A Simple revision guide
Max, Adam and Fedor | Macbeth Unit | January 2018
Lady Macbeth. 3
King Duncan. 4
The Three Witches. 4
Language Analysis. 7
“Fair is foul, foul is fair” 7
“Like valour’s minion
car’vd out his passage.” 7
“When shall we three meet
In thunder, lightning, or
in rain?” 8
“Things aren’t what they seem, you know” 8
Key Plot Themes. 9
Detailed Plot 9
Macbeth, Banquo & the Witches. 9
Macbeth Learns of Thaneship, hence he hosts King in
During the Party, the Macbeths Plot to kill King Duncan. 9
Macbeth kills Duncan, Malcom and Macduff flee. 10
Macbeth orders Banquo killed. 10
Macbeth Receives more Predictions form The Witches. 10
After hearing of Macduff fleeing, Macbeth orders his
family killed. 10
Macduff vows Revenge on Macbeth. 10
Lady Macbeth Starts showing subconscious signs of Guilt 10
Malcolm and Macduff amass an army and head for Scotland. 10
Macduff and Macbeth meet in Battle, Macbeth is slain. 10
Malcolm is crowned king. 11
Good and evil 12
Super natural 12
Loyalty and guilt 13
Macbeth is a Scottish general and the thane of Glamis who is led to
wicked thoughts by the prophecies of the three witches, especially after their
prophecy that he will be made thane of Cawdor comes true. Macbeth is a brave
soldier and a powerful man, but he is not a strong minded one. He is easily
tempted into murder to fulfill his ambitions to the throne, and once he commits
his first crime and is crowned King of Scotland, he embarks on further crimes
with increasing ease. Ultimately, Macbeth proves himself better suited to the
battlefield than to political business, because he lacks the skills necessary
to rule without being a tyrant. His response to every problem is violence and
murder. Unlike Shakespeare’s great villains, such as Iago in Othello and Richard
III in Richard III, Macbeth is never comfortable in his role as a criminal. He
is unable to bear the psychological consequences of his atrocities. This is
evidenced by the way he reacted to the murder of his loyal friend Banquo by
seeing ghosts and when he murdered Duncan he heard strange voices.
Macbeth’s wife, is
a deeply ambitious woman who needs power and position to fulfill her giant ego.
Early in the play she seems to be the stronger and more ruthless of the two, as
she urges her husband to kill Duncan and seize ‘the golden round’. Her ways of
getting her husband to do her dirty work appears to mainly through insulting
his manliness and ability to be a brave and courageous however she also appeals
to her husband’s natural instinct of lust. This way of getting a man to do what
she wants is very deceitful which is exactly what Lady Macbeth appears to be.
At the very beginning of the play she shows herself to be a gentle loving wife
but as time passes she shows her true, sociopathic, self and demonstrates just
how much she is willing to do to feed her ego.
The good King of Scotland whom Macbeth, in his ambition for the
crown, murders. Duncan is the model of a virtuous, benevolent, and farsighted
ruler. Duncan is the epitome, or supreme example, of a gracious leader. His
language is formal and his speeches full of grace and graciousness, whether on
the battlefield in Act I, Scene 2, where his talk concerns matters of honor, or
when greeting his kind hostess Lady Macbeth in Act I, Scene 6. Duncan also
expresses humility (a feature that Macbeth lacks) when he admits his failure in
spotting the previous Thane of Cawdor’s treachery: “There’s no art to find
the mind’s construction in the face” His death symbolizes the destruction
of an order in Scotland that can be restored only when Duncan’s line, in the
person of Malcolm, once more occupies the throne. This is embellished by
Duncan’s belief in the divine right of kings. Until God’s chosen bloodline on
the throne, no other man will rule successfully.
The Three Witches
Three “black and midnight hags” who plot mischief against Macbeth
using charms, spells, and prophecies. Their predictions prompt him to murder
Duncan, to order the deaths of Banquo and his son, and to blindly believe in
his own immortality. The play leaves the witches’ true identity unclear—aside
from the fact that they are servants of Hecate, we know little about their
place in the cosmos. In some ways, they resemble the mythological Fates, who
weave the threads of human destiny. They clearly take a perverse delight in
using their knowledge of the future to toy with and destroy human beings. One
could almost go as far as to call them psychopaths. The witches show signs of
their evil traits through their speech. Saying things like ‘Fair is foul and
foul is fair’ give the audience a warning sign that these… creatures are not to
be trusted. Clearly, Macbeth is so obsessed in gaining power that he doesn’t
notice these clear warnings.
brave, noble general whose children, according to the witches’ prophecy, will
inherit the Scottish throne. Like Macbeth, Banquo thinks ambitious thoughts,
but he does not translate those thoughts into action. In a sense, Banquo’s
character stands as a rebuke to Macbeth, since he 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. In addition to embodying Macbeth’s guilt for killing Banquo, the ghost
also reminds Macbeth that he did not emulate Banquo’s reaction to the witches’
prophecy. The ghost is like a shoulder angel preaching what Macbeth should do
but chooses not to do. If anything, Banquo’s ghost represents Macbeth’s guilty
He accompanies Macduff the morning of Duncan’s murder, and notes
that he cannot remember as stormy a night as the preceding one. He joins
Macbeth’s court, but is soon convinced of the usurper’s guilt, which he
cautiously exposes to similarly-minded lords in ironical phrases. He still
stays with Macbeth, however, bringing him the news of Macduff’s flight. He is
one of the Thanes who deserts Macbeth once Malcolm invades, bringing
reinforcements to Malcolm’s army, and is well-informed of who is present with
is the archetype of the avenging hero, not simply out for revenge but with a
good and holy purpose. Macduff is the character who has two of the most
significant roles in the play. First, he is the discoverer of Duncan’s body. Second,
the news of the callous murder of his wife and children spurs him toward his
desire to take personal revenge upon the tyrannical Macbeth. When he knocks at
the gate of Macbeth’s castle in Act II, Scene 3, he is being equated with the
figure of Christ, who before his final ascension into Heaven, goes down to
release the souls of the damned from hell (the so-called “Harrowing of
“Fair is foul, foul is fair”
This quote tells the
audience not to judge someone by what their first actions are or how they come
across. This is because as we go along in the play, characters change and our
opinions on them. This quote literally means, good is bad and bad is good. This
means that characters that you come across may not be as good as you think they
are. As well as, you thinking maybe one of the decisions that a character makes
may first of all come across as a bad/negative one however it could turn out to
work in the characters favor. So this is Shakespeare using the witches to
converse to the audience some little tips that they need to keep at the front
of their mind throughout the play.
valour’s minion car’vd out his passage.”
With the word “Valour” it portrays Macbeth as a brave, fearsome
warrior who can take on any task. However, it also suggests that he is
determined to do whatever he wishes as he carves a passage for himself (a way)
to do everything. In honoring Macbeth with ‘Valour’, it foreshadows that
he will do anything in order to complete his route to the throne and make the
witches’ foresight come true later on in the play, this is also showing how he
doesn’t care and has disregard for his body as he is willing to do anything to
get to the throne making a “passage” on the way.
“When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning, or
This is one of the first lines in Macbeth and is the witches
conversing to each other. This shows the audience that the witches are
something else as, they talk in rhyming couplets to one another (differently
than any normal person and everyone else). This means that they are mysterious
along with the landscape they are accompanied with does create this sense of
the unknown. This especially back when the play was originally shown in the
globe, would’ve all been believed.
“Things aren’t what they
seem, you know”
This quote is talking
about how everyone doesn’t know the truth and what they think is right isn’t
always true. This is referring to how the characters believe that Macbeth is a
wonderful soldier with loyalty to his country however, je is actually causing
the demise of the royalty and their country. With the killing of the king and
many others behind their backs.
In Macbeth, Shakespeare tells a story of
treachery and greed, as highlighted previously. The play follows the Tale of
Macbeth, a Scottish Noble, in his bloodthirsty quest to become king of
Scotland, and his consequential demise.
Key Plot Themes
Macbeth and Banquo meet with The Witches
Macbeth Learns of his new Thaneship and hosts the King for a night.
During the Night his wife convinces him to kill Duncan and become
Macbeth Kills King Duncan and Becomes King, Malcolm and Macduff flee
Macbeth orders the killing of Banquo
Macbeth Receives More Predictions from the Witches
After hearing of Macduff fleeing Macbeth orders his family Killed
Macduff vows Revenge on Macbeth
Lady Macbeth starts feeling Subconscious guilt for her actions
Macduff and Malcom amass an army in England and head for Scotland
Macduff and Macbeth meet in Battle, Macbeth is Slain
Malcolm is crowned new King
Macbeth, Banquo & the Witches
After Defeating the King of Norway’s
Invasion, Macbeth and Banquo ride home. They reach some marshland and are met
by 3 Mysterious Witches. These Witches tell of various predictions, Macbeth
shall be Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth Shall be King of Scotland, Banquo’s sons
shall be King, yet Banquo himself shall not be one. This Leaves Macbeth bemused
as he believes the Thane of Cawdor is alive.
Macbeth Learns of Thaneship, hence
he hosts King in thanks
As Banquo & Macbeth continue back home,
Ross greets them and informs Macbeth of his new Thaneship. Once they reach the
kings castle, Macbeth agrees to invite King Duncan to his Castle to celebrate
his new Thaneship, he doesn’t plan to kill him yet.
During the Party, the Macbeths
Plot to kill King Duncan
Just before the Party has begun, Lady
Macbeth convinces Macbeth to kill King Duncan and claim the Throne after
hearing the 3 Witches premonition. Macbeth is Unsure, however after Lady
Macbeth insults him and his ‘Manhood’ until, through shame, Macbeth is brought
around to the Idea.
Macbeth kills Duncan, Malcom and
During the night, Macbeth kills King Duncan
in his sleep. In the Morning his Death is discovered and his 2 sons Flee to
England and Wales, Macduff joins Malcolm to England. Since there is no heir,
Macbeth is unofficially deemed King of Scotland in the meantime.
Macbeth orders Banquo killed
Macbeth notices that Banquo seems to be
unfriendly towards him and suspects that he knows that he murdered Duncan,
hence he orders Banquo’s killing. Banquo is killed however his son Fleance
manages to escape allowing Banquo’s Descendants to become kings.
Macbeth Receives more Predictions
form The Witches
Macbeth Re-Visits the Witches and learns of
some more Predictions, He will not be slain by a man born Naturally and that he
should be aware of Macduff and that he wont be defeated until Birnham Wood
comes towards him
After hearing of Macduff fleeing,
Macbeth orders his family killed
Macduff leaves to help Malcolm in England,
Macbeth learns of this and orders his family killed. Murderers Proceed to
Vanquish Macduff’s son and his Wife, leaving him with no future bloodline or
Macduff vows Revenge on Macbeth
Ross travels to England and informs Malcolm
and Macduff of the deteriorating nature of Scotland and informs Macduff of his
Dead Family. Macduff vows to obtain revenge and to help Malcolm in his re
conquest of Scotland to avenge his Dead family
Lady Macbeth Starts showing
subconscious signs of Guilt
Lady Macbeth starts Sleepwalking and
pretending to wash her hands in guilt of orchestrating the killings. She shows
signs of PTSD which leaves doctors bemused. It is implied that she commits
suicide however we are never informed of this.
Malcolm and Macduff amass an army
and head for Scotland
With the Help of England’s King Edward
Malcolm and Macduff amass an army and head for Macbeth’s Castle with the
intention to overthrow and kill him.
Macduff and Macbeth meet in
Battle, Macbeth is slain
Macbeth is confident he cannot be killed
until Malcolm’s Army advances and cuts down Birnham Wood for cover making it
seem like the wood is advancing towards Macbeth’s Castle. Macbeth’s and
Malcolm’s Army clash outside his Castle. Macbeth and Macduff meet in Battle
where Macbeth learns that Macduff was not born naturally, but by C-section.
After a quick Duel, Macbeth is slain.
Malcolm is crowned king
After the Battle, the truth emerges and
Malcolm is crowned as the rightful King of Scotland, ending Macbeth’s reign of
terror and leaving a crumbling Scotland in the Hands of Malcolm to rebuild.
One of the themes of Macbeth is ambition
and this is seen in both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
They are interested by the idea that
Macbeth will become king, Macbeth is not sure what to do but his wife is
determined in getting what she wants, she views her husband as a coward and
appears ready to do anything.
Ambition leads to evil, it makes Macbeth
stronger and more determined, but then destroys his wife.
Good and evil
Macbeth himself is not an evil man. There
is a lot about him that is good like he fought5 in the Scottish army and he
experiences an on-going struggle with his conscience. Good is shown in many
symbols throughout the play.
Heroism – Duncan and his men represent
right and order. They are trying to restore peace to Scotland.
Bravery – Macbeth is described as being a
brave man, brave Macbeth, well he deserves that name.
Evil is also shown in many symbols within
The supernatural – the witches and their
spells are linked with the devil.
The evil thoughts Macbeth has – Macbeth
imagines the dagger, and tries to prepare himself for the evil deed of murder.
The evil deeds – the murder of Duncan and
the murder of Macduff’s family.
There is an idea where there are mysterious
forces controlling what is happening in our lives. The very first characters we
meet are the three witches, and their prophecies drive the story forward.
In Shakespeare’s time belief in witchcraft
was very strong and many so-called witches were burnt at the stake. It is not
surprising his audience would have taken these ideas seriously and felt Macbeth
was somehow possessed. Lady Macbeth said that she didn’t want to be a women and
said “unsex me” this means she doesn’t want to be a woman but wants to be a
witch by Lady Macbeth being super natural gives her the power to persuade
Macbeth into killing the king if Lady Macbeth didn’t have this power the
killing part of the play wouldn’t happen.
Loyalty and guilt
Loyalty and guilt are also strong themes in
Macbeth. Duncan clearly values loyalty as he has the first Thane of Cawdor
executed and rewards Macbeth by making him the new Thane.
Shakespeare cleverly uses loyalty as a
dramatic device as well Duncan is in the middle of talking about absolute trust
when Macbeth walks in.
We know he’s already thought about killing
Duncan, but for the moment he talks about the loyalty he owes and his loyalty to
Loyalty is also very important to Banquo,
Macbeth, however, has a weird view of loyalty he knows he is doing the wrong
thing, but he still goes ahead.
Macbeth also shows his guilt he is unsure
before the murder and regrets it immediately after. Lady Macbeth is the
opposite she seems to show no guilt at the time and even talks about how a little
water cleans away the blood.