Read summary of Macbeth – both short summary and act summary.
Short Summary of Macbeth
The play Macbeth, as the title indicates, is mainly about Macbeth, a famed Scottish general under King Duncan. When the play opens, he has just helped Duncan defeat a troublesome group of rebels. Hailing Macbeth as a hero, Duncan decides to give Macbeth the title thane of Cawdor as a reward. This is quite ironic, considering that Macbeth later becomes a traitor himself.
With his friend and companion-in-arms Banquo, he encounters the three witches. The witches greet Macbeth as Thane of Glamis (his current status), as Thane of Cawdor and, finally as the King of Scotland. In other words, they prophesy him to become a king. At the same time, the witches tell Banquo that his descendants will be kings, but he refuses to trust the witches’ words. However, the prophecy touches Macbeth’s ambitious deeply and after he learns that he gains the Thane of Cawdor (one part of the prophecy comes true), he becomes eager to take the throne.
To become a king for Macbeth means to kill King Duncan, who is a fair and generous ruler of Scotland (and Macbeth admits that). Pressured by his wife Lady Macbeth, as well as by his own selfish ambition, Macbeth makes up his mind to kill King Duncan. With the help and support of his wife, he murders Duncan and takes over the Scottish throne. However, further events demonstrate us that the crown brings Macbeth everything but calmness and confidence. Shame, fear, suspicion, guilt, and mistrust consume him during the time of his kingship. This leads him to kill more people so he can protect his authority overturn from the noblemen who are not fooled by his jiggery-pokery. The murder of his friend Banquo becomes a point of no return for Macbeth. He turns into a ruthless and oppressive ruler who leads the kingdom into civil war and unnecessary loss of many lives. Blinded by his power, he misinterprets the last witches prophecy and counts himself as undefeatable.
Finally, the reality of the chaos he has created leads his wife to madness and him to the inglorious death.
Macbeth: Plot Summary
- This is a short scene.
- There is lightning, and three witches appear.
- They talk about meeting some guy named Macbeth.
- The story cuts to a battle. This old king (King of Scotland) named Duncan is there. His army is fighting.
- The army fights a rebellion against the king. There are also some punks from Norway who are attacking Scotland.
- The king hears about Macbeth. He hears that Macbeth is a monster on the battlefield, and he kicks some major ass. The king is pretty happy about that.
- Some guy named “Thane of Ross” (Nobleman of Ross) shows up and tells the King that the Thane of Cawdor is a dirty traitor. This guy was the captain of the army.
- The king is pissed that one of his friends is a dirty traitor. But he’s also happy that Macbeth is such a great fighter. So he makes Macbeth the new captain of the army and gives Macbeth the guy’s title (Thane of Cawdor).
- The king sends Ross to go tell Macbeth about his new position.
- This is the first time Macbeth appears.
- The story describes the witches and all the nasty deeds they do, like killing animals and doing bad things to people.
- Macbeth is walking with his buddy Banquo, and they run into the witches. The witches have three predictions for Macbeth and Banquo.
- They predict that Macbeth will be the new captain (Remember he doesn’t know he is yet), that he will be king one day, and also that Banquo will be the father of a future king.
- Ross arrives and tells Macbeth about his new position. He is excited because the witches were right about their prediction.
- He is happy because he thinks he will be king someday. He thinks that before he becomes king, Duncan (current king) has to die.
- Duncan kills Cawdor (traitor).
- Macbeth goes back and sees the king. Macbeth thinks the witches’ prediction of him becoming king will come true. He really wants to become king.
- Then the king names his son, Malcolm, the new king. Macbeth is pissed. At this point in the story Macbeth does an “aside” (An aside is a thing used in plays where the character talks to the audience, but the other characters can’t hear him). He talks to the audience about how Malcolm will be the new king and will make it hard for Macbeth to become king.
- The story cuts to Macbeth’s castle. Lady Macbeth is there and she gets a letter from her husband.
- The letter talks about the predictions the witches gave Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is happy that he will become king soon, so she wants to help him
- She thinks of a plan to kill King Duncan while he is visiting Macbeth’s castle. Then Macbeth can become king.
- She talks about her husband and how he is nice. She is not nice and will have to convince him to do something evil.
- King Duncan goes to Macbeth’s castle with his son Malcolm.
- Macbeth wants to kill the king but he is feeling guilty about it. He doesn’t want to get punished. He tells his wife he can’t do it.
- Lady Macbeth makes fun of him and calls him a big wimp. She tells him to kill Duncan and blame his servants.
- Banquo talks with his son. Macbeth comes in and Banquo gives him a present from King Duncan to Lady Macbeth: a ring.
- Banquo and his son go to bed.
- Macbeth makes some big long speech about his thoughts on killing. Then he hallucinates and sees a dagger floating in mid air.
- Macbeth thinks he’s going nuts.
- Macbeth kills the king.
- Lady Macbeth is happy that the king is dead.
- Macbeth feels really guilty about killing the king. Lady Macbeth doesn’t feel that bad about it. She is cold.
- She tells him not be such a baby and to suck it up.
- One of Macbeth’s servants (The porter) wakes up and hears a knock at the door. He answers it.
- Macduff and some dude named Lennox are there. The three guys talk about some stuff and make some dirty sex jokes.
- Macbeth sees them and they tell Macbeth they are there to talk to King Duncan. Macbeth lies his ass off and acts like nothing is wrong.
- Macduff sees that Duncan is dead. He wakes everyone up.
- Macbeth acts innocent and pretends to be mad that the king was murdered. Lady Macbeth acts innocent, too.
- Then Macbeth (to look more innocent) kills Duncan’s servants because he “says” he is mad, and he tells everyone that he thinks the servants killed Duncan (even though he did).
- Macduff is kinda suspicious of Macbeth and his woman. Meanwhile Malcolm (Duncan’s son) is scared for his life because he doesn’t know who the killer is.
- So he escapes and goes to another country.
- The people go outside to think about the murder. They notice a lot of weird stuff happening in nature, like owls eating hawks.
- Macduff finally figures out who killed Duncan, even though he really doesn’t believe it.
- He agrees with Macbeth that the servants were the killers. He also suspects Malcolm because he ran away.
- Macbeth becomes the king.
- Banquo is a little suspicious of Macbeth.
- Macbeth invites Banquo to a dinner party.
- Macbeth plans to kill Banquo and his son (because they might be a threat to Macbeth becoming king).
- He wants to kill Banquo and Banquo’s son because he is afraid and paranoid.
- Macbeth gets two of his henchman to do the murder. He lies to them and tells them that Banquo did something bad to them.
- Lady Macbeth is worried about her husband.
- Macbeth is slowly becoming crazier and crazier. He is a paranoid wacko.
- She tries to talk to him and tell him to be normal and chill out but it doesn’t work.
- The two henchmen go to kill Banquo. A stranger joins them and says he was sent by Macbeth to help out.
- The three guys screw up the murder.
- Banquo is killed, but his son escapes.
- The scene starts with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth hosting some fancy party. They like being king and queen.
- One of the henchman returns and tells Macbeth that Banquo is dead. Macbeth doesn’t feel guilty about this murder.
- Macbeth is pissed because Banquo’s son escaped. Then he returns to his party.
- Then Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo sitting in his throne. Nobody but Macbeth can see him. He talks to the ghost but people think he’s wacko because it looks like he’s talking to nobody.
- Lady Macbeth is mad because Macbeth is embarrassing her in front of the guests. She tries to stop him, but then just tells the guests to leave.
- The story cuts back to the witches who meet with their mistress. Then they sing and dance.
- People think Macbeth is a lame king. They hate him.
- Some nobledude named Lennox talks with someone else. He talks about how he thinks that Macbeth’s stories are bull.
- They discuss how Macduff wants to overthrow Macbeth.
- The story cuts back to the 3 witches. They are dancing around their big black pot chanting and crap like that.
- Macbeth comes. They notice Macbeth is not as nice as he used to be. He is now a power hungry jerk.
- The witches present three apparitions (visions) for Macbeth. A piece of armor, a bloody child, and a child holding a branch.
- These things represent predictions for Macbeth.
- Armor: he has to beware of Macduff.
- Bloody Child: He cannot be killed by anyone who was born through a woman (natural birth process).
- Child with Branch: He will not get beaten till the Birnam forest comes to his castle.
- Macbeth is happy because two of those predictions sound absolutely silly (child thing and forest thing).
- Macbeth asks the witches about Banquo’s kids taking the throne. The witches show him an apparition that basically says that future kings will be from Banquo’s family.
- Macduff goes to England and is away from his family.
- Macduff does not know that his family is in danger. Lady Macduff is upset because Macduff left them all alone. She has no idea when he’s coming home.
- Some dude tries to warn Lady Macduff that her family is in danger. But she has no idea why anyone would want to kill them.
- Then some guys enter and kill the Macduff family.
- Then the story cuts to Macduff and Malcolm talking about taking Macbeth out.
- Malcolm doesn’t know if he can trust Macduff though.
- Malcolm tries a few sneaky things to see if he can trust Macduff. He plays some mind games and it works. He decides Macduff is trustworthy.
- Then Ross (servant) shows up and tells Macduff that Macbeth has murdered his family. Macduff is really pissed. Malcolm and Macduff decide to lead their army against Macbeth’s army.
- The story cuts to Macbeth’s castle.
- Macbeth leaves to fight with his army. Lady Macbeth is back at the castle and she’s starting go nuts like Macbeth.
- She sleepwalks at night. She calls a doctor for help. Her doctor tells her that she sleepwalks, and when she does it she talks about all the murders she’s helped Macbeth with.
- So basically, she spills the beans.
- Macbeth’s and Macduff’s armies get closer to each other.
- Macduff’s army is really pissed because they hate Macbeth and want to kill him because he is a bad king.
- At this point in the story, Macbeth is a nutball.
- Macbeth talks the doctors about his wife. They tell him she is very sick. He realizes his wife has gone nuts, too.
- The story cuts back to Malcolm and his army.
- Malcolm tells his troops to take some branches from the Birnam Wood forest and use them as a disguise, so they can have a sneak attack.
- This makes one of the witches’ predictions true. The witch said that Macbeth would get defeated when the Birnam forest would move to his castle. It seems impossible right? Well, this is kind like the forest moving because the soldiers are carrying branches from it.
- Macbeth prepares for Malcolm’s army. He is ready for a big rumble.
- Then Macbeth learns that his wife dies. He is not that sad because he is more concerned about the big battle.
- Malcolm’s army arrives at Macbeth’s castle. They are disguised in the branches.
- Macbeth sees these branch and thinks of the witches prediction. This drives him really insane.
- Macbeth fights and kills some people. He kills Old Siward’s son .
- Macbeth’s soldiers really suck. They aren’t fighting very well.
- Macbeth is still fighting strong though.
- Finally Macbeth and Macduff face off.
- Macbeth tells Macduff that (according to the witches) he cannot be killed by anyone who was born normally by a woman.
- Macduff tells him that he was born by C-Section. Now Macbeth is scared to death. All of the witches’ predictions came true.
- They fight and Macbeth is killed.
- The battle is over and Malcolm and friends look at everything.
- Old Siward is proud of his son (he was killed by Macbeth) because he was wounded in the front, which meant he was fighting not running.
- Macduff joins them and he has Macbeth’s head.
- Everyone is happy. Malcolm gives some long victory speech and thanks all the people. He then becomes the new King of Scotland.