William Shakespeare’s MACBETH Shakespeare’s 1.

CHARACTERS IN MACBETH *Those marked with an asterisk are a combination of minor characters, in the 2012 an characters, the Madrid Players’ production directed by Víctor Huertas THE THREE WITCHES (or “Weird Sisters”). In the opening scene, the Three Witches set Macbeth upon his murderous path by telling him that he will be named Thane (Lord) of Cawdor and then become King. After the first prophecy comes true just minutes later, it whets Macbeth’s appetite for more power. Later, they foretell his doom. MACBETH: The tragic focus of the play. He starts out as an admired war hero, “Great Glamis” (his title being Thane of Glamis, pronounced “Glahms”), but soon descends into betrayal, murder, and madness. Driven by his wife’s and his own "vaulting ambition," he kills King Duncan and orders other murders to secure the stolen throne. His soliloquies (solo speeches) show us how he breaks down over the course of the play. LADY MACBETH, Macbeth's wife. Her ambition for her husband is a major force in the plot; she urges him to kill King Duncan when Macbeth hesitates. As Queen, she tries to keep up appearances with increasing desperation, as she and her husband go mad from guilt. She becomes increasingly obsessed with the blood on her hands which no one else can see, and commits suicide. DUNCAN, King of Scotland. Presented as a good man and a good, fatherly king (Lady Macbeth admits she could not bring herself to kill him because he looked like her own father), his murder by Macbeth represents the destruction of order in Scotland that can be restored only when Duncan’s line, in the person of Malcolm, is crowned. MALCOM his son, Prince of Cumberland. Macduff’s loyalty, testing his own ability to lead men in order to regain his rightful throne. BANQUO Thane of Lochaber. His brave and noble character stands as a rebuke to his friend Macbeth (who orders his death) because Banquo represents the path Macbeth chose not to take: a path in which ambition need not lead to betrayal and murder. Appropriately, then, it is Banquo’s ghost—and not Duncan’s—that haunts Macbeth. FLEANCE Banquo’s son, who survives Macbeth’s attempt to murder him. If the Witches are correct, he will one day become King, fulfilling their prophecy that Banquo’s sons, and not Macbeth’s, will wear the crown of Scotland. Flees into exile upon his father’s His mistrust of everyone forces him to test MACDUFF, Thane of Fife Suspicious of Macbeth and hostile to his kingship, he eventually becomes a leader of the army, sponsored by England, sent to overthrow England, Macbeth. Beside his loyalty to Malcom, whom he considers the rightful king, Macduff is also moved by vengeance for Macbeth’s murder of his wife and young children.

a battle is in progress. He and Lady Macbeth plan to get Duncan’s two grooms (personal servant/bodyguards) drunk so they will black out. A SCOTTISH DOCTOR. After King Duncan is found dead. a Thane (nobleman) of Scotland. a thane of Scotland Macbeth’s PORTER. and a trio of witches briefly enter and agree to see each other again once the fight is over. When Macbeth arrives at Inverness.LADY MACDUFF. SEYTON . Macbeth’s castle. made . The witches vanish. he convinces him to kill the king that very night. he is very disturbed by the “unnatural” things happening at Macbeth’s castle. whose famous drunken soliloquy provides some much-needed comic relief. bleeding. although Banquo will never be king himself. FIRST MURDERER/SECOND MURDERER hired by Macbeth. his son murdered along with his mother. he stumbles onstage. ROSS*. Following their battle with these enemy forces. and that Banquo’s descendents will be Scottish kings. they encounter the witches. Macbeth is intrigued by the possibility that the rest of the witches’ prophecy—that he will be crowned king—might be true. have defeated an invading army from Norway. who prophesy that Macbeth will be made Thane (a rank of Scottish nobility) of Cawdor and eventually King of Scotland. the doorman to Macbeth’s castle. to describe Macbeth’s heroics in battle to King Duncan. who tries to treat Lady Macbeth as she goes mad from guilt GENTLEWOMAN attending Lady Macbeth MURDERER/ MURDERER. Lady Macbeth suffers none of her husband’s uncertainty. from the King’s murder to his horses devouring each other. in order to “meet with Macbeth”. his wife murdered on Macbeth’s orders. and writes ahead to his wife. Macbeth and Banquo. YOUNG MACDUFF. Lady Macbeth. She desires the kingship for him and wants him to murder Duncan to get it. While Duncan is asleep. telling her all that has happened. and the two men treat these prophecies skeptically until the noblemen Ross and Angus come to tell Macbeth that he has indeed been named Thane of Cawdor by King Duncan as a reward for his success on the battlefield. The Scottish King Duncan enters with his retinue and hears the news that his generals. a knight attending Macbeth At the beginning of the play. Macbeth stabs the king after overcoming his doubts. PLOT SUMMARY OF MACBETH As the play begins. He invites Duncan to dine that night at Inverness. 2. LENNOX a thane of Scotland ANGUS.

is going mad. Macbeth goes to visit the witches. but the English forces gradually overwhelm desperately. given their often uncertain livelihoods—and many actors consider Macbeth to be unlucky. and he will be safe “till Birnam Wood do come to Dunsinane”. Macbeth realizes that he is doomed. Prince Malcolm. Duncan’s young son Malcolm. he awaits the English and fortifies Dunsinane. a castle high on a hill. sleepwalking through nightmares of murder and terrified of the bloodstains she thinks she see on her hands. . meanwhile. declares his benevolent intentions for the country and invites all to see him crowned at Scone. who present him with further prophecies: Macbeth must beware of Macduff. Duncan’s son. flees to England. startling his guests.deeper by a number of supernatural signs. Macbeth raves fearfully. convinced that whoever killed Duncan also wants him dead. Thane of Fife. preferring to call it “The Scottish Play”. because he knows that all men are born of women and that forests cannot move. who include most of the great Scottish nobility. Malcolm. On the battlefield. who are appalled by Macbeth’s tyrannical and murderous behavior. Banquo’s ghost visits Macbeth. He is struck numb with fear. Before Macbeth’s opponents arrive. and Macduff joins him as he rides to Scotland to challenge Macbeth’s forces. now the King of Scotland. Legend has it that if someone makes the mistake of pronouncing the title. MACBETH: “The Scottish Play” Theatre folk tend to be superstitious—not surprising. Macbeth cannot be harmed by any man “born of woman”. Lady Macbeth desperately tries to cover up for him. Frightened. Macbeth hires a group of murderers to kill Banquo and his son Fleance. but Macbeth’s kingship incites increasing resistance from his nobles and subjects. when he learns that the English army is advancing on the castle shielded with boughs cut from Birnam Wood which is indeed coming to Dunsinane. and Macduff kills and beheads him. he receives news that his wife has killed herself. Lady Macbeth. Nevertheless. the “bad luck” thus produced can be warded off by instantly quoting from Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Macbeth fights desperately. he fears that his power remains insecure. When news of his family’s slaughter reaches Macduff in England. guarantee however. most cruelly. When Duncan’s death is discovered the next morning. Macbeth is relieved and feels secure. who declares that he was not “of woman born” but was instead “untimely ripped” from his mother’s womb (what we now call birth by cesarean section). When he sees the ghost. sinking him into a deep and fatalistic despair. When he learns that Macduff has fled to England to join Malcolm. Macbeth kills the grooms— supposedly out of rage at their crime—and easily assumes the kingship. so much so.his army and castle. They ambush Banquo on his way to a royal feast. who opposed his accession to the throne. certain that the witches’ prophecies guarantee his invincibility. he is stricken with grief and vows revenge. but they fail to kill Fleance. Macbeth orders that Macduff’s castle be seized and. The invasion has the support of the Scottish nobles. 3. has succeeded in raising an army in England. In the battle. who escapes into the night. that Lady Macduff and her children be murdered. that many will avoid even saying the title. Macbeth becomes furious: as long as Fleance is alive. Fearful of the witches’ prophecy that Banquo’s heirs will seize the throne. At the feast that night. including a vision of a bloody dagger. Macbeth encounters the vengeful Macduff.

actors can trip and fall. still widely in use today) and witchcraft. fake swordfights can go wrong. who seems to know Macbeth's thirst for satisfaction very well). He was especially captivated by Shakespeare's acting troupe. quite common in the theatre. But the alternate title of “The Scottish Play” also comes from the fact that it is indeed a very Scottish play. unfortunately. Daemonologie. is overflowing with Biblical imagery. and nothing exists for him from now on but that which is not yet there. Two of James’s other fascinations were Holy Scripture (he commissioned a translation of the Bible. Accordingly. and other performers of the day.Where did this idea of misfortune come from? Accidents are. they . almost all of the work takes place there. who liked to quote soliloquies from it to entertain guests to the White House. so whenever one of these accidents occur. Besides the fact that the drunken Porter uses the word in his famous soliloquy.S. Macbeth was the favourite play of U. associated with the Jesuits. and their supposed involvement in an assassination attempt against King James known as the “Gunpowder Plot”. actors might seize on them as reinforcement of the play’s “unlucky” reputation. since Shakespeare obviously wrote it expressly tailored to interests of the King. (with a little help from his wife. For example. playwrights. Macbeth. 4. It is easy to get hurt going on or off stage. The consequences fall upon him before he is even able to reflect on the deed. and many other themes in the play were dear to the heart of Scottish-born King James I. placing them under his own patronage and renaming them The King’s Men. because although they speak the truth to Macbeth. This inexplicable and painful drive goes back and forth. Being exposed to the temptation of the Crown. using ambiguous language so as to conceal the truth without outright lying. reason is smothered. The word was. the hero-villain feels his heart knocking against his ribs. THEMES IN MACBETH Ambition . known as the King James Version. at the time that Shakespeare wrote Macbeth. that particular accident just added to the legend. President Abraham Lincoln. Macbeth has a violent. This is not surprising. James loved the theatre and was very generous to actors. as this feeling seems to have in him no other purpose except to satisfy ambition itself. who had ascended to the throne a few years before. Of course. more so than any of Shakespeare's works. the witches are also equivocators. Equivocation – This means saying one thing while meaning something different. and woven into Macbeth are portions of James's own book on the subject.Macbeth is the character that embodies ambition in its purest sense. supernaturally driven plot. Laurence Olivier injured his ankle during a production of Macbeth – but even though he also got hurt doing other plays. the Chamberlain's Men. and it is only time and urgency that push Macbeth to carry out the damned deed. He was assassinated by the famous actor John Wilkes Booth – known for playing the title role to packed audiences. James was also fascinated by witchcraft.

as if she is trying to become a witch. in order to achieve Duncan’s death.mislead him. known as “familiars”. in other words. or the spots of blood Lady Macbeth sees on her hands after going mad—a projection of Macbeth’s imagination and desires? Note that they tell him what he wants to hear. as when Lady Macbeth says “the raven himself is hoarse/that croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan”. or that “stones have been known to move and trees to speak”. figure prominently in the plot. as well. Macbeth himself becomes a kind of warlock when he goes to the Three Witches a second time. or—like the dagger Macbeth sees before murdering Duncan. WHILE WATCHING THE PLAY… What do the Three Witches represent? Are they real. so Macbeth’s murder of Duncan is not only criminal. of who seems to be the dominant member of their partnership? . baboons. In Macbeth. as we have seen—believed in witchcraft (which was illegal and for which suspects. Animals associated with witchcraft are also mentioned frequently: besides the raven noted above. Nature – All of Shakespeare’s works contain compelling images taken from nature. all of which comes true. of course. In Shakespeare’s time. were often punished and even executed). the emphasis on what is unnatural. Lady Macbeth calls on evil spirits to fill her “with direst cruelty” and suckle at her breasts. What makes Macbeth a tragic character. most people—including the King. but they are not the only ones to use witchcraft in the play. God had ordained that certain persons and their descendents should rule. mostly women. and his audience would have recognized many of things the Weird Sisters say and do as being considered “standard” for witches: the ingredients in their potions. of their love for each other. toads.No other Shakespeare play puts such emphasis on witchcraft. serpents. and which does he keep to the end? How do his soliloquies (speeches he makes to himself) reflect his inner feelings to us? How would you describe the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth? What signs do we have of how long they’ve been married. there are cats. Afterwards. scorpions… Witchcraft . although not in the way he would like. The “Weird Sisters”. Kingship – During the medieval period in which Macbeth was set. not in the usual way. King James. most people believed an idea called the “divine right of kings”. for example. the formulas for their spells and curses. or their relationship with spirits taking the form of animals. which is sure because the author wanted to appeal to what he knew was a principal interest of his new patron. they say that he cannot be harmed by one “of woman born”. an image taken right out of a haunted house. as when Macbeth muses that “nature seems dead” when he is about to murder Duncan. Duncan’s horses eat each other after the king’s death —because regicide has upset the natural order. asking them to conjure for him and tell his future. 5. but he is killed by Macduff. sows. rather than simply a villain? What admirable qualities does he have at the beginning of the play. who was born by caesarean section. On other occasions. these can be sinister omens. and during Shakespeare’s own time. but sacrilegious. The person of the king was therefore considered sacred.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow/creeps in this petty pace from day to day… day… Macbeth’s meditation on the futility of life comes near the end of the play. Some obviously refer to bloodshed in battle. . so these are all the more striking. but of Malcolm. here – in what is arguably the only funny scene in a very dark play. or any chance at happiness. This is what is known as “comic relief”: letting the audience relax after the early scenes of witchcraft and murder. and when is he telling the truth? Listen for the more than 40 uses of the word blood or bleed in the play. and unprovokes. Malcolm. 7. he will not only have to get rid of Duncan. or heir to the throne). Being one of Shakespeare’s later works. or in murder. when is Malcolm lying. He realizes that to become King himself. signs of misfortune. and harmless as doves”. during the scene in which he tests Macduff’s motives for following him? And just as importantly. blood will have blood”? 6. dear wife. but blood is also used metaphorically. [drunkenness] provokes. Out. friendship. before plunging them into… more scenes of witchcraft and murder.Why does Prince Malcolm lie about himself to Macduff. it provokes the desire. the Crown Prince. O. “It will have blood. hide your fires / Let not light see my black and deep desires . bodements – omens. This vivid metaphor shows us how Macbeth’s full murderous deeds are driving him to madness. Lechery. Macbeth has few rhyming lines. full of scorpions is my mind. Look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under it. but it takes [drunkenness] unkenness away the performance. the title Prince of Cumberland (i. FAMOUS QUOTES Stars. and realizes that he has gained the kingship at the loss of everything that was important to him: honour. The title character says this when he hears that King Duncan is to give his oldest son. What does Macbeth mean when he says. as well. damn’d spot! Lady Macbeth’s cry of terror at the imaginary bloodstains on her hands has become one of the most famous lines in all of Shakespeare. The Porter. GLOSSARY augur – to foresee or predict the future.e. something that does this. love. they say. sir. who has certainly had a lot to drink himself. the hallucination of a dagger that he sees just before murdering Duncan. is making a ribald joke. Lady Macbeth’s advice to her husband is a malevolent paraphrase of Jesus Christ’s words to the twelve Apostles: “be ye therefore wise as serpents. It echoes his earlier reference to a “dagger of the mind”. after he learns of his wife’s suicide.

a personal servant.thriftiness of the conservation of resources.a shallow area in a body of water.cousin – not. . in Shakespeare’s time. parricide – someone who murders his or her father rancour –bitter. and was used by nobles in addressing each other. an underling. yoke – a piece of wood that joins two animals in farming. regardless of their family ties. an ancient provice of Asia southeast of the Caspian Sea. multitudinous – very numerous. dudgeon – hilt of a dagger foison – strength or power. groom – here. as today. often posing a navigational hazard. in Shakespeare’s time. husbandry . or darling. Golgotha – the site outside Jerusalem at which Jesus Christ was crucified. recompense – reward for efforts or work performed. warder – a guard. incarnadine – crimson or pinkish minion – in modern English. Also the cultivation and breeding of crops and animals.it meant any relative. resource(s). often used as a symbol of oppression. Hyrcan – from Hyrcania. not important enough to be enumerated. the son or daughter of one’s uncle or aunt. shoal . sundry – of various kinds. usually a prison guard. especially longstanding resentfulness. it still had the original French meaning of mignon.

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