Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)

by William Shakespeare
(1564 - 1616)

Type of Work:

Tragic fatalistic drama


Eleventh-century Scotland

Principal Characters

Macbeth, a noble Scottish chieftain

Lady Macbeth, his wife

Batiquo, Macbeth\'s warrior-friend

Fleatice, Banquo\'s son

Duncan, King of Scotland, a gentle and
perfect ruler

Macduff, a rebel lord

Three Witches

Story Overveiw

On a stormy night, Scottish armies managed
to suppress a rebellion, largely through the valor of two noblemen Macbeth
and Banquo. They had also frustrated a Viking invasion that had received
assistance from a prominent Scotsman, the Thane of Cawdor\' When news of
these two events reached Duncan, King of Scotland, he was delighted with

Macbeth\'s performance, but insisted that Cawdor\'s treason warranted his
death. Accordingly, the king declared that Cawdor be executed and that

Macbeth be named in his stead, Thane of Cawdor.

Meanwhile, Macbeth and Banquo, on their
way home from war, happened upon a trio of witches - hags stirring a blackened
caldron and heralding Macbeth\'s arrival: "Double, Double, toil and trouble."

The witches astonished the pair by prophesying that Macbeth would become
first, the new Thane of Cawdor, and then, King of Scotland; and that Banquo
would become the father of kings. Then the dark hags vanished, leaving

Banque and Macbeth to speculate over these strange prophecies.

No sooner had the witches departed than
two of the king\'s messengers arrived with news that Macbeth had indeed
been named to replace the deposed Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth was amazed to
see the first of the witches\' prophecies so quickly fulfilled, and began
to believe in the ultimate fulfillment of the second. If he could be Thane
of Cawdor, perhaps he could rule all of Scotland as well. This innocent
belief quickly expanded into a deep-seated ambition, which began to taint

Macbeth\'s mind with dark thoughts: Would the prophecy fulfill itself, or
would he have to take action to usurp the throne? Since Duncan was king,
would not one of his two sons follow him in ruling Scotland? All this time,

Banquo resisted any thoughts of hastening the witches , prophecy that his
children would be kings, but could sense the unrest stirrin inside the
soul of his fellow officer.

Banquo and Macbeth returned and reported
to King Duncan, who warmly commended them both for their courage. But during
the ensuing conversation he made two announcements which brought even more
sinister ideas into Macbeth\'s mind: First, he declared his son, Malcolm,
heir to the throne; and second, he expressed his intention to visit Macbeth
for a night at Macbeth\'s castle. Macbeth felt he must somehow take advantage
of Duncan\'s visit to advance his own ambitions - or, as he saw it, his
own destiny.

Hearing of her returning husband\'s success
and of the prophecies pronounced upon him, Macbeth\'s wife was filled with
a consuming desire to see him ascend to the throne. Vowing to stop at nothing
in this quest, Lady Macbeth urged her husband to help her murder the king
as he slept. She would undertake to induce the king\'s guards to drink,
giving Macbeth the opportunity to slip into Duncan\'s quarters, slay him,
and plant the murder weapons on the drunken guards. Macbeth hesitated at
first, but his shrewd and aspiring wife eventually prevailed.

As announced, Duncan did visit Macbeth,
and after feasting there with Banquo and others, he prepared for bed. According
to plan, Lady Macbeth arranged to intoxicate the guards, then sent her
husband to do the deed. Presently, Macbeth returned to her, Duncan\'s murder
accomplished. But now Macbeth was filled with guilt. Nonetheless, the conspiring
spouses slipped, unseen, back to their chamber.

Two visiting nobles, Lennox and Macduff,
finding the king\'s lifeless body the next morning, sounded the alarm. Everyone
rushed to the site, where Macbeth and his wife pretended to be shocked
and heartbroken. Duncan\'s two sons, suspecting a similar conspiracy would
be attempted upon their lives, fled separately to England and Ireland.

After that, events moved swiftly. Everyone
saw the flight of Duncan\'s sons as evidence that they had been the conspirators
against their father. Macbeth was crowned as successor to the throne; he
had fooled everyone _ except Banque, who was suspicious of Macbeth\'s sudden
rise to power.

In fact, Banquo, remembering the promises
made by the witches regarding his own progeny, feared jealous attempts
on both his life and the life of his son Fleance. Immediately he informed

Macbeth that the two of them would be leaving the country.

The tormented Macbeth, who also remembered
the witches\' ultimate prophecy, hired two assassins to kill Banquo and

Fleance as they traveled. He could not allow Banquo\'s son to rule. Banquo
was murdered, but Fleance managed to escape.

Many days later,