Macbeth

by William Shakespeare

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

 

Summary / Riassunto

Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis, and Banquo have just defeated the allied forces of Norway and Ireland, they are talking when three witches appear and address to Macbeth. The first witch tells he will be “Thane of Glamis”, the second witch tells he will become “Thane of Cawdor”, and the third that he will “be King hereafter”. Macbeth appears to be stunned to silence, so it is Banquo who challenges them. The witches inform Banquo that he will father a line of kings, though he himself will not be one. While the two men wonder at these pronouncements, the witches vanish, and a messenger from the King arrives and informs Macbeth of his newly bestowed title: Thane of Cawdor. The first prophecy is thus fulfilled.

Immediately, Macbeth begins to dream about becoming king and writes to his wife about the witches’ prophecies. So, when King Duncan decides to stay at the Macbeths’ castle at Inverness, Lady Macbeth plans to murder him and secure the throne for her husband. Lady Macbeth succeeds in persuading her husband and, on the night of the king’s visit, Macbeth kills Duncan. This is only the first of a series of crimes, in fact they also kill the king’s guards.

Macbeth assumes the throne as the new King of Scotland, but Duncan’s sons, Malcom and Donalbain, escape and want to take their revenge. Moreover, Macbeth is uneasy also for the prophecy about Banquo so he invites him to a royal banquet and discovers that Banquo and his young son, Fleance, will be riding out that night. He hires two men to kill them. Later, at the banquet, Banquo’s ghost enters and sits in Macbeth’s place. Only Macbeth can see the ghost; the other guests panic at the sight of Macbeth raging at an empty chair, until a desperate Lady Macbeth orders them to leave.

Macbeth, disturbed, visits the Three Witches once more. They conjure up three spirits with new warnings and prophecies, for example to “beware Macduff,” but also that “none of woman born shall harm Macbeth”. Since Macduff is in exile in England, Macbeth assumes that he is safe and puts to death everyone in Macduff’s castle, including Macduff’s wife and their young children.

On her turn, Lady Macbeth gets crazy because she cannot stand the weight of her crimes. She sleepwalks and tries to wash imaginary bloodstains from her hands, all the while speaking of the terrible things she knows. In England, Macduff is informed that the castle has been taken and his wife and children have been murdered, so together with Malcolm, the assassinated king’s son, he organizes an army against the Castle. Lady Macbeth commits suicide. Because of the prophecy that he cannot be killed by any man born of woman, Macbeth thinks he has no reason to fear Macduff, but he’s wrong. Macduff, in fact, says that he was “from his mother’s womb” and was not “of woman born” and thus, although too late, Macbeth realizes that he has misinterpreted the prophecy. After Machbeth’s death, Malcolm is placed on the throne.

 

Must know / Da sapere

  • The tragedy of ambition, but also the tragedy of guilt and expiation
  • The characters and their actions have universal meanings, mythical dimensions, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, Adam and Eve, and their original sin
  • The theme of love, of insane love, affecting the mind, making lovers commit terrible sins
  • The theme of free will, since Macbeth is the creator of his own destiny
  • The theme of evil, the eternal struggle between good and evil. Evil is deeply analyzed, its nature, its consequences. Life is a never lasting conflict between opposite forces. Heaven and hell, night and day, light and dark. We can add the contrast between the castle and the environment outside the castle: outside there is nature, that is good, inside the castle there’s blood and madness.




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