Macbeth scene actions and themes

Act 1 scene 1 A: 3 witches in open place, agree to meet again after battle and to see Macbeth.T: Supernatural, ‘fair is foul’- foreshadows overturn of accepted values by unnatural acts.
Act 1 scene 2 A: News of Macdownwald’s defeat by Macbeth assisted by Banquo. Duncan gives the Thane of Cawdor (traitor)’s title to Macbeth. Ross is to deliver the news. T: Emphasis on blood is established. Expectation about Macbeth is built up, stressing his fearlessness in battle and exultation in battle (important facets of character).
Act 1 scene 3 A: Witches await Macbeth on heath. They greet him as Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor and King hereafter. Witches tell Banquo that he will father Kings. Ross and Angus pronounce Macbeth Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth considers good and evils of prophecies.T: contrast between Macbeth and Banquo as Macbeth is already contemplating Duncan’s death (horrid image) while Banquo makes reference to Betrayal. “Borrowed robes” shows that Macbeth must act if he wishes to wear royal robes.
Act 1 scene 4 A: Duncan praises Macbeth then Banquo then announces that Malcolm will be his heir. Macbeth goes to inform Lady Macbeth that Duncan will be staying with them meanwhile brooding on Malcolm’s appointment and his own wicked thoughts. T: The death of a traitor (TOC) is contrasted with the potential actions of the living one who bears the same title. Duncan shows his trusting and warm nature by appointing Malcolm.
Act 1 scene 5 A: LM reads letter and expresses that M has is too weak to gain the throne. She resolves to urge him to action. She later urges M to let her undertake everything as Duncan ‘must be provided for’. T: First speech- full of ambition and determination. Second speech- invocation of evil. Wishes to be free of moral conscience. Language anticipates murder.
Act 1 scene 6 A: Duncan and Banquo arrive at the castle and LM is anxious to impress them.T: Contrasts scenes before and after, descriptions of peacefulness contrasted with unnatural acts to follow.
Act 1 scene 7 A: Macbeth decides not to kill Duncan, fearing the consequences. Her speech convinces him to go ahead and she tells him of her plan to get Duncan’s gardes drunk so they (M & LM) can get to Duncan.T: Strength of LM and uncertainties of M. Irony- great general is a poor leader compared to his wife.
Act 2 scene 1 A: Banquo and Macbeth meet, they discuss the witches. When B leaves M pictures daggers then hears bells and goes to do the deed. T: Banquo’s premonition of evil and inner fears set dark atmosphere.
Act 2 scene 2 A: Macbeth meets LM after Duncan’s murder, still carrying the daggers. LM takes daggers back and smears grooms with blood. Knocking at the gate and they leave to change. T: Knocking at gate brings them back to reality that the murder will soon be discovered. LM is practical and brave, taking daggers back and framing the grooms. Dramatic irony- water and madness to cleanse when LM is to become mad and nothing will cleanse her mind.
Act 2 scene 3 A: Porter lets Macduff and Lennox in through gates. Macduff greets Macbeth and goes to call on Duncan and Lennox tells of supernatural happenings of the night. Macduff returns from finding Duncan and alarm bells ring. Macbeth kills Duncan’s attendants, calling them murderers and LM faints. Malcolm and Donalbain flee in different directions. T: M has acted unnaturally, the unnatural nature outside correspond to this. Macduff uses christian imagery to announce Duncan’s death, adding to the enormity of the crime. LM’s faint- to draw attention from M, who may have overacted his part. Suspicion arises.
Act 2 scene 4 A: Old Man tells Ross that he has never seen anything like the unnatural happenings of ‘the deed thats done’. Macduff arrives to tell Ross that Malcolm & Donalbain are suspected of murder, Macbeth has been named king and is being invested but Macduff wont be going. T: Passage of time between murder and throne. Emphasis on supernatural and unnatural in nature that has mirrored unnatural act of murder. Macduff’s refusal to go to scone shows his suspicions of Macbeth.
Act 3 scene 1 A: Palace at Forres- Banquo ponders Macbeth’s succes and reveals suspicions of him. Macbeth enters and invites Banquo to a feast that evening and asks him what he is doing before that and if Fleance (son) will join him. Macbeth reveals insecurity while Banquo lives (due to prophecy) and meets with hired murderers who he has instructed to kill Banquo and Fleance before the banquet. T: Banquo’s assertion of loyalty to M is an ironic echo of M’s previous assertion of loyalty to Duncan. M shows cunning by cross questioning B and making reference to Malcolm and Dolabain to give the impression that he is still suspicious.
Act 3 scene 2 A: LM attempts to raise M’s spirits as he has been spending his time alone. He tells her to pay attention to Banquo at the banquet and they agree that B & F are vulnerable. He says that ‘a deed of dreadful note’ will be carried out shortly. T: LM now seems insecure, though her advice to M shows she has a conscience. M is bothered by terrible dreams but has already planned Banquo’s murder. Dramatic irony- he is now planning without confiding in her. LM feels that once everything is over it should be forgotten, whereas M feels like he has to keep killing in order to make himself secure. Further irony- Roles have been reversed, LM’s conscience leads to madness whereas M has come to disregard his conscience.
Act 3 scene 3 A: Banquo is murdered but Fleance escapes. A third murderer is sent by Macbeth to check on the first two. They reveal that Fleance’s escape has cost them more than half of their reward. T: The verse being spoken before the murder- the poetic quality in the mouth of such a villain gives the whole scene an ironic and ghastly flavour. Putting out the light is a simple reflection of the murder of Banquo, of taking life in darkness, in evil action, one of the major themes of the play.
Act 3 scene 4 A: The banquet scene. He learns that Banquo has been killed but Fleance has escaped. At the dinner table he sees the ghost of Banquo. LM tries to calm him but ends up asking the guests to leave. Macbeth intends to find the three witches. T: Dramatic tension between LM trying to explain M’s strange behavior and the violence of M’s visionary experience (a revelation of his guilt). LM’s reference to ‘the season of all natures, sleep’ echoes M’s own invocation to sleep in Act2 Scene2.
Act 3 scene 5 A: Hectate criticises the witches for not keeping her informed of their dealings with Macbeth. She tells them to meet her the next morning, since Macbeth will come then. T: Rhyming couplets, arguably not Shakespeare’s. Doesn’t add to the dramatic tension, only mildly supports the supernatural atmosphere.
Act 3 scene 6 A: Lennox tells a lord that he is suspicious of Macbeth due to his actions. Macduff has gone to England to get help and Lennox prays that God and this aid will bring Scotland to peace. T: Macbeth’s tyranny is demonstrated in the lord’s speech, which confirms that he does have spies everywhere. Irony- both speakers refer to Macbeth as a tyrant yet the scene is full of hope and the promise of action. Dramatic tension increases as we feel opposition building against M.
Act 4 scene 1 A: Witches meet and conjure spell for M. He arrives, demanding answers and they conjure the 1st apparition (beware Macduff). The second, the bloody child says that ‘none of woman born/Shall harm Macbeth’. 3rd says Macbeth will not be defeated until Birnam Wood comes against Dunsinane. The witches show him the heirs of Banquo. Lennox tells him that Macduff has fled and M immediately decides to attack his castle and kill his wife and children. T: Now dependant on the witches Macbeth demands prophecies rather than having them thrust upon him. Light verse of incantation gives way to Macbeth’s harsh opening words, an invocation to evil. The irony in the 2nd prophecy is revealed later when Macduff reveals that he was from his ‘untimely ripp’d’ from his mother’s womb.
Act 4 scene 2 A: Ross has told Lady Macduff that Macduff has fled. When Ross leaves, Lady Macduff talks to her son, a messenger comes and warns her of the danger she is in. The murderers appear, kill her son and persure Lady Macduff.T: Ross shows he has a heart but serves his own interests by leaving. Theme of unnatural action is shown through LMacduff’s bitter words about her husband. Macbeth has once again directed the murder rather than committing it himself. The play on the word traitor underlines the unnatural actions, these murders being the most unnatural of all.
Act 4 scene 3 A: In England, Malcolm questions Macduff about his reasons for leaving his (he is suspicious that he may be an agent for Macbeth). Malcolm states his vies before stating the ‘king-becoming graces’. Macduff praises Duncan and his wife, telling Malcolm he is unfit to rule (malcolm). Malcolm praises Macduff telling him that he has got English support against Macbeth. Ross arrives with the new of Macduff’s family being slain. Macduff vows to avenge them by meeting Macduff face to face. T: The long exchange between Malcolm and Macduff, with its revelations of character, is an admirable non-action prelude to the dramatic entrance of Ross with his terrible news. His delay raises tension and the word play on ‘well’ and ‘peace’ enhances the pathos of the disclosure.
Act 5 scene 1 A: A doctor attending LM sees her walk in her sleep and hears her utter her guilty secrets. In her mind, she returns to the past actions of her husband and herself. T:She reveals, by washing her hands and the mention of Lady Macduff and the knocking, her secret fears that have been repressed. For her, by his continuing career of unlicensed butchery, Macbeth has ‘Murdered Sleep’. Prose of her anguish- the strong and determined woman that she was spoke the full-blooded poetry of action, courage and ambition for her husband; the broken woman she now is speaks in the disconnected fragments of prose that constitute her memory and the frailty of her waning life.
Act 5 scene 2 A: Scot lords armed against Macbeth, knowing that Malcolm, Macduff and the english are coming. They will meet them at Birnam Wood. M’s men at Dunsinane serve him not for love or loyalty, but because they have to. T: Contributes to the tension, the hurry and bustle of the impending battle being the keynote. Mention of Birnam Wood and Dunsinane is a reminder of the witches third prophecy, increasing expectation. Angus- distorted clothing imagery as a comparision with Macbeth’s own distorted activity.
Act 5 scene 3 A: Despite the desertion of many soldiers, Macbeth thinks himself invincible because of the third prophecy. He scolds the soldier who brings him news of the 10 000 english soldiers and calls for Seyton. He asks after LM and then prepares for the battle again reiterating his impregnability ’til Birnam forest come to Dunsinane’.T: Dramatic irony because of Macbeth’s reliance on the witches, his violent language demonstrating that recently he has lived by violence alone. M speaks of love, honour and obedience in his ‘what-might-have-been’ soliloquy, making us feel a moment of compassion for the tyrant who should be beyond pity. Pathetic note in questioning of the doctor, for his own mind is ‘diseased’ and the cure he urges for LM applies most terribly to himself. He seeks to throw off his obsessions in the violence of battle.
Act 5 scene 4 A: Soldiers marching, Malcolm ordering each to cut down a bough from the wood (Birnam) and ‘bear’t before him’.T: Tension, imminent battle is the keynote, with the dramatic and ironic fulfilment of the prophecy brought nearer by Malcolm’s instructions to his soldiers.
Act 5 scene 5 A: M hears the cry of women, which announces LM’s death. He ponders on the nature of existence- everything leads to death- a messenger enters to tell him that he has seen Birnam Wood move. M prepares himself to die bravely. T: M’s optimism gives way to his reception of news that his wife is dead. He swings now to cynicism, contemplating the transitory nature of life. Shakespeare again uses analogy of the stage and play to embody his ironic comments. We are moved, despite his wickedness, by his isolation and loneliness. Before this can be dwelt on, dramatic master stroke indicates the fulfilment of the prophecy- Birnam Wood has begun to move.
Act 5 scene 6 A: Malcolm, Macduff and Old Siward on a plain before the Castle, preparing to shed their boughs and fight. T: This very short scene conveys the activity prior to battle.
Act 5 scene 7 A: Macbeth kills Young Siward while Macduff searches for Macbeth. Old Siward brings the news that the castle has surrendered. T: Macbeth’s bravery is still evident.
Act 5 scene 8 part one A: M encounters Macduff who reveals that he was ‘from his mother’s womb/Untimely ripp’d’. Macduff calls upon M to surrender but he refuses; they fight and M is slain, but not before he has denounced the witches for their ‘double sense’. Thus the prophecy has come true. T: see Act 5 scene 8 part 2
Act 5 scene 8 part two A: Malcolm expresses concern for those still missing, Ross reveals to Old Siward that his son has been killed. Old Siward takes pride in his son’s wounds. Macduff enters, bearing M’s head, and exclaims Malcolm King of Scotland. Malcolm proclaims the first earls of his realm; promises to uncover all those who helped M and to recall all who were exiled. He states that LM is thought to have committed suicide and then invites all his nobles to see him crowned at Scone. T: Play ends on a note of bravery, generosity and with new hope for the future peace of Scotland. Malcolm contrasts M, he is a true son of Duncan. Note the use of the word ‘honour’, so often employed ironically in the play, also the image of ‘planted’ which looks back to Duncan’s own imagery and confirms Malcolm’s likeness to him. The final irony- the crowning-to-be at Scone of the rightful king: Macbeth, we remember, had also been crowned there; but Macduff, who has now helped put all to rights, had denied ‘his presence’ at the usurper’s coronation.
THEMES: the main theme of Macbeth is aptly summarised in Macbeth’s own words. He possesses… Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself And falls on the other (1,7,27-28).

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