Beowulf Not Essay But Story Summary

  • Category: English
  • Words: 2386
  • Grade: 90
Scene i: Play opens on eerie, macabre note in "an open place," where we see the three witches, the "weird sisters." In a dozen lines, they announce their evil nature by saying "Fair is foul,and foul is fair/Hover through the fog and the filthy air," and their intention to meet with Macbeth once the "hurly-burly" of a battle between the forces loyal to the King Duncan (led by Macbeth) and a rebels army (led by the current Thane of Cawdor) comes to an end. (Jump to the text of Act I, Scene i)

Scene ii: At the camp of the Scottish King Duncan, a wounded officer tells the king and his son, Malcolm, about the heroism of Macbeth and his friend Banquo in the fight against the rebels. News shortly arrives that the battle has now been won. Duncan orders the execution of the captured Thane of Cawdor and then transfers this title and estate to Macbeth, the new Thane of Cawdor.(Jump to the text of Act I, Scene ii)

Scene iii: Set on a heath, the three witches coven together again. They brag about their unnatural deeds and their powers over the supernatural world. Macbeth and Banquo appear on what Macbeth describes as an unusually, "foul and fair" day. The three witches predict that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor and ultimately king of Scotland, and that his cohort Banquo will never rule. Macbeth pleads with them for more information about his future, but they vanish. Two of the king's men (Rosse and Angus) tell Macbeth about his elevation to the position of Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth and Banquo are taken aback by the accuracy of the witches' prediction. For his part, Macbeth is by now inclined to believe that it is his fortune to become king. (Jump to the text of Act I, Scene iii)

Scene iv: At Duncan's castle, the king, Malcolm and another of the king's sons, Donalbain, greet Macbeth and Banquo. Duncan announces that he will visit Macbeth at the new Thane's castle near Inverness, and then names his oldest son Malcolm as successor to the throne. Macbeth says that he will go to Inverness in advance to prepare for the king's arrival. But in a stage aside, Macbeth speculates that Malcolm is an additional obstacle to his attainment of the throne as prophesied by the witches. (Jump to the text of Act I, Scene iv)

Scene v: At Macbeth's Inverness castle, Lady Macbeth reads a letter from her husband, in which he conveys good news of his being named Thane, and of the witches prophecy that Macbeth will one day be regent of all Scotland. Lady Macbeth thinks aloud that her husband's nature is "too full of the milk of human kindness" to realize this ambition. When a messenger enters with news that Duncan is on his way, Lady Macbeth rejoices in the opportunity that this presents to murder the king and take the Scottish throne at once. Macbeth then appears and engages in a loving exchange with his wife. After this, Lady Macbeth lays out a cunning plot to kill Duncan. Macbeth is indecisive but Lady Macbeth tells him his part and admonishes him to "Leave all the rest to me." (Jump to the text of Act I, Scene v)

Scene vi: Still at Macbeth's castle, King Duncan, Malcolm and Donalbain, and Banquo are welcomed by Lady Macbeth. She plays the gracious hostess, speaks of "double" doing anything for her guests and then escorts the king to Macbeth. (Jump to the text of Act I, Scene vi)

Scene vii: In one of his castle's rooms, Macbeth contemplates the killing of Duncan, in a speech that begins "If it were done, when 'tis done; then 'twere well/It were done quickly." He is deeply disturbed at the prospective sin of killing a king and a blood relative. Lady Macbeth enters and mocks her husband's fears. When he asks about what would happen if the plan fails, his wife derides this possibility with the rhetorical question, "We fail?" Her bloody ambition overwhelms Macbeth who tells her that she should only bring forth male children, having no "feminine" side to her nature. Macbeth is now committed to stabbing Duncan to death in his sleep and making it appear that he has been murdered by the king's own guards. (Jump to the text of Act I, Scene vii)

Act II

Scene i At the inner court of his castle, Macbeth and Banquo speak about the prophecies of the weird sisters. Macbeth downplays the significance of their encounter with the witches, but his bosom friend Banquo warns him about the evil that might grow out of their prophecies. When Banquo and his son, Fleance, exit, Macbeth alone has an hallucination in which he sees a bloody dagger floating before him. He expresses horror at the "bloody business' he is about to undertake, but is firm in his intention to proceed. Hearing a bell toll, he says that it is summoning Duncan to heaven or to hell. (Jump to the text of Act II, Scene i)

Scene ii: The scene continues in the inner court, as Lady Macbeth appears on stage and says that she has drugged the soldiers guarding Duncan's sleeping quarters. Macbeth comes back and tells his wife that he has done the foul deed. He also says that he fear's God's wrath, that he can no longer pray, and that a voice has said to him "sleep no more." She urges him to forget such "brain-sickly" things, and then scolds him for bringing the daggers used to kill Duncan with him, rather than leaving them beside the guards as she had planned. She departs to remedy this mistake. When she returns, they hear a knock on the castle door, but she says that they should ignore it and go to bed, thereby covering their crime. (Jump to the text of Act II, Scene ii)

Scene iii: In the same location, a drunken porter opens the door for two of the king's lords, Macduff and Lenox. Macbeth pretends to have just awoken as he greets them. Macduff exits the stage to see the king; he returns immediately with the news that Duncan has been slain. An alarm is sounded and Macbeth runs to the king's chambers. Lady Macbeth appears as well, and the real murderers blame the drugged guards for the crime. The king's sons---Malcolm and Donalbain---talk with each other. They are afraid that they will be charged with using the guards to kill their father and make ready to flee Scotland. (Jump to the text of Act II, Scene iii)

Scene iv: Outside of the castle, an old man tells the officer Rosse of the strange, unnatural omens that have appeared on this, the night of the king's murder. Macduff enters with news that the king's sons have fled, saying that this has affirmed the suspicion that they are behind Duncan's death. Macduff then announces that Macbeth has been proclaimed as the new king of Scotland. (Jump to the text of Act II, Scene iv)


Scene i On stage alone, Banquo puts it altogether, realizing that Macbeth has had a murderous hand in fulfilling the prophecy of the witches. He recalls that the weird sisters also foretold that Banquo's descendants (but not he himself) would one day rule in Scotland. Macbeth enters in regal attire. He has learned that Banquo and his heir, Fleance, plan to go horseback riding. All save Macbeth and his servants exit, and Macbeth begins to scheme on killing Banquo and Fleance to prevent this part of the witches' prophecy from coming true. He arranges for two murderers to kill them when they return from their ride. (Jump to the text of Act III, Scene i)

Scene ii: Together alone, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth discuss the threat that Banquo and Fleance represent to their throne. Macbeth hints to his wife that he has arranged for their elimination without telling her about the details of the plot that is now unfolding. (Jump to the text of Act III, Scene ii)

Scene iii: At a park near the royal palace, the two felons joined by a third murderer attack Banquo and Fleance. Banquo is killed, but Fleance escapes. (Jump to the text of Act III, Scene iii)

Scene iv: At the palace, a banquet is being held by Macbeth when one of the murderers arrives at the door and informs the new king of what has occurred. When Macbeth returns to his guests, he sees the ghost of Banquo at the table. Although no one else perceives the ghost, Macbeth is visibly shaken by this vision. Lady Macbeth explains to their guests that her husband is suffering from a periodic illness, that his fit is but momentary. Macbeth appears to recover, but then the Ghost of Banquo appears to him again. The banquet ends abruptly and when the rest leave, Macbeth tells his wife that he will seek out the witches to learn about all the remaining threats against them. (Jump to the text of Act III, Scene iv)

Scene v: In an "open place," the demon goddess Hecate scolds the three witches for not including her in their plans for Macbeth. She advises them to make-up potent spells to cast on Macbeth when they meet him again. (Jump to the text of Act III, Scene v)

Scene vi: In another part of Scotland, the noble Lenox and a second lord talk about the deaths of Duncan and Banquo and relate the news that Duncan's son Malcolm is in England gathering an army to overthrow Macbeth. Along with Macduff and the King of England, Lenox supports the cause of Malcolm to wrest the throne from the murderous Macbeth. (Jump to the text of Act III, Scene vi)

Act IV

Scene i In a cave, the weird sisters and Hecate cast spells on Macbeth over a boiling cauldron, chanting "double, double, toil and trouble" before Hecate departs. When Macbeth appears, they conjure three ghosts to answer his questions. The first, an armed head, warns Macbeth against Macduff. The second, a blood-stained child, tells Macbeth that no man born of woman can harm him. The third, a child wearing a crown, says to Macbeth that he will rule Scotland until the forest at Birnam marches to the castle at Dunsinane. When Macbeth asks whether Banquo's descendants will rule Scotland, Banquo's Ghost appears once more, heading a procession of eight kings. The apparitions and the witches disappear. After they have vanished, Macbeth is told that Macduff has joined the army of Malcolm. Macbeth vows to slay Macduff and his family for this "betrayal." (Jump to the text of Act IV, Scene I)

Scene ii: At Macduff's castle, the Lady Macduff cries over her husband's departure for the wars against Macbeth. She tells her son that his father Macduff is dead, but the boy sees through this ruse. A messenger arrives and warns them to flee. Before they can escape, Macbeth's murderers arrive, slay Macduff's young son and chase his wife off stage. (Jump to the text of Act IV, Scene ii)

Scene iii: In England, Malcolm puts Macduff's loyalty to the test. He "confesses" to a depraved crime, and when Macduff mourns that a sinner will rule Scotland, Malcolm knows that Macduff will be loyal to the patriotic cause against Macbeth. News arrives that Macduff's family has been slaughtered. Macduff swears vengeance against Macbeth and, with Malcolm, the two prepare to shake Macbeth from his bloody throne. (Jump to the text of Act IV, Scene iii)

Act V

Scene i As a doctor and her gentlewoman look on, Lady Macbeth walks in her sleep, mumbling expressions of guilt, including the lament that "All the perfumes of Arabia" will not sweeten her blood-stained hands. In this half-dead state, she speaks of the crimes against Duncan, Banquo and Lady Macduff. (Jump to the text of Act V, Scene i)

Scene ii: Near Macbeth's royal palace at Dunsinane, a group of Scottish rebels against Macbeth relate the progress that the English army led by Macduff and Malcolm has made against Macbeth's defenses. They will join this force at Birnam Woods and march with it on Dunsinane to overthrow Macbeth. (Jump to the text of Act V, Scene ii)

Scene iii: At his castle, Macbeth tells the Doctor that he does not fear the invasion force because of the predictions of the witches that no man born of woman can kill him and that the woods must march before he is defeated. The Doctor tells Macbeth that his wife is afflicted by insomnia and hallucinations. (Jump to the text of Act V, Scene iii)

Scene iv: Near Birnam Wood, Malcolm, Macduff and their force assemble for the assault upon Macbeth's castle, Malcolm instructing his men to camouflage themselves with branches from the trees of Birnam Wood. (Jump to the text of Act V, Scene iv)

Scene v: At his castle, Macbeth is told that his wife, Lady Macbeth, is dead. Macbeth is stunned, saying that life "is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury/Signifying nothing." Just then, a messenger arrives with the word that Birnam Wood is "marching" on Dunsinane. Macbeth realizes what this means in terms of the prophecies, but vows to fight on, still assured that no man born of woman can kill him. (Jump to the text of Act V, Scene v)

Scene vi: Malcolm, Macduff and a lord of their party, Siward, prepare to assault the walls of Macbeth's castle. (Jump to the text of Act V, Scene vi)

Scene vii: Macbeth appears in armor and kills Siward. He encounters Macduff and the two duel throughout the remainder of the scene. (Jump to the text of Act V, Scene vii)

Scene viii: As the fight between them continues, Macduff tells Macbeth that he is not a "natural" product of his mother's womb, that he was prematurely ripped from it and (technically) is "not of woman born." Macbeth faces the challenge bravely, telling his foe to "Lay on, Macduff." Macduff does just that and kills Macbeth. Macduff appears carrying Macbeth's severed head and hails Malcolm as the new king of Scotland. Malcolm says that when he is crowned, he will make Macduff and his supporters Earls of the realm as they all celebrate the triumph over Macbeth, Lady Macbeth and the evil that they wrought in Scotland. (Jump to the text of Act V, Scene viii)

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