Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Macbeth in context Shortest and bloodiest tragedy, Macbeth a Scottish general who receives a prophecy from a three witches that one day he will become king. Macbeth murders King Duncan and seizes the throne for himself, propels Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to arrogance, madness, and death.
major conflict Ambitious Macbeth struggles with his conscinece before and after he murders Duncan; evil [Macbeth and Lady Macbeth] struggles with good {Malcolm and Macduff].
plot overview Three witches predict Macbeth will be king followed by Banquo’s heirs; Macbeth kills Duncan; Macbeth hires murderers to kill Banquo and his son; Malcolm and Macduff petition for help against tyrant Macbeth; Lady Macbeth kills herself, Macduff kills Macbeth, Malcolm becomes king
Act I After the witches’ prophecy that Macbeth will become king, Lady Macbeth convinces him totake matters into his own hands and kill the current King Duncan.
Act II With Lady Macbeth’s help, Macbeth kills Duncan and takes the throne.
Act III Macbeth has Banquo killed, but Macduff and Malcolm are preparing to invade Scotland with an English army.
Act IV Warned by the witches against Macduff, Macbeth murders Macduff’s wife and children, and Macduff vows to take revenge, with the help of an English army.
Act V Lady Macbeth dies, Macduff kills Macbeth, and Malcolm becomes king.
Characters in Macbeth BanquoDonalbainKing DuncanFleanceHecateLennoxMacbethLady MacbethMacduffLady MacduffMalcolmThe MurderersPorterRossThe Three Witches
Banquo Brave, noble general whose children will inherit the Scottish throne. Stands to rebuke to Macbeth: a path in which ambition need not lead to betrayal and murder.
King Duncan Good king of Scotland whom Macbeth murders in order to attain the crown.
Fleance Banquo’s son, survives Macbeth’s attempt to murder him. Whereabouts unknown at the end of the play.
Macbeth Main character. Led to wicked by prophecies of the three witches. Response to every problem is violence and murder. Never truly comfortable in his role as a criminal.
Lady Macbeth Ambitious woman who lusts for power and position. Urges her husband to kill Duncan. Falls victim to guilt and madness, eventually commits suicide.
Macduff Hostile to Macbeth’s kingship. Leader of crusade against Macbeth.
Malcolm Son of Duncan, restoration to the throne signals Scotland’s return to order.
The Three Witches Predictions prompt Macbeth to murder Duncan, order the deaths of Banquo and his son, and blindly believe in own immortality. True identity unclear, servants of Hecate. Take delight in using their knowledge to toy and destroy human beings.
themes unchecked ambition as a corrupting forcethe relationship between cruelty and masculinitykingship versus tyranny
unchecked ambition as a corrupting force Destruction wrought when ambition goes unchecked by moral constraints; once one decides to use violence to further one’s quest for power, it is difficult to stop.
the relationship between cruelty and masculinity equate masculinity with naked aggression, women are clear source of evil in the play
kingship versus tyranny model king offers kingdom an embodiment of order and justice, but also comfort and affection; Macbeth by contrast brings only chaos as symbolized by bad weather and supernatural events.
motifs hallucinationsprophecy
hallucinations serve as reminders of Macbeth and Lady Macbetg’s joint culpability for the growing body count; supernatural signs of their guilt
prophecy left deliberately ambiguous whether some of them are self-fulfilling; must be interpreted as riddles
symbols bloodweather
blood symbolize characters guilt, begine to feel that their crimes have stained them and they can’t be washed out
weather violations of the natural order reflect corruption in the moral and political orders

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