Macbeth is one of the most brilliant plays about evil. The evil in the form of three witches and their predictions controls the whole theme of the play and creates a great confusion in the life of Macbeth. Macbeth is based on Holinshed’s ‘Cronicles of Scotland’.
Duncan was the king of Scotland. Macbeth, the king’s army general, and the thane Glamis got high esteem for his great valour and skill of war. Recently, he defeated a rebel army.
The predictions of witches:
Macbeth and Banquo, the two Scottish generals, were returning from the battle victoriously. On the way, three strange figures stopped them. They were like women but they had beards, clad in wild dresses. The first witch saluted Macbeth with the title of ‘Thane of Glamis’. The second witch prophesied that he would be the thane of Cawder. The third witch predicted that Macbeth would be the king of Scotland. They also told that Banquo would not ascend the throne but his successors would be the kings.
Partial accomplishment of the prediction of witches.
As soon as the witches vanished into the air, the messengers from the king came and conferred Macbeth the title of the Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth stood there wrapped in amazement. He sent a letter to his wife Lady Macbeth describing everything about the predictions of witches and the partial accomplishment of the prophecy. But Banquo was doubtful of these ‘ministers of darkness’.
King Duncan’s visit to the castle of Macbeth:
Lady Macbeth was an extremely ambitious woman. She inspired his husband to murder the king. In the meantime, to honour Macbeth, King Duncan with his two sons, Malcolm and Donalbain came to visit Macbeth’s castle Inverness. The king was extremely pleased with the wonderful ambiance of the castle as well as the charming etiquette of Lady Macbeth.
Lady Macbeth’s attempt to murder the king:
In the middle of the night, Lady Macbeth woke up to plot the murder of the king. She knew that her husband was ambitious but full of human kindness to execute the murder. So, armed with a dagger, she approached the king’s chamber. The face of King Duncan resembled the face of her father. So, she did not proceed further.
Lady Macbeth’s instigation and Macbeth’s conflict of mind:
Madden with rage, Lady Macbeth returned from the king’s chamber and provoked Macbeth with evil words. She even charged him of cowardice and fickleness for proceeding no further. Macbeth had strong reasons against the murder of the king. In these conflicts of mind, however, Macbeth decided to kill Duncan to satisfy their inordinate ambition.
Murder of King Duncan:
Taking a dagger when Macbeth approached the bed-chamber of the king, he visualized another dagger hanging in the air. It was created by his hot and oppressed brain. He overcame the fear and slew the king with one stroke. He came to his wife with a distracted state. Lady Macbeth took the dagger and stained the cheeks of the grooms to prove that they were the murderers.
Fled of Malcolm and Donalbain:
When the assassination was discovered, Malcolm, the elder son of the king, took shelter in English court and Donalbain fled to Ireland. As Macbeth was the only heir, he ascended the throne of Scotland, and thus the prediction of the witches, as well as his dreams, was fulfilled.
Murder of Banquo and banquet scene:
The other prediction of the witches haunted Macbeth and Lady Macbeth as they knew that the children of Banquo would be the future kings of Scotland. So, they planned to murder Banquo and his son Fleance. They arranged a banquet and invited all thanes along with Banquo and Fleance. Macbeth appointed some hired assassins. They killed Banquo on the way but Fleance managed to escape. In the banquet hall, Macbeth saw the ghost of Banquo occupying his reserved seat. He behaved abnormally visualizing the ghost. Lady Macbeth realized that the dreadful secret might be disclosed. She immediately dismissed the guest showing Macbeth’s illness.
Visit to witches again and the predictions of the spirits:
From the incident, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth lost sleep and peace of mind. So, Macbeth decided to go to meet the witches again at the heath to know his future. Macbeth found them in a cave preparing for the charm with horrid ingredients. With the help of the charm, the witches called the spirits. The first spirit with armed head aware Macbeth from the thane of Fife. The second spirit in the form of a bloody child assured him not to be afraid of a man who was naturally born of a woman’s womb. The third spirit with a crowned child comforted Macbeth that he would never be defeated until the woods of Birnam would move Dunsinane Hill. Macbeth asked if Banquo’s successors would reign the kingdom. They showed a series of blood smeared kings and Banquo was the last.
Murder of Macduff’s wife and children, and suicide of Lady Macbeth:
Macduff, the thane of Fife fled to England and joined the army under the leadership of Malcolm. Bitten with violent rage, he brutally murdered Macduff’s wife and children. Now everybody started to hate Macbeth as a tyrant and suspected him as a murderer of King Duncan. Unable to bear the remorse of guilt and hatred of people, Lady Macbeth suffered from somnambulism and committed suicide. Macbeth was left alone and shut himself in the castle.
Birnam woods’ move to Dunsinan Hill:
A messenger informed Macbeth that Birnam Woods was moving towards the Dunsinan Hill. Malcolm instructed his soldiers to cut a bough and bear it before him to conceal the actual number of soldiers. And thus it seemed that the Birnam woods were moving. Macbeth lost confidence seeing the resemblance of the prophecy of the witches.
Murder of Macbeth:
In the battlefield, Macbeth killed all those who challenged him. When he faced Macduff, he boasted that no normal born man would able to kill him. Macduff informed him that he was the man who was untimely ripped open from his mother’s womb. Macbeth lost all his strength and courage. In a fierce struggle, Macduff severed Macbeth’s head and presented it to Malcolm. Now with the acclamations of noblemen and common people of Scotland, the young and lawful king Malcolm ascended the throne.
Read more about : Macbeth – questions and answers(S.A.Q.), Class 11, WBCHSE
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