Macbeth Summary

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a play in which Macbeth receives a prophecy from a trio of witches who predict that he will become King of Scotland.

  • At his wife’s urging, Macbeth murders King Duncan and has Banquo, who witnessed the prophecy, killed when he grows suspicious. 
  • Duncan’s sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, flee. Malcolm and Macduff, a nobleman, join forces and begin plotting against Macbeth.
  • Overcome with guilt, Lady Macbeth commits suicide. Because of new prophecies, Macbeth believes he is invincible.
  • Macduff’s forces march to Scotland, and Macduff kills Macbeth. Macbeth realizes too late that the witches’ prophecies foretold his death.

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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 at Macbeth's dinner that night, which terrifies Macbeth and drives him to visit the witches in hopes that they will clarify what will happen to him. They give him three more prophecies: that he should fear Macduff, that no man "of woman born" will hurt him, and that Macbeth cannot be...

(The entire section is 545 words.)