Summary of Macbeth

 William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

About Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (1564 -1616) is a well-known figure of English literature. He is the national poet of England. He is often called the Bard of Avon. 37 plays and 154 sonnets are written by him. His major works are Romeo and Juliet (1595), The Marchant of Venice (1600), Hamlet (1603), King Lear (1605), Othello (1622), Macbeth (1623), As You Like It (1623), All’s Well That Ends Well (1623) and so on.

Click Here: For notes of the tragedy Macbeth.

Key Facts

Time of composition and performance: Macbeth is written around 1606 and it was performed at the same year.

Published date: Macbeth is published in the ‘first folio’. That means it is published in 1623.

Genre: Macbeth is a tragedy.

The number of acts: There are five acts in the play. Act 1contains seven scenes, act 2 contains four scenes, act 3 contains six scenes, act 4 contains three scenes, and act 5 contains nine scenes.

Source of the play: Holinshed’s Chronicles or Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland.

Time setting: Its time setting is the 17th century.

 Place setting: All the scenes are situated in Scotland except the last part of the fourth act. The last part of the fourth act is situated in England.

Characters’ list

Important characters: There are a number of characters in the tragedy ambition entitled Macbeth but we need to pay heed to the major characters to understand the plot of the tragedy.

Macbeth: He is the protagonist, General of the king’s Army, a tragic hero, and later king of Scotland of the play.

Lady Macbeth: She is the wife of General Macbeth.

Duncan: He is the king of Scotland and the father of Malcolm and Donalbain.

 Malcolm: He is the elder son of King Duncan and later king of Scotland.

 Donalbain: He is the younger son of King Duncan.

 Banquo: He is another general of kings Army, Father of Fleance.

 Fleance: Son of Banquo.

 Macduff: Thane of Fife and nobleman of Scotland.

 Seyton: He is an officer attending on Macbeth.

 Lady Macduff: Wife of Macduff.

Supernatural Characters: Three Weird sisters and the Ghost of Banquo.

Revolt characters against Scotland

Macdonwald: a lord from the Western Isles of Ireland and the Outer Hebrides, has joined with the Norwegian king to start a rebellion against King Duncan in Scotland.

Thane of Cawdor: Thane of Cawdor helps the Norwegian to capture Fife that is one of the dominions of King Duncan.

Siward: Earl of Northumberland, General of English Forces.


 High ambition: High ambition is the main theme of the tragedy. Macbeth and his wife, Lady Macbeth are the agents of high ambition.

 Supernatural force: Three Witches, Banquo’s ghost, Hecate are the representation of supernatural force in the play. This technique helps to develop the play.

 Corruption: Corruption also has been shown in the character of Macbeth. Shakespeare has shown that corruption’s other name is destruction.

 Good versus evil: At last, a good thing or object will be the winner as a consequence and an evil thing or object will be looser as result. It is shown by the characters in the play.

 Conflict: Conflict in the human heart has been shown here. Macbeth’s soliloquy is the best example. Both external and eternal conflict has been shown by the character of Macbeth in the play.




Macbeth is a historical tragedy. The protagonist of the play, Macbeth, and his wife want to be king and queen of Scotland by killing present king Duncan in accordance with the prophecy of Weird Sisters or Three Witches. After killing Duncan, Macbeth becomes the king of Scotland because Duncan’s sons, Malcolm and Donalbain go to another country to survive. In accordance with the prophecy, Macbeth wants to create autocracy in his kingdom by killing Banquo, a close friend of Macbeth, and his son, Fleance and Macduff as well. Banquo and Macduff’s family are killed by Macbeth’s rented murderer. Again, Three Witches say him some prophecies. Lady Macbeth suffers from sleepwalking. And then she kills herself. Macduff, Malcolm, and English Force attack over Macbeth. Then in accordance with the prophecies, Macbeth is beheaded by Macduff. Malcolm becomes the new King of Scotland.


 Act 1

 At the outset of the play, Three Witches are planning to meet Macbeth. King Duncan comes to know that Macbeth becomes the winner on the battlefield between Norway and Scotland. And he becomes happy about that. After the battle, Macbeth and Banquo are walking in the open field at that time, Three Witches greet them and predict Macbeth will be Thane of Cawdor and king of Scotland and Banquo’s heirs will be king. Then they meet Rose and Angus and come to know that Macbeth is going to be Thane of Cawdor. After that Macbeth wants to kill King Duncan to be the next king of Scotland in accordance with the third prophecy. Meanwhile, Macbeth comes to know that Duncan will be a guest of his castle. Macbeth sends a letter to his wife Lady Macbeth about the prophecies. Lady Macbeth mentions Macbeth’s nature as a good person. She thinks that she has to plan to murder to be queen. So, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth jointly plan to murder Duncan like a professional killer.

Act 2

 Macbeth kills the king in accordance with the plan of Lady Macbeth. At first, Macbeth does not want to kill the king but in the mental pressure of his wife, he has killed the king. Macduff firstly discovers the dead body because he has come here in the morning to meet the king as his duty. After discovering the dead body, he cannot believe his own eyes. Then Macbeth has killed two bodyguards of the king because of removing his sin. And then Macbeth and his wife represent them as innocent as a baby. Then Malcolm and Donalbain decide to flee because they think that they will be the next target to the killer of their father. Malcolm goes to England and Donalbain goes to Ireland. Because of their decampment, everybody thinks that they have killed their father. Then as the nearest person to the king, Duncan, Macbeth has been the new king of Scotland.

Act 3

Macbeth hires two murderers to kill Banquo and his son, Fleance because Three Witches’ prophecy is that Banquo will be the father of kings. Another murderer has sent there to kill them with two murderers. Banquo has been killed and Fleance has vanished. In the junket, only Macbeth has seen the ghost of Banquo. And he starts to create abnormal behavior. To see Macbeth’s behavior, Lady Macbeth attempts to submit the odd situation at the party. Then Macbeth decides to meet the Three Witches’ again to know his future. They show Macbeth about his future that he has to be careful from Macduff, no man can murder him who was born of a woman, he will be killed when Birnam Wood will come to Dunsinane castle. Then Macbeth asks about Banquo’s heirs. They show him a procession of eight kings like Banquo’s shape. These predictions make him happy. Meanwhile, Macduff meets Malcolm in England.

Act 4

Macduff’s wife and his boy are killed by Macbeth’s rented murderer. Malcolm examines Macduff’s loyalty to his country. Then he agrees with Macduff to attack Macbeth with English Force.

Act 5

Lady Macbeth suffers from sleepwalking as a patient. She speaks alone about her wrongdoings. Then Macbeth comes to know that the English Army has come with full force. At that time, Macbeth is known about his wife’s death. Malcolm orders to cut branches of trees and to make them in disguise. Because he does not want to calculate his fighters at all. The fight of Macbeth against the English Army starts, and Macbeth kills Young Siward, son of the English General. Then Macduff kills Macbeth with Truth that he was not born from a woman. He was not born through normal delivery. All the predictions of Three Witches’ have been cleared. And Malcolm has been the new King of Scotland.

Moral lesson

There is nothing wrong to be highly ambitious but wrongdoing for ambition brings about havoc.


“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player.

It is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury/Signifying nothing.”

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
Articles: 380

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