At the beginning of the play, Macbeth is the Thane of Glamis. He is famous throughout Scotland for being a tough soldier. King Duncan likes him and promotes him. But Macbeth meets three Witches who predict this promotion and tell him that he will be king in the future. Macbeth is too ambitious to wait and see if this will happen. Instead he kills King Duncan with some help from Lady Macbeth. He becomes King of Scotland, but his troubles don’t end there. In fact, this is only the beginning.
Did you know? Macbeth is the tragic hero of the play. Ambition is his fatal flaw. Tragic heroes start off nice, then a bad part of their personality kicks in (a fatal flaw) to make them not so nice. In the end, there is always a glimmer of the good person they were…before they die. Shakespeare wrote plenty of stories about tragic heroes, eg Othello, Hamlet, Julius Caesar. He got his idea from Greek stories. Sometimes, when you watch modern films, the film maker uses the idea of a tragic hero too.
Macbeth's friends are:
Lady Macbeth’s behaviour would have seemed shocking to an audience in Shakespeare’s day. She pushes her husband around. She is hungry for power. She asks evil spirits to make her more like a man so that she can play her part in killing the king. The audience would have thought her behaviour was unnatural for a woman.
Lady Macbeth is friends with:
Did you know? Lady Macbeth’s suggestion of bashing the baby’s brain out is horrifying isn’t it? There’s no mention in the play of whether the Macbeths have children or not, so there’s no evidence that she has actually murdered a baby in the past. But remember, back in Act 1 Scene 5, Lady Macbeth asked evil spirits to unsex her, ie take away all of her female traits. Surely this is the ultimate example of this. Lady Macbeth has no human sympathy at all. She is ready to kill the King.
Listening taskIn Act 5 Scene 1, Lady Macbeth is so disturbed by the murders that she and Macbeth have committed that she walks and talks in her sleep, giving far too much away. She is dreaming that there’s a spot of blood on her hand that won’t wash off. Her maid (Gentlewoman) is so worried, she has called the doctor.
Banquo is Macbeth’s best friend, and the Witches promise him that his descendants will be future kings of Scotland. This prediction puts him in mortal danger with Macbeth. Macbeth is so worried about losing the throne that he is willing even to kill his best friend in an attempt to cheat fate. Banquo reappears after his death as a disapproving ghost at Macbeth’s banquet.
Banquo is friends with:
Macduff is loyal to King Duncan, even after he is murdered. He loves Scotland and puts his family at risk to help raise an army to topple Macbeth’s tyrannical rule. Macbeth kills his wife and young family. Macduff fights and kills Macbeth by decapitating him. True to the Witches’ prediction, he is not of woman born. He was born by way of Caesarean section, so was not born in the normal sense of the word.
Macduff’s friends are:
Three Witches/The Weyrd Sisters
The Witches rhyme their way through the play causing mayhem wherever they can. They make promises to Macbeth that come with a heavy price. They use words cleverly to mislead Macbeth. They’re not pretty. Banquo mentions that they have beards.
When Macbeth greets the Witches he says:
How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!
Act 4 Scene 1
Hecate is the Witches’ mistress. She appears briefly to scold them for dealing with Macbeth without her say so. She thinks Macbeth is ungrateful and doesn’t deserve their help. She warns the Witches that she will set up illusions to confuse Macbeth and give him a false sense of security.
She says that Macbeth will:
spurn fate, scorn death, and bear
His hopes 'bove wisdom, grace, and fear.
And you all know, security
Is mortals' chiefest enemy.
Act 3 Scene 5
He rewards Macbeth for his loyalty and Macbeth returns the favour by murdering him. Duncan is a good and popular king until his death.
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued against
The deep damnation of his taking-off.
Act 1 Scene 7
Malcolm is Duncan’s son and the heir to the throne. He runs away to England when his father is murdered. He returns with an army to retake the throne at the end.
He tests Macduff’s loyalty to him because he’s worried that Macduff is a spy. When Macduff finds out that his family has been killed, he says:
Dispute it like a man
Act 4 Scene 3
Donalbain is Duncan’s youngest son. He runs away to Ireland when his father is murdered.
He realises that he and his brother are in grave danger of being the next victims. He says:
There’s daggers in men’s smiles
Act 2 Scene 3
Lady Macduff is Macduff’s wife and Ross’s cousin. She is angry with Macduff when he leaves for England to raise an army because he has put his country before his family. When she is warned that she is in danger, she refuses to run away because she knows that she has done nothing wrong. Macbeth’s henchmen kill her child, and then kill her.
She tells Ross that unlike her husband, a woman would never leave her children, but would fight to protect them:
the poor wren,
The most diminutive of birds, will fight,
Her young ones in her nest, against the owl.
Act 4 Scene 2
The boy is Lord and Lady Macduff’s son. He is cheeky to his mum and obviously quite clever even though he is still very young. He defends his father’s reputation against Macbeth’s henchmen and they kill him.
When Macbeth’s henchman says that Macduff is a traitor, the boy says:
Thou liest, thou shag-haired villain.
Act 4 Scene 2
A Scottish nobleman, Lennox comes with Macduff to fetch Duncan on the morning after the King is killed. He loses faith in Macbeth and suspects him of the murders fairly early on but cannot confront Macbeth. He sees Macbeth after the Witches’ final predictions. He has to tell Macbeth that Macduff has fled to England. He joins in the rebellion against Macbeth.
About deposing Macbeth and making Malcolm the new king, Lennox says:
dew the sovereign flower and drown the weeds
with as much of our blood as is necessary.
Act 5 Scene 2
Ross is a Scottish nobleman and Lady Macduff’s cousin. He brings Macbeth the news that Duncan has made him Thane of Cawdor. He tries to comfort Lady Macduff when her husband leaves for England. He has to tell Macduff the sad news that his family has been murdered. He joins Malcolm and the English army in toppling Macbeth towards the end.
When he has to tell Macduff that his family has been slaughtered he says:
Let not your ears despise my tongue forever
Which shall possess them with the heaviest sound
Her young ones in her nest, against the owl.
Act 4 Scene 3
Fleance is Banquo’s son. The Witches predict that Banquo’s children will be kings, but this doesn’t happen during the play. Macbeth wants Fleance killed because he knows it is he who will inherit the crown not his own children. Fleance manages to escape the assassins.
As Banquo is slain, he shouts to his young son to run away:
Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly!
Act 3 Scene 3
The Earl of Northumberland, general of the English forces and brother of the late King Duncan. He leads an army of ten thousand men to oppose Macbeth. He loses his son in the battle.
When he discovers that his son died bravely fighting Macbeth he says:
Had I as many sons as I have hairs,
I would not wish them to a fairer death.
Act 5 Scene 8
The son of Siward, the Earl of Northumberland, Young Siward faces Macbeth during the final battle, but is killed.
When Macbeth tells him his name, Young Siward says:
The devil himself could not pronounce a title
More hateful to mine ear.
Act 5 Scene 7
The Doctor comes to examine Lady Macbeth. He tells the Gentlewoman that Lady Macbeth’s problem is with her soul rather than her body when he hears the Queen admit to the murders. He is horrified by what he has witnessed. He tactfully reports back to Macbeth, leaving the essential details out. He is in a hurry to leave and never come back.
On Lady Macbeth’s fixation with washing her hands, he says:
Do breed unnatural troubles
Act 5 Scene 1
The Porter is the gate-keeper to the Macbeth’s castle. On the night of the murder, he jokes about being the keeper to the gates of hell. He is drunk and makes lots of rude jokes. The scene that he is in acts as comic relief for the audience after the intensity of the previous scene.
He claims drunkenness brings on three unfortunate side-effects:
nose-painting, sleep, and urine.
Act 2 Scene 3
The old man chats to Ross after the murder of King Duncan about the unnatural things that have been happening out and about in Scotland. This is the worst night he’s known in all of his seventy years.
When Ross tells him that Duncan’s horses broke free and ran wild, the old man adds:
’Tis said, they eat each other.
Act 2 Scene 4
Seyton - an officer attending on Macbeth when all of his followers have deserted him.
First, Second and Third Murderers - The first and second murderers are hired by Macbeth to murder Banquo and his son. The third murderer spookily appears at the scene of the murder.
First, Second and Third Apparition - These apparitions appear before Macbeth in the Witches’ cavern. They make Macbeth believe that he is invincible.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/topics/zksycdm from BBC Bitesize KS3 Shakespeare