Scene 5

Lady Macbeth enters, reading a letter from her...

(The entire section is 618 words.)