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Macbeth

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Act 1

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The scene begins with Three Witches in Scotland deciding to meet again after a battle being fought nearby. Thunder, storms and the desolate heath paint a gloomy picture, setting the tone of this play and defining an imagery of nature at war with itself, a recurring theme in this play...



Macbeth is introduced as the brave man who led King Duncan's forces to victory against the traitorous Thane of Cawdor, Macdonwald and The King of Norway, in a battle that could have gone either way were it not for Macbeth's leadership. We learn that Macbeth killed Macdonwald himself in battle. King Duncan, overjoyed, decides to make Macbeth his new Thane of Cawdor. The previous Thane of Cawdor will be executed because he was a traitor.



The Three Witches establish their malicious nature before meeting Macbeth and Banquo. The Three Witches tell Macbeth that he will be "Thane of Glamis!", "Thane of Cawdor!" and "King."



Banquo learns that his descendants shall be kings. Banquo is suspicious of the Three Witches.  Macbeth initially agrees but when Ross and Angus tell him he has been made the new Thane of Cawdor, he begins to believe.


Macbeth now first questions Banquo's on his feelings about his descendants becoming kings and then starts thinking of killing King Duncan to make prophecy fact but later hopes fate alone will spare him the need to kill...



Macbeth meets King Duncan, thanking him for his new title. The also loyal Banquo receives nothing.


King Duncan announces that his son, Malcolm will be the new Prince of Cumberland. Macbeth sees Malcolm as a threat to what he now takes seriously as his destiny to be king.   


Lady Macbeth learns by letter from Macbeth of the Three Witches' prophecies for her husband, eagerly embracing them as fact. Fearing Macbeth is too compassionate and weak-willed to do what needs to be done (killing King Duncan), she famously asks the gods to remove from her all signs of compassion and femininity, replacing these with cold remorseless ruthlessness.



Learning from a messenger that King Duncan will stay at their castle, Lady Macbeth enthusiastically greets this news, suggesting that she already has plans to kill King Duncan. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth decide to speak again on the issue of the prophecies, Macbeth still uncertain about killing King Duncan. 



At Macbeth's castle King Duncan arrives whilst Lady Macbeth plays the most perfect of hostesses. King Duncan asks for the Thane of Cawdor (Macbeth) who is not yet present.



A guilt-ridden Macbeth wrestles with his conscience, certain that he should not kill King Duncan yet guiltily having to remind himself of all the reasons why it would be wrong. Macbeth decides against murdering his King but Lady Macbeth belittles him for not being able to murder, threatening to take away her love for him if he does not. This threat wins Macbeth over and Lady Macbeth outlines her plan to kill King Duncan in his sleep while he is a guest at their castle.





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*Prentice Hall Literature