September 08, 2022

#08-238: Macbeth

Macbeth and Banquo encounter the witches for the first time

Note: Macbeth is another of Shakespeare's great tragedies, in which a power-hungry couple fails in their attempt to usurp the throne of Scotland.

Get Ready: Would you ever make life decisions based on prophecy or fortune-telling? What do you think of people who do?

Shakespeare's Macbeth is one of his Four Great Tragedies, along with Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear.

As the play begins, Macbeth and Banquo, two Scottish generals serving King Duncan, meet some witches, referred to as "the Three Weird Sisters."

They foretell that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor, and then king in Duncan's place. But Banquo's descendants will also be kings.

Soon Macbeth is indeed named Thane of Cawdor, so he also believes that he will also become king. When Lady Macbeth hears that King Duncan plans to spend the night at Macbeth's castle, she promises to help her husband become king by any means necessary.

When the king arrives, Lady Macbeth drugs his guards at bedtime, and Macbeth sneaks into his room and kills him. He regrets it immediately. Another lord, Macduff, arrives and discovers the king's body. Malcolm and Donalbain, Duncan's sons, are blamed for the murder after they flee for their lives, making them look suspicious.

Now King, Macbeth rests uneasy. Remembering that Banquo's descendants are also to become king, he arranges to have Banquo and his son killed, but the boy escapes. At dinner with guests that night, the guilty Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost and behaves like a madman.

Seeking out the witches, Macbeth learns three things: "none of woman born shall harm Macbeth"; he will be safe until the local forest, Birnam Wood, comes toward his castle at Dunsinane; and still, they say, Banquo's line will still be kings.

Macbeth starts slaughtering anyone he sees as a threat. Meanwhile, Macduff has gone to England to meet the late King Duncan's son, Malcolm, to raise an army to march against Macbeth.

Macbeth feels safe until he hears a report that Birnam Wood really is approaching his castle at Dunsinane: Macduff's army is using tree branches for camouflage as they creep forward. Lady Macbeth goes mad, and Macbeth learns of her dramatic suicide as he goes to battle.

At last Macbeth and Macduff face each other. When Macbeth learns that Macduff was born by cesarean section, and thus is not "of woman born" (sort of), still he fights. He is killed offstage, and when Macduff returns carrying his head, Malcolm is declared King of Scotland.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. camouflage
  2. cesarean section
  3. creep
  4. descendants
  5. foretell
  6. madman
  7. offstage
  8. slaughtering
  9. uneasy
  10. weird

  1. children, grandchildren, etc.
  2. a crazy person
  3. move slowly and quietly
  4. speak of future events
  5. not in front of the audience
  6. killing
  7. disturbed
  8. supernatural
  9. hiding something in plain sight
  10. a cut through the belly to deliver a baby

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for September 8, 2022

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. i; 2. j; 3. c; 4. a; 5. d; 6. b; 7. e; 8. f; 9. g; 10. h