Act Wise Summary Of The Play “Macbeth” By Shakespeare


Scene I:- The opening scene of the play is a small but thrilling scene in a deserted heath. Three witches meet and conspire to hail Macbeth on his return from the battlefield. The three Weird Sisters dance hand in hand and pronounce that what is fair to man is foul to them and what is foul to man is fair to them.

Scene II:- In the second scene. King Duncan receives a bleeding sergeant bringing the latest news from the battlefield. He reports that Macbeth, the general and Banquo, his lieutenant, were fighting valiantly against Macdonwald the great rebel and traitor. The sergeant said that Macbeth and Banquo had turned the battlefield into another Golgotha. They meant to plunge the battlefield into blood. The sergeant was so exhausted that he could hardly give out his brief message. He was immediately sent for medical aid. Presently, Ross entered and reported that the battle had taken another serious turn. The King of Norway had come out to assist the Thane of Cawdor. He reported that Macbeth and Banquo fought fearlessly and bravely and the result was that they annexed a glorious victory upon the Thane of Cawdor and the King of Norway, the King is highly pleased at this happy message.

Scene III:- This scene introduces Macbeth and Banquo returning from the battlefield after their glorious victory. As they pass through the deserted heath they are surprised to see three old and withered witches standing in their way. They are old, ugly and withered women with long flowing beards. The three witches nail Macbeth and greet him as the Thane of Glamis the Thane of Cawdor and the king hereafter. The suggestion of their prophecies is that Macbeth is going to become the thane of Glamis, the thane of Cawdor and the King of Scotland shortly after. These prophecies threw Macbeth into a trance. Banquo feels envious of the great fortune that is promised to Macbeth by the witches. Therefore, he addresses them and asks them if they have any prophecy to make for him too. The witches greet him and declare that he is lesser than Macbeth yet greater, not so happy, yet much happier. In the end, they pronounce that Banquo would beget Kings though he himself would never be a king. These prophecies surprise and alarm both Macbeth and Banquo. They desire to question them further but the witches, like bubbles of the earth, disappear in the air. Macbeth and Banquo are left in rapt amazement wondering whether they were asleep or awake.

Presently, Ross and Angus reach there and greet Macbeth as the Thane of Glamis and the Thane of Cawdor. They explain that the king had passed death punishment on the Thane of Cawdor and installed Macbeth to his title. Therefore, the first two prophecies of the witches come true immediately after their disappearance in the air. This convinces Macbeth that the third prophecy should also eventually come true. Banquo feels envious of the great luck of Macbeth, Macbeth, however falls in a fit of deep meditation and the germ of guilt and sin enters his mind for the first time. He feels a vague suggestion rising in his heart that he could achieve the throne of Scotland by murdering the king. He is, however so noble and faithful that he shudders at the very thought of murdering the noble old king. He cannot analyse his own feelings and trembles nervously. However, he awakes from his trance and asks Banquo to talk him in confidence after meeting the King.

Scene IV:- The scene shifts to the king. Macbeth and Banquo are heartily welcomed by the king. The king addresses Macheth as “worthiest cousin” and says that he cannot be sufficient grateful to him for ‘his unparalleled service and faithfulness to the State. He promises that Macbeth would be amply rewarded for his loyalty to the State. The king receives Banquo with equal warmth and admiration. At this stage. the king makes a fatal announcement that Malcolm would succeed him to the throne of Scotland after his death. He also declares that Malcolm would be installed as the Prince of Cumberland in a royal ceremony when all other generals and courtiers, including Macbeth and Banquo would be amply rewarded for their services. At the end of this announcement the king also declares that he would pass night at Macbeth’s castle of Inverness as mark of honour to his great general. Macbeth feels that the easiest and the nearest way to achieve the throne of Scotland was to murder the king that very night before Malcolm is officially proclaimed the Prince of Cumberland. This suggestion surprises Macbeth himself so much that he invokes the spirit of darkness to aid him in his hazardous venture.

Scene V:- In this scene, Lady Macbeth is discovered reading a letter despatched by Macbeth immediately after meeting with the witches. The letter conveyed to her the great prophecies made by the witches. Lady Macbeth at once jumps to the conclusion that the nearest way to catch the Crown lay through murder and bloodshed. However, she believes that Macbeth is too full of the milk of human kindness to do the deed. She says that he is highly ambitious yet he cannot act boldly for the achievement of that ambition.

Therefore, she wishes him to come to her straight so that she may “chastise him with the valour of her tongue.” Just at this moment, a messenger enters and informs her that the king was coming to stay at her castle for the night. Lady Macbeth is extremely excited at this news because it was the most appropriate occasion for murdering the king. Immediately, she resolves to do the cruel deed that very night. She invokes the evil spirits to unsex her and fill her from the crown to the toe, top full of direst cruelty.” She also appeals to the spirit of the night to wrap the world in the blanket of darkness so that her knife may not see the wound it makes in the chest of the king. At this moment, Macbeth enters. Lady Macbeth addresses him as the king to be. She immediately suggests to him that the way to the throne of Scotland lay through murder. She takes upon herself the entire responsibility of the deed and advises him only to look clean.

Scene VI:- King Duncan pays his fatal visit to the castle of Macbeth in this scene. He is extremely happy and speaks highly of his noble host and hostess. Lady Macbeth offers him a hearty welcome and promises on her honour that what-ever they are or whatever is theirs, is ever at the disposal of the king’s pleasure. She most respectfully conducts him to the guest’s chamber and offers herself to his service. The poor old king cannot see the guilt lurking behind the apparent innocence and loyalty of his hostess. Therefore, he believes her very innocently and confidentially.

Scene VII:- Macheth is discovered in this scene in a state of acute mental and moral agony. He is unable to decide whether the cruel deed should be done or not. He is terribly shaken between his loyalty to the king and temptation to fulfil his great ambition. He is prepared to do the deed if it were not followed by any evil consequences,

However, he hesitates very much on moral grounds. He knows that king Duncan is a very noble old man who has never wielded his authority with cruelty or injustice. Secondly, the king is his cousin and gest and such he is morally required to guard him against all dangers and not to hold the knife himself. Thus, he argues to himself and can discover no justification for his cruel deed except the fulfilment of his vaulting ambition.

At this moment, Lady Macbeth enters to inform him that the king has retired to bed. Macbeth is so shaken and confused at the eleventh hour that he refuses to proceed any further in the business. Lady Macbeth loses her patience with him and chastises him with the valour of her tongue. She goads him further to go ahead in the business. Macbeth can no longer endure the cruelty of his wife’s tongue. He yields to her will and leaves’ the entire management. of the situation to her sole discretion. He resolves to follow her advice.


Scene I:- This scene describes the fateful night of the murder of the king. The night is unusually stormy and dark. Premonitions of some cruel deed are heard in the air. Banquo and his son Fleance feel disturbed and alarmed in their sleep. They are astonished at the unusual darkness of the night. Banquo instinctively feels that the king is in danger. He cannot resist the sinful thoughts from assailing his mind.

Macbeth happens to come out and meet Banquo in the darkness of the night. Banquo does not lose the occasion to ask him what he thought of the prophecies of the three witches, Macbeth very cunningly says that he has given no thought to them. Yet, however, he suggests to Macbeth that much good would come to him if he followed his advice in future. Banquo promises to follow his advice provided he could keep his conscience clean and his loyalty to the king intact. With this promise, he retires in his chamber. Macbeth is left all alone in the darkness. He is so agitated that he sees a hallucination. He feels that a dagger is hanging in the air before him. The handle of the dagger is towards him and the blade pointing to the king’s chamber. Macbeth extends his hand to clutch it but it includes his grasp. Macbeth believes that it is “a dagger of the mind, a false creation, proceeding from the best oppressed brain.” A minute later, a few drops of blood appear on the blade of the dagger. The dagger is sent by the evil powers of sin and guilt to prompt Macbeth on the path of sin and murder. Macbeth feels all the more excited and appeals to the earth not to echo the sound of his footsteps.

Scene II:- This is the scene of murder. Lady Macbeth administers very heavy dose of wine to the chamberlains guarding the gate of the king’s chamber. She rings the bell and Macbeth mechanically enters the king’s chamber and in a maddening fit of sinful ambition, he strikes the blow in the chest of the king and rushes out. While he does the deed, he feels as if some-body outside is mockingly laughing at him. He rushes out from the king’s chamber in alarm and tells Lady Macbeth that he heard strange cries in the air. He feels as if some mysterious voice cried out. “Sleep no more. Macbeth does murder sleep and therefore Macbeth shall sleep no more.” Macbeth tremoles at the very thought of blood. He also remembers that while he was doing the deed the two chamberlains awoke each other, smiled, offered prayer to God and again fell asleep in semi unconsciousness. Lady Macbeth consoles him and says that it is only the fear of his mind. Macbeth looks at his hands and recoils. Lady Macbeth only laughs at him and says: A little water clears us of this deed.

Scene III:- This is the scene of the exposure of Duncan’s murder. At the early hour of the dawn, king’s attendants come to call on him. They knock at southern gate of the castle. Each knock strikes a blow at the heart and imagination of Macbeth. He feels as if the hand of fate or God is knocking at the gate. He believes that this knocking at the gate would arouse the whole world against him. However, Lady Macbeth pacifies him and conducts him to the bed chamber. The persistent knocking at the gate aroused the porter from his morning slumber. He feels uneasy to rise so early in the small hours of the morning. A strange idea comes to his mind. He feels as if he is the keeper or the hell-gate and is required to open the doors of hell at any earthly or unearthly hour. He argues to himself that he is really the keeper of the hell- gate and, therefore, opens the gate to welcome the spirits of the hell. As he opens the door, Macduff and Lennox enter the castle to call on the king.

Macduff goes to the king’s chamber to awake him. Immediately he rushes out shouting. “Oh horror! horror! horror! tongue nor heart cannot conceive nor name thee !” He reports that the king has been murdered and his dead body is lying in a pool of blood. He rings the alarm-bell and shouts to arouse the sleepers. Hearing the alarm-bell Lady Macbeth, Banquo, Malcolm, Donalbain and others rush to the central hall of the castle. Lady Macbeth makes an anxious enquiry as to what has happened. To her query. Macduff replies. Then turning to Banquo, Macduff says that the king has been murdered. Lady Macbeth pretends to be terribly shocked at this news and falls down unconscious. Some of the lords rush forward to lift the lady and tend her. Macbeth falls in a fit of brooding meditation. Malcolm and Donalbain stand apart. In the meantime, Macbeth gets a chance to go to the king’s chamber and murder the two Sleeping chamber lain. Macduff gets annoyed at this hasty action of Macbeth but Macbeth defends himself saying that he could not control himself to see the murderers lying in front of him. Malcolm and Donalbain sense that there is a great risk for their lives. Therefore, they decide to run away from the scene of conspiracy.

Scene IV:- The scene takes place outside Macbeth’s castle Ross and an old man are talking about the unnatural and unruly time. Macduff who joins them says satirically that Malcolm and Donalbain have fled away after murdering their royal father. Ross further informs that Macbeth has been named the King of Scotland.


Scene 1:- Banquo thinks about what has passed. He knows that Macbeth has played the most foully for achieving the Crown of Scotland. He cherishes the distant hope that the prophecy made by the witches that his children would be the Kings of Scotland, will also come true. At this instant, Macbeth joins him. Macbeth receives him as the most honoured guest of the evening banquet that he was going to hold in the royal palace. Lady Macbeth also extends her cordial welcome to Banquo. Eventually, Banquo tells him that he and his son are riding to a neighbouring town from where they would be returning about the hour of sunset. He however, promises that he would not miss his Highness’s royal banquet.

Macbeth plans what course he should adopt to make his position safe and secure. He discovers that Banquo is his chiefest enemy. Banquo is the only person who may have some knowledge of his heinous royal murder for capturing the throne. He also remembers that the witches prophesied that the children of Banquo would be the sovereigns of Scotland after him. Macbeth cannot bear the thought of the Crown passing on the Banquo’s issues. Therefore he decides to murder Banquo and his son Fleance.

The-attendant produces two murderers before Macbeth. Macbeth instigates them that Banquo is their common enemy. He promises them of every help, support and promotion if they could murder Banquo at this instance. The murderers agree to Macbeth’s suggestion and pledge before him to murder Banquo and his son. Macbeth cheers them up and asks them to wait outside for further instructions.

Scene II :- Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are discovered talking in confidence. Lady Macbeth feels that their position on the throne is not very safe. She is rather agitated and discontented.

Macbeth assures her not to fret herself about the insecurity of their position. He informs her that he is going to do something which will keep away all the danger from their path. Yet, however, he himself is not quite free from the grim fancies of grief, horror and repentance.

He rather envies the blessed state of Duncan who after life’s fitful fever sleeps well. He himself, on the contrary, will have nothing but enmity, malice, fear, horror and discontentment. Lady Macbeth tries to cheer up his spirits to face the situation boldly. Macbeth gathers courage at the thought that his enemies are not immortal and, therefore, he can easily dispose of them.

Scene III:- This is the scene of Banquo’s murder. The two murderers appointed by Macbeth for the deed, lie in wait for Banquo and his son at a distance from the palace. As the light thickens, a third murderer (presumably Macbeth himself) joins them. The first two murderers test his bonafides and satisfy themselves that he belongs to their party. The three murderers lie in wait for Banquo and Fleance. Shortly after sunset, they hear them approach. They hold up a light and as soon as Banquo and Fleance pass by them they set upon them. Banquo falls to the strokes of daggers. He cautions his son Fleance to run away. Banquo dies on the spot. The murderers feel disappointed to realise that Fleance had escaped.

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Scene IV :- The two murderers go to inform Macbeth of the outcome of their venture. The murderers inform Macbeth that Banquo has been killed and securely buried in a pitch, but Fleance has escaped. At the news that Fleance has escaped, Macbeth develops a fit of insanity. He feels that the evil has not been finally vanquished. He welcomes them for the work they have done and asks them to disappear from the scene. Macbeth now loses the colour of his cheeks. He becomes crazy and behaves in a very odd and suspicious manner. However, on Lady Macbeth’s reminder that the guests were waiting for the pleasure of his company, Macbeth returns to occupy his presidential chair but immediately retraces his steps in fear and horror because he discovers that the ghost of Banquo has already occupied his seat. It is a subjective ghost which is visible to Macbeth alone. To others, the chair still lies vacant and therefore they fall to understand the cause of Macbeth’s fear and alarm. Macbeth losses the balance of his mind and turning to the ghost he souts, “Thou canst not say I did it; never shake thy gory locks at me.” The guest assembled around table feel alarmed at this strange behaviour of the King and believe that his Highness is not well. But Lady Macbeth rises to the occasion and tells the guests that her husband has been suffering from such fits of melancholy from his early youth and therefore they need not worry much about them. She assures them that he would recover his composure within a few minutes. Then turning to her Lord, she chastises him and rebukes him for his sentimental and psychological fear and alarm. In the meantime, the ghost disappears and Macbeth recovers his mental equilibrium. Again he turns to occupy his chair and for formality’s sake, he says that he wished that Banquo were present. Immediately. the ghost of Banquo reappears and occupies the seat allotted for Macbeth. Macbeth again falls in a fit of insanity.

Scene V:- On the recovery from the fit of insanity at the appearance of the ghost of Banquo, Macbeth decides to meet the witches once again to seek from them advice regarding the future course of action. Therefore, he goes to the deserted heath to meet the witches. The witches, for seeing the intentions of Macbeth, assemble at the heath to decide how to greet Macbeth and conduct him to his destined path of ruin and death.

Scene VI:- It is a scene of pause. Lennox and other lords discuss the state of affairs in their country. Lennox knows that Macbeth has murdered the king to annex the throne of Scotland. Therefore, very satirically, he says that Macbeth is a noble king who has rightly banished Malcolm and Donalbain from the country. He continues to say in the same mocking tone that no man’s life should be trusted to his sons. During the course of this conversation, it is discovered that Macduff had refused to attend the royal banquet held by Macheth. Therefore, Macbeth had decided to kill Macduff and his family.


Scene I:- It is a grim scene of the witches boiling their magic broth. They boil a huge caldron and add extremely funny repulsive and nauseatting articles to the boiling pot. They dance and sing around the pot. Finally, they cool down their “hell-broth” with a bucket full of baboon’s blood. The magic is now complete.

Immediately. Macbeth enters and the witches offer him welcome. They ask him to put his questions and wait for their replies. Macbeth wishes to be replied by their master. The witches play the magic and produce horrible apparitions. The first apparition that appears is an armed head. He knows the question of Macbeth already and therefore, at once replies “Macbeth, Macbeth, Macbeth, beware Macduff”.

Macbeth thanks him for his timely caution. Then appears the second apparition, a bloody child, who advises Macbeth to be bloody, bold and resolute, and to laugh, to Scorn the power of man for “none of woman born shall harm Macbeth.” Macbeth feels very secure on this assurance and believes that no man can ever kill him for who is there who is not born of woman. Then appears the third apparition, a child crowned; who further insures security to Macbeth. Macbeth now feels doubly sure. In the end, the witches give him a heart-sinking show. They show him long line of kings followed by Banquo. These kings seem to be the children of Banquo. This suggests that the prophecy of the witches that Banquo’s children would succeed to the throne of Scotland was going to turn true. Macbeth feels extremely disgusted at this show but before he can curse the witches, they melt away into the thin air.

Scene II:- Macduff is reported to have fled to the Court of England to meet Malcolm. Lady Macduff and her young ones fail to understand why Macduff has fled away stealthily, leaving them in the den of danger. Lady Macduff complains of her husband’s strange behaviour to her cousin, Ross. A very humorous but ironical dialogue follows between Lady Macduff and her young son. While the mother and her son are thus platting, a messenger comes to inform her that there is a great danger around. The messenger reports that Macbeth has sent murderers to kill Macduff and her family. Lady Macduff feels extremely nervous and helpless. Within a few minutes several murderers enter her castle and inquire about her husband. The young boy abuses them and in cold blood the murderers kill him. The mother cries for help and runs away followed by the murderers. The dramatist suggests that Lady Macduff and all her young ones are killed by the murderers.

Scene III:- The scene now shifts to the Court of the King of England. Macduff meets Malcolm to persuade him to go with him to Scotland and take hack his rightful throne. Malcolm becomes suspicious and therefore replies very insolently to Macduff. Macbeth has sent several messengers earlier to tempt him and to bring him to Scotland. He now fears that-Macduff may also have come as an agent of Macbeth. Therefore, he mocks away all the entreaties of Macduff. In a spirit of mocking fun, he heaps upon himself innumerable evils and vices and says to Macduff that he is not fit to rule. Macduff plunges in a fit of heart-touching grief, and repentance at the plight of Scotland. A torrent of tears flows down his cheeks. He bids farewell to Malcolm saying that he would not play the cheat with him for all the wealth of the East. The sincerity of Macduff’s tone removes Malcolm’s suspicion in the end and he offers himself to go with Macduff and act according to his advice.

As Malcolm and Macduff come to an agreement another messenger comes from Scotland to inform Macduff that his wife and children have been mercilessly murdered by Macbeth. Macduff goes crazy with grief, but Malcolm cheers him up and asks him to take the heroic pledge of killing Macbeth with his own sword. With this determination, Macduff. Malcolm and Siward with a large English force, set out to Scotland.


Scene I:- Here is the famous Sleep-walking scene. Lady Macbeth has developed a strange somnambulistic state of mind. She cannot sleep. She keeps on walking and acting in a state of unconsciousness in her sleep. A doctor comes to attend her. The gentlewoman attending the queen explains the malady of Lady Macbeth to him. While the gentlewoman and the doctor are thus talking, Lady Macbeth enters with a candle in her hand. Her eyes are open but their sense is shut. She walks slowly and absent-mindedly in a state of unconscious sleep. The grim memories of the bloody and heinous actions of the past have so tormented her mind that she can not forget them. The grim memory of all the scenes of the past haunt her vision. She looks at her hands and sighs. She discovers spots of blood on her hands and wrings them as if trying to wash those spots from the hands: “Out damned spot!, out, I say.” She also remembers the tragic murder of the wife of Macduff and says. “The thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now?” The doctor and the gentlewoman are moved to pity and horror at these alarming confessions of Lady Macbeth. She shudders at the sight of her hands and a piercing cry comes from the innermost recess of her heart: “Here is the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.” Whispering these words and let by similar other fancies she goes straight to bed. The doctor is so horrified at the strange malady of Lady Macbeth that he swears never to visit her castle any more.

Scene II:- In this scene, the approach of the English army under the leadership of Macduff and Malcolm is reported. Menteith and Angus are talking and through their conversation we learn the mental state and helplessness of Macbeth in his critical situation. The English forces are reported to have near the Birnam Wood. Macbeth is extremely excited and worried about this new development. Angus says that Macbeth now feels that the crown is too heavy to be borne by him. Yet he relies upon the last hope given to him by the witches that he shall never be vanquished until the Birnam Wood rode against the castle of Dunsinane. He, therefore, strongly fortifies his castle of Dunsinane and lies in wait for the approach of the English forces.

 Scene III:- In this scene the report is brought to Macbeth that the Wood of Birnam is riding against the castle of Dunsinane. What actually happened was that Malcolm had asked every soldier of his army to hold aloft a branch of tree in order to hide their actual number behind them. Therefore, when the forces of Malcolm moved forward with those huge branches in front of them. it appeared as if the Birnam Wood was riding against the castle of Dunsinane. A servant gives this unhappy news to Macbeth. Macbeth loses his last great hope and security given to him by the witches. Yet he made the last desperation to fight to the last: “I will fight, till from my bones, my flesh be hacked.”

Scene IV:- The English forces approach the castle of Dunsinane. As they come within the range of castle of Macbeth, they throw off their hiding branches of trees and show their numbers. Malcolm, Macduff and Siward determine to fight the war to end and kill Macbeth. Led by this hope they come forward to wage a fierce attack on the castle of Macbeth.

Scene V:- Macbeth hangs out more banners on the outward walls of his castle. He orders his soldiers to go round the city and hang all those who talk of fear. Macbeth has now become desperate. He himself says that he has “Supped full with horrors”, so that direness, danger or fear cannot once start him. It is at this juncture that the news of Lady Macbeth’s death is brought to him. On receiving the news of the death of the queen, Macbeth falls in a fit of deep meditation. He makes very general remarks of the futility of life and vanity of human wishes.

Scene VI and VII:- Macbeth and Malcolm now stand ready to fight, Macduff proclaims the war by the sound of trumpets. Macbeth fights with desperate courage and bravery. He meets young Siward in one part of the battle field. A fierce battle ensues between them. But within a few minutes Macbeth slays young Siward and declares with pride and satisfaction. The forces of Macbeth, however, start giving way to the English powers. Macbeth’s castle also yields. Malcolm and Siward find their way into the castle.

Scene VIII:- Here is another part of the battlefield. Macbeth and Macduff meet and tall upon each other like hungry hounds. They fight desperately and Macduff begins to lose. Macbeth gets so elated that he tells Macduff that he bears a charmed life which must not yield to one of woman born. Macduff promptly replies that he is the man not born of woman. This breaks the spirit of Macbeth. His last hope slips from his hands. Yet he fights on. But despair has now so laken him in its grip that very soon he yields to Macduff. Macduff slays him and holds aloft his head upon the point of his spear. Thus, holding the head of Macbeth he returns to Malcolm and Siward. Final victory thus comes to the side of Malcolm. Immediately Malcolm is hailed as the King of Scotland. Malcolm declares that due rewards to his friends and punishments to the enemies would be given in due course of time. A royal declaration is also made that the coronation of Malcolm would be officially held at Scone.



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