MODERN MACBETH PLOT SUMMARY
The tragic play follows the murderous rise of Macbeth after he is promised the Scottish throne by three Witches he comes across on a moor. But, even with this promise, there is still the matter of the current King of Scotland, Duncan.
Urged on by his wife, Macbeth kills Duncan while he sleeps and takes the throne for himself. Macbeth rejoices, until the paranoia over his deadly deed starts to consume him; he suspects others might try to take the throne from him! He begins to kill off others he suspects of plotting against him, but the more people he kills, the more trouble he finds himself in.
Macbeth's paranoia, isolation and increasingly desperate plans lead him to his deadly end.
MODERN MACBETH CHARACTER ANALYSIS
A skilled and brave General who is well loved by all in the land, Macbeth begins the play as the Thane of Glanis, a friend of Banquo's and a dutiful husband to Lady Macbeth. At first all he wants is to be a good, honourable man, but his ambition tempts him into a path of crime and terror. Macbeth suffers from inner conflict and is quite a weak character compared to other Shakespearean tragic heroes. He allows himself to be overcome by his wife's ambitious and cannot cope with the ramifications of his actions. By the end of the play, he seems to welcome Macduff and the English army, and the prospect of his death along with it. He wants them to end his life because he lacks the strength to do it himself, as his wife has already done. It also seems extremely fitting that Macbeth should be introduced on the battlefield as a brave warrior and die in battle a guilty murderer.
Fuelled by her own ambitions but unable to act upon them herself, Lady Macbeth pushes her husband to extreme choices. She is an extremely skilled manipulator who knows exactly which buttons to press; not just for her own husband, either, for Lady Macbeth knows when to pretend to faint and how to change the subject to lead the other men away from questioning her husband too much. She is stronger and crueler than Macbeth. It is her idea to kill Duncan, and her plan is the one that they follow. She also keeps Macbeth calm after Duncan's murder, and has the stomach to go back to place the daggers in the bedroom. But despite her strength, the guilt over the blood on her hands is too much for her, and she succumbs to this guilt by killing herself.
Banquo is a Scottish nobleman who appears to have been a longtime friend and ally to Macbeth. He is not as susceptible to the Witches prophecies. Although Banquo does think about the Witches, it is mostly due to suspicion over their true motivations. Banquo is quite an alert character: he suspects Macbeth's rise to the throne was carried out through cheating, even if he can't say exactly how. Macbeth has him murdered because of the Witches prophecy and his general suspicion that Banquo or his sons may try to take his throne. His Ghost returns to haunt Macbeth and remind him of his wrongdoing. Later on he appears to Macbeth as a crowned King in an apparition, which suggests that Banquo has been rewarded for his good soul and for avoiding the call of temptation.
The Three Witches
The Witches are three gaunt, old women who have access to supernatural powers. Although they claim to bring good tidings for Macbeth and Banquo at the beginning, they are ultimately evil tricksters who take delight in causing commotion and playing on the weaknesses of men. It is unclear if they have the power to alter the future, or if they simply know about events to come. They have the bodies of women and the beards of men—even Banquo can't work out which gender they are!
Duncan, King of Scotland
Duncan is the King of Scotland when the play begins. He considers loyalty and honour highly when rewarding his friends and allies, and is a generous, humorous and joyous King. Duncan is delighted with Macbeth's loyalty to him, especially after the treason of the Thane of Cawdor. He rewards Macbeth with the traitor's title, yet still wishes he could reward Macbeth with even more. His general countenance is that of a good and just King, which makes his murder even more tragic.
Macduff is one of the first to suspect Macbeth has a hand in the King's death. Macduff disappears from court shortly after Macbeth is crowned King of Scotland and goes to meet Malcolm in England to ask for his help in fighting Macbeth. He has a clear mind and seems able to avoid playing into other people's political intrigues and plots. When Macduff's family are killed, he vows to take revenge by killing Macbeth and ridding himself of the guilt he has for leaving his family alone without protection. He confronts Macbeth and beheads him at the end.
Malcolm is the eldest son of Duncan, King of Scotland, and the rightful heir to the Scottish throne. He fears and suspects those involved in his father's murder might try to kill him and his brother and decides to run away to England to ask for their help. Malcolm tests Macduff later by using his wit, because he can't trust anyone who has had extensive time with Macbeth. His suspicious behaviour saves both him and his brother from harm and gathers those he should trust closer to him.
Son to Banquo, Macbeth's friend and closest ally. Fleance is considered a threat to Macbeth because he is Banquo's son and, therefore, a possible heir to the throne. Fleance escapes when Macbeth tries to have him killed, fleeing while his father, Banquo, is murdered. He isn't heard from again.
Donalbain is the youngest son of Duncan, King of Scotland and is second in line to the throne. After he and his brother, Malcolm, decide they are in grave danger, he flees for Ireland. Macbeth and others blame him for Duncan's death and use his escape as a sign of his guilt. He is not seen again after this, but one of Malcolm's first plans as King is to call back everyone who was exiled, and it can be assumed Donalbain is among these people.
Lady Macduff is murdered, along with her children, at Fife after she refuses to run for safety. Before the Murderers arrive, she argues with Ross over her husband's decision to abandon them. She cannot understand why he would leave her without protection: it seems not to be her job to protect herself, rather. She explains this refusal is due to her reluctance to be seen as guilty: she knows she is innocent. Even she admits this argument is a foolish one. After her Son is murdered in front of her, she runs away, but Ross reports later that she is dead.
Macduff's Son is a smart, witty boy who refuses to believe that his father is a traitor. He is just starting to get to grips with the way that the world works and asks his mother, Lady Macduff, many questions. Because of his loyalty to his father, Fleance accuses the Murderers of being liars and is killed for it.
Hecate is the leader of the Witches. She thinks of Macbeth as a selfish child, and is the one to set up the plan to cause his final downfall by appealing to his greed, desire for success, and faith in the Witches' words. The Witches fear her immensely; clearly, she is a powerful being.
Siward joins in the fight against Macbeth. He is the Earl of Northumberland in England and brings thousands of English soldiers to help Malcolm in the fight. Despite losing his Son to Macbeth, he is pleased and honoured that his Son died like a man, and isn't that upset by it. Siward considers the deaths of his men part of the battle and a necessary evil when fighting an enemy, and it is clear he doesn't treat his Son any differently. Although he can be accused of being heartless, Siward might also prefer to focus on the positives of the situation and embrace the memory of his Son with deep pride.
Ross is a Scottish nobleman. He is often a character who asks questions about events that have happened offstage or need to be reiterated so that the audience knows what is happening. Beyond this, not much more is known about his personality or character.
Lennox is a little hard to pin down. At first he appears to be on Macbeth's side and remains so for the majority of the play, but he changes his mind rather abruptly about Macbeth's tyranny and decides to join with Macduff and Malcolm to fight Macbeth. It's not clear what exactly changes his mind, but it can be assumed that the numbers of suspicious deaths was a part of this decision.
EXCERPT FROM MACBETH IN PLAIN AND SIMPLE ENGLISH
A Desert Place
Thunder and lightning. Enter three Witches
When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
When will the three of us meet again?
Will there be thunder, lightning or rain?
When the hurlyburly's done,
When the battle's lost and won.
We will meet when the commotion is over.
We will meet when the battle has been lost or won.
That will be ere the set of sun.
That will be before the sun sets.
Where the place?
Where will we meet?
Upon the heath.
We’ll meet in the open field.
There to meet with Macbeth.
We’ll meet Macbeth there.
I come, Graymalkin!
I’m coming, Graymalkin, gray cat of mine!
Paddock, my frog, calls me, too!
Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air.
Beautiful is ugly, and ugly is beautiful.
Let us float through the fog and filthy air.
A Camp Near Forres.
Alarum within. Enter DUNCAN, MALCOLM, DONALBAIN, LENNOX, with Attendants, meeting a bleeding Sergeant
What bloody man is that? He can report,
As seemeth by his plight, of the revolt
The newest state.
Who is this wounded man?
It seems he can report on the current state of the battle.
This is the sergeant
Who like a good and hardy soldier fought
'Gainst my captivity. Hail, brave friend!
Say to the king the knowledge of the broil
As thou didst leave it.
He is a sergeant, who fought like a strong
and good soldier to keep me from capture.
My brave friend! Tell the king what you know
of the war when you left it.
Doubtful it stood;
As two spent swimmers, that do cling together
And choke their art. The merciless Macdonwald--
Worthy to be a rebel, for to that
The multiplying villanies of nature
Do swarm upon him--from the western isles
Of kerns and gallowglasses is supplied;
And fortune, on his damned quarrel smiling,
Show'd like a rebel's whore: but all's too weak:
For brave Macbeth--well he deserves that name--
Disdaining fortune, with his brandish'd steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like valour's minion carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave;
Which ne'er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
Till he unseam'd him from the nave to the chaps,
And fix'd his head upon our battlements.
It was doubtful, just like two exhausted swimmers who cling
to each other and choke one another. Macdonwald
was like a rebel with many forces of nature in him.
He had a ready supply of foot soldiers and massive warriors.
Fortune smiled on his damned war, and looked just like a rebel’s
whore. But fortune was not strong enough. Brave Macbeth--
he deserves that name—went against fortune with his sword drawn,
and he cut through it all with blood until he faced Macdonwald.
He didn’t even shake hands or say goodbye to him. He just cut him
in two, and put Macdonwald’s head on our fort’s wall.
O valiant cousin! worthy gentleman!
Oh, my brave cousin! What a worthy man!
As whence the sun 'gins his reflection
Shipwrecking storms and direful thunders break,
So from that spring whence comfort seem'd to come
Discomfort swells. Mark, king of Scotland, mark:
No sooner justice had with valour arm'd
Compell'd these skipping kerns to trust their heels,
But the Norweyan lord surveying vantage,
With furbish'd arms and new supplies of men
Began a fresh assault.
Just like when the sun rises and storms capable
of wrecking ships and awful thunder end--
that place where comfort seemed to come, instead
discomfort came. Listen to me, king of Scotland, listen:
No sooner did justice come armed with courage,
causing the foot soldiers to start running away,
did the Norwegian lord see his chance
to bring in more arms and new soldiers
and begin a fresh attack.
Dismay'd not this
Our captains, Macbeth and Banquo?
Didn’t this worry our captains,
Macbeth and Banquo?
As sparrows eagles, or the hare the lion.
If I say sooth, I must report they were
As cannons overcharged with double cracks, so they
Doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe:
Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds,
Or memorise another Golgotha,
I cannot tell.
But I am faint, my gashes cry for help.
Yes, it did. Like it would worry sparrows before the eagle,
or lambs before the lion. I swear, they were like cannons
overcharged with cracks—they doubled twice over their attacks
against the enemy: whether they aimed for a bloodbath
or a second Crucifixion, who knows?
I am faint and my wounds need tending.
So well thy words become thee as thy wounds;
They smack of honour both. Go get him surgeons.
Your words speak as highly of you as your wounds.
They speak of your honor. Go, and get him doctors.
Exit Sergeant, attended
Who comes here?
Who is coming?
The worthy thane of Ross.
It is the worthy Thane of Ross.
What a haste looks through his eyes! So should he look
That seems to speak things strange.
He has such a hurried look about him! And looking that way,
Has so many strange things to say.
God save the king!
God save the king!
Whence camest thou, worthy thane?
Where have you come from, worthy thane?
From Fife, great king;
Where the Norweyan banners flout the sky
And fan our people cold. Norway himself,
With terrible numbers,
Assisted by that most disloyal traitor
The thane of Cawdor, began a dismal conflict;
Till that Bellona's bridegroom, lapp'd in proof,
Confronted him with self-comparisons,
Point against point rebellious, arm 'gainst arm.
Curbing his lavish spirit: and, to conclude,
The victory fell on us.
I’ve come from Fife, great King,
where the Norwegian flags fly
chilling our people. The King of Norway
was there with great numbers of men.
The thane of Cawdor began a conflict
until the war’s bridegroom himself,
wrapped in truth, confronted him with comparisons,
pointing out how they were both rebellious, and both armed well,
and it stopped his extravagant spirit and the victory fell to us.
It makes me so happy to hear this!
Sweno, the Norways' king, craves composition:
Nor would we deign him burial of his men
Till he disbursed at Saint Colme's inch
Ten thousand dollars to our general use.
After that, Sweno, Norway’s king, wanted an agreement,
but we would not allow his men to be buried
until he paid us ten thousand dollars at Saint Colme’s.
No more that thane of Cawdor shall deceive
Our bosom interest: go pronounce his present death,
And with his former title greet Macbeth.
The thane of Cawdor will no longer betray
the things important to us: order his death immediately.
And give his former title to Macbeth.
I'll see it done.
I’ll see that it’s done.
What he hath lost noble Macbeth hath won.
What he has lost, the noble Macbeth has won.