What Happens in Macbeth?

Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches who predict that he will become Thane of Cawdor and "king hereafter." His wife, Lady Macbeth, urges him to seize the opportunity and take the throne. One night, Macbeth murders King Duncan in his sleep and frames the guards for the crime.

  • Macbeth's best friend, Banquo, was present for the witches' prophecy and realizes that Macbeth is responsible for King Duncan's murder. To protect himself, Macbeth has Banquo killed. Fleance, Banquo's son, escapes and is prophesied to become king.
  • Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, flee Scotland, where they begin plotting against Macbeth. One of their allies, Macduff, poses a serious threat to Macbeth, so the new king has Macduff crowned king. Malcolm and Macduff join forces and prepare for war.
  • Overcome with remorse over the murder of King Duncan, Lady Macbeth commits suicide. Her death barely affects Macbeth, who has received three new prophecies: to beware Macduff, that "none of woman born" shall harm him, and that he won't be defeated until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Hill. Macbeth nearly assumes that he is invincible.
  • Macduff's forces camouflage themselves with foliage from Birnam Wood as they march on Dunsinane. Macduff, the product of a c-section, was not "of woman born" and thus has the power to defeat Macbeth, who realizes too late that the witches' prophecies foretold his death and not his success. Macduff kills Macbeth in the play's final act.

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At the beginning of the play, three witches appear and speak about meeting Macbeth. The scene shifts to a military camp, where Duncan, the king of Scotland, and his son Malcolm hear about Macbeth and Banquo's bravery and mettle in battle against the Norwegians. The witches appear before Macbeth and Banquo on a heath and deliver a prophecy: Macbeth will be made the thane of Cawdor and will ultimately become king, while Banquo is said to be the ancestor of future kings. The first part of the prophecy comes true almost immediately when two of Duncan's men, Ross and Angus, appear to tell Macbeth, who is already the thane of Glamis, that he will be made thane of Cawdor, as the person who previously held that position has committed treason.

Macbeth writes to Lady Macbeth, his wife, and tells her what has happened. Lady Macbeth believes that her husband must do what it takes to win the crown and suggests killing King Duncan, who is arriving at their castle that night. Macbeth is initially hesitant, but his wife eventually convinces him to commit the murder. Macbeth kills the king, making it look like two servants did so, and Macduff finds the king's body. Malcolm and Donalbain, the king's sons, flee to England and Ireland, fearing for their lives.

In the absence of the king's sons, Macbeth is made king and hosts Banquo at his house. Eager to keep his crown, Macbeth recalls the prophecy that Banquo's descendants will be made king and decides he must hire assassins to murder Banquo and his son. Banquo is killed but his son, Fleance , manages to escape. Banquo's ghost appears...

(The entire section is 545 words.)