Macbeth--scene summary


i. Witches on heath: fair is foul; foul is fair; fog and filthy air

ii. Camp; bloody captain

bleeding brave captain:

blood; speak things strange; revolt of state, defeated and then new revolt; drowning swimmers; choking; splitting rebel with sword; mounting head; betrayed expectation- apparent happiness ; underlying discomfort; gashes cry;

M's worthy brutality

iii. Witches meet M.

malevolent plots against sailors; pilots thumb--grotesque, sadistic, cruel; ritualistic

ambiguity; shock; strangeness; curiousity --earth's bubbles; illusion, madness or real? instruments of darknes; Banquo's knowledgeability and wariness

prophecy; M. is rapt; first part of prophecy fulfilled; enthralled by ambition; secret in his asides; reality overturned; vibrates with excitement

inner struggle against temptation; hypocritical appearance

Banquo apologizes for his raptness as LM will later

time and the hour; fatalism; all is flowing

iv. Duncan and M.

Cawdor's noble death; Duncan's generosity and credulousness

D. names Malcolm his heir; M. develops plan and dissociates: eye wink at the hand--hiding from others and himself

v. M meets LM

letter: aspiring to greatness; love for her

she senses his unwillingness to break eggs; will egg him; he's suddenly there; breathless speed; invokes evil spirits to unsex her; turn milk to gall; night to hide knife from wound; darkness to shut out heaven

future felt in instant; theme of time

vi. Duncan's entry

he and Banquo see pleasant seat; procreant; delicate air; courtesy vs. hypocrisy

his ignorance; we know the truth; suspense

vii. M and LM plot

M hesitates; act wont just end, but will have consequences; fears justice; senses double betrayal; D's innocence; predicts guilt and punishment; pity as newborn babe; likes present popularity

She goads him on with desire and recollection of his hope and vow

M. insists on his human kindness, limitation

her more powerful demonism overcomes it--I have given suck...dashed its brains out; to his fear of failure she outlines plot--getting warders drunk

he admires her craft


i. Pre-sleep

Banquo fears sleep because of cursed dreams; father child

Strike bell when drink ready; her bell summons him to murder

Dagger--fatal vision real and unreal; ambiguity; blood, gore night

ii. The Murder

alcohol turns her on; she senses M. doing it-owl's screetch; she's drugged grooms; she was a afraid because D. resembled her father

he hears strange things --they awaken and pray; M. can't say amen; voice saying Mac does murder sleep.; blood on his hands; wash it off; he's catatonic; she takes daggers

incredibly dramatic values

more noises--knocking; guilt--he cant clean hands; wants not to know himself and to wake Duncan

iii. Porter at gate; Macduff's entrance; discovery of crime


allusion to hell gate; devil-porter; crimes enumerated: greedy suicide, equivocator, Jesuit; asks for money

drink provokes desire but not performance; equivocator--cf. LM on drink

evil portents; horror, horror, horror; sacreligious murder; great doom's image; shake off sleep; rise up from graves

Macbeth's equivocation: Had I but died an hour before this mischance...there's nothing serious in mortality

misconstrual; fraud--witches equivocation; meaning interpreted by intention--cf. the atmosphere of Inverness

Lady M. faints--look to the lady: Macbeth and Banquo

Donalbain and Malcolm smell rat and split

Banquo's intention to fight undivulged pretense of treasonous malice; not dressed yet--naked frailties

[atmosphere of kennedy assasination]

iv. Reactions and reports: Duncan's horses; Malcolm's flight


i. Banquo

willing to play along with murder for his predicted gain

hypocritical welcome

hidden malice in both; Mac pumps for info

planned discussion again put off till "tomorrow"

M. soliloquy, indicating his commitment to devil and paranoia

three desperate murderers persuaded by M.

cf. RJ apothecary

secrecy; hypocrisy

also kill child

no rubs or botches; compulsive cleanliness

ii. M and LM tortured alone; cheer each other up; inner/outer

past wont just go away; torture of the mind; thoughts are scorpions

invocation of night; he wont reveal plot to her yet

iii. B's murder

only one half's done; what's undone

Fleance like Malcolm escapes

iv. the banquet--public scrutiny; private secret

hypocritical host--always saying "heart"

bloody murderer enters; "best of the cutthroats"--gruesome

the ghost

she reminds him to be convivial

ghost enters;

she covers with the company and tries to cheer him;

her ignorance of deed;tells them not to question M

he returns to wine; toasts Banquo

Ghost reeenters; she chases them out quickly

M. turns immediately to fear of Macduff; further into blood

v. Hecate scene--unnecessary

vi. Lennox and lord discuss tyranny and Macduff's flight


i. witches haunt ; cauldron scene

attraction and fascination of evil; bubble, bubble

finger of birth-strangled babe/ ditch delivered by a drab; dance/music

M. enters...deed without name; invokes all chaos and destruction

treasure/of all nature's germens tumble all together,/Even till destruction sicken


armed head: beware Macduff; M's previous fear

bloody child: equivocating--none of woman born shall harm

M will kill Mac anyway

child crowned with tree--Birnam wood

prediction of B's line

resolve to murder Macduff

ii. Macduff's castle: horror scene [like Blinding Gloucester]

Lady Macduff (contrast L M) attacks husband for abandoning her--scary situation

dialogue with son; witty and frightened; Ross and messenger warn and abandon her too

in this earthly world, where to do harm/is often laudable, to do good sometime accounted dangerous folly [foul is fair]

child stabbed by murderers on stage

cf. El Salvador, Chile, Romania, China

iii. England: Malcolm-Macduff [contrast demonic evil of last two to holiness in this scene]

issue of trust:

tyranny's power of terror makes all suspect of treachery[e.g. Macduff's betrayal of family]

Mal. will keep hope: Angels are bright still though the brightest fell....; but suspects Macduff since he left family behind

fitness to rule

Mal. worries his own vices will make him unfit to rule

Is this reference to James?

Macduff says he can hide his lust and get plenty of women to sleep with him

also avarice and other vices; Macduff retracts

only a test--equivocation

King Edward cures the evil; heals diseases; king's mysterious and sacred powers

reports from Scotland: alas poor country, afraid to know itself

Ross equivocates to Macduff; hides the truth

feel it as a man

" Malcolm: convert woe to anger; counterattack


i. Dunsinane: LM sleepwalking

Doctor and Gentlewoman frame it; ghostly spectacle ; he records in writing; also pantomime with commentary;

another holy physician like King, but cant cure her evil

compare M at feast

sleep disturbed; keeps light on, moves in darkness; he cant sleep

handwashing; spectacle of madness--sensational and moralized; spot like dagger

her atheism and urging mixed with terror and guilt; unending blood; dantesque justice

discontinuous speech and action

I would not have such a heart in my bosom for the dignity of the whole body

undressed--naked frailties of II; return of the repressed; time wont go on as in what's done cannot be undone

the consequentiality of acts; opposed to rashness

ii. Rebel force

equiv: some say he's mad; call it valiant fury

imagery of holy battle against tyrant--medicine; country's purge; drown weeds

iii. Dunsinane

M acting mad in reliance on witches' prophecy and in open abuse of all his followers

"Seyton" his servant; M's despair and willingness to die; desire for doctor to purge his land of English; completely isolated except for those he terrorizes

iv. Birnam Wood--Malcolm's force

war must decide the outcome

v. Dunsinane castle

M. reflects on his change; now fearless, inured to horrors

LM dead; M's unemotional reaction;

Life's but a walking shadow, poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage/ And then is heard no more. It is a tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury/signifying nothing

wood began to move; illusion; equivocation; miracle; staged miracle

M. discovers "equivocation of fiend that lies like truth"--his tragic realizations; his mistake; Shakespeare's didacticism

vi. Outside castle: Malcolm's army with boughs--natural imagery

vii. Battlefield

Mac. compares himself to bear at stake

Kills young Siward

His soldiers desert

viii. Battlefield

Mac. as devil; fights Macduff with witches charm of prophecy

M. fears Macduff when told of "double sense" of witches; equivocation

Macduff's great language; "Lay on Macduff"

Malcolm's victory; good death of young Siward

Macduff with Macbeth's head

Malcolm begins orderly rule

• critical notes


sleep: most vulnerable, innocent and yet prone to nightmare and hidden desires and fears; the dark, unconscious, unknown, uncontrolled and yet necessary realm of experience

struggle between conscious and unconscious; controlled and uncontrolled behavior

equivocation--the porter; fair is foul; confusion; dreams equivocate; ghosts; witches; prophcies; bubbles in the earth; equivocation of the fiend 43

tyranny and tyrannicide...problem of evil; integrity, saving faith; mistrust--Noriega, Cieaucescu

nature, kindness, growth, fertility, chain of generations, love, beauty vs. unnatural, monstruousity

as much of heaven as of hell--anti atheism V.i. 41: "What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our pow'r to accompt." didacticism; contra tamburlaine and mach.; cf. Faustus

extremes of sanctity and unholiness; dantesque; manifestation of god's order in world

Closeness to PL: Witches as serpent; AE in Garden; temptation, evil, guilt; Man and Women; milton planned tyrannicide story

rashness and hesitation; contrast to Hamlet

doubling: Macduff and Macbeth; two ladies; Banquo and Duncan;

blood and blood--spilling of blood; bloodiness of the play and importance of blood as the continuity dynasty

Cleanth Brooks

apply New Crit--study of metaphysical use of metaphor-- to Sh.

analysis of clothing imagery in one specific line--"daggers unmannnerly breech'd with gore--and throughout the play

very concentrated and apparently incoherent metaphor that opens when unpacked, (esp. p. 210-11)

symbol of babe--most powerful [prospero, lear, HIV]

issue of fertility; growth; potential and future lineage; seed of Banquo--cf. babe Elizabeth in HVIII= tomorrow and tomorrow; the issue of futures; this is what M. learns is futile; his struggle doesn't give him tomorrow

contrast HV's future; Macbeth not looking to the long term and neither is Henry

Macbeth is trying to conquer the future--"war with the future"; found a dynasty; this is why he is so involved with LM

If it were done when tis done

wants to jump the life to come

duties to Duncan are called "children"

by killing Macduff's children and Fleance

making war on future is making war on children

child defies murderers

like Herod's slaughter of the innocents; Xtian analogues to Malcolm

she should have died hereafter

returns to witches in IV to get rational control of future--two babes crowned and bloody

control of the future (Weberian/Mach "consequence" and denial of past and present

Sh. uses same symbol for unpredictable future as for pity (218)

also plant symbolism

movement of wood: nature rises against him in seeming; clothes symbolism--clothed in manliness is to reject babe

Macduff ripped untimely from womb--unpredictable child; unpredictability of child and future; unpredictable breaking through net of calculation; naked babe is Macduff

pity like new born babe is weak and yet fierce--strding the blast; avenging angel of apocalypse

eye of childhood fears a painted devil--Lady Macbeth; sceptical rationalism like Edmunds

imagery of clothing and nakedness--cf. Lear and Tempest


OJ Campbell's attack on new criticism Signet 221

forcing meanings--ungenerous, niggling

"chain of imagery" and philosophic deeper meanings wont work; not Elizabethan (nonsense: Brook's allegorical approach as old as bible commmentary)