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Sunday, February 24, 2008

macbeth: a summary

Deemed William Shakespeare’s darkest jewel of a tragedy, Macbeth is a brief play written from 1606 to 1607, the midpoint of the flowering of English Renaissance. It recounts the story of a king whose kingdom’s downfall was intently schemed by some supernatural element.
A thunderstorm becomes the signal for three witches to converge on the heath after the conduct of a certain deed. Then, a captain tells King Duncan of the triumph of Macbeth over a battle against Macdonwald. Ross continues that the Thane of Cawdor betrayed England during the fight. Returning home from the war field, Macbeth and Banquo are confronted by the three witches. They prophesy that Macbeth will assume the Scottish throne and Banquo, while never a royal himself, will sire kings. The witches vanish just in time when Ross tells Macbeth that the title Thane of Cawdor, as foretold by the witches, is now his. Macbeth thinks over the possibility of his becoming a king, and is confused whether or not he should realize the prediction. Malcolm informs King Duncan that Cawdor confessed his treachery at his execution. Then, the king welcomes back Macbeth and Banquo. To Macbeth’s disappointment, King Duncan proclaims his eldest son, Malcolm, as Prince of Cumberland. Back in the Inverness Castle, Macbeth’s wife gathers of his witches’ encounter and decides that she will convince Macbeth to fulfill his fate via foul play. She gets to persuade Macbeth to murder Duncan and frame the latter’s own guards.
Alone after a conversation with Banquo, Macbeth imagines that a bloody dagger is in front of him. He turns to his wife to report that he slayed Duncan, and proceeds to hear voices. Macbeth fails to return the daggers to the king’s guards, so Lady Macbeth assumes the work, bloodying herself in the process while Macbeth is driven crazy. When the king’s corpse is discovered, the princes-in-line escape to England and Ireland for their lives. Malcolm and Donalbain were accused of bribing the guards to kill their royal father. Eventually, Macbeth is instituted as king.
At Scotland’s castle, Macbeth thinks how he fears Banquo may beget children to usurp Macbeth’s throne. Macbeth hires mercenaries to kill Banquo and Fleance, his son, who manages to flee when Banquo is successfully murdered. At dinner, Macbeth claims to see Banquo’s ghost, alarming his wife and guests.
Macbeth visits the three witches for advice. They told him to beware Macduff, that no man of woman borne shall harm Macbeth, and that Macbeth will reign until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Hill. Ultimately, an apparition of Banquo shows his eight royal descendants. The innocent Malcolm was being persuaded by Macduff to combine his arms with those of Northumberland and Siward to fight side-by-side against the king.
Macbeth’s wife sleepwalks and sleep-talks about Duncan’s death. Menteith, Angus, Caithness and Lennox concur the impending war with Macbeth and Birnam wood, where Malcolm commands to have the trees cut to be used as disguises. In the castle, Macbeth learns that Lady Macbeth died by her own hands and, to his frustration, that the Birnam wood moves toward the castle. The army lands and Macbeth fights against and kills Siward. Macbeth gets to fight against Macduff, who informs Macbeth that he was not of woman having been ripped from his mother’s womb. Finally, Macduff finishes Macbeth and then crowns Malcom as the new King of Scotland.

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