Macbeth Study Guide: Act 5: scenes 1-9

Act 5: scenes 1-9

By ShakespeareRelease Year: 1623

Scene 1

Characters: Lady Macbeth, a doctor, a gentlewoman.

The scene takes place in the Dunsinane palace. Macbeth has left his wife alone in the place and without his support, she seems to not get along with her conscience. The Queen’s gentlewoman talks to a doctor about the Lady’s condition. Together they see the Queen walking down the corridors with the lantern in her hands. Indistinctly speaking she acts like she wants to wash something out of her hands. Later it becomes clear that she sees her hands in blood and talks about the victims of her crimes. Both the gentlewoman and the doctor understand that they hear more than they should. The doctor concludes that the Queen needs a priest rather than a physician and leaves the palace in rush.

Scene 2

Characters: Lennox, Angus, Menteith, Caithness, Soldiers.

Meanwhile, in the countryside around Dunsinane, the rebels gather together and wait for Macduff and Malcolm supported by his uncle Siward and the English army. Lennox, Angus and other lords discuss their strategy. They decide to set a meeting place at Birnam Wood and camouflage the soldiers with the boughs so they could hardly be seen in the wood. Caithness reports them that Macbeth is preparing his forces for the attack.

Scene 3

Characters: Macbeth, Seyton, the doctor, the servant.

Macbeth in his castle is waiting for the start of the battle. On the one hand, he feels very confident due to the prophesies the apparitions have made. On the other, he is not cold or calm. He acts fussy and unreasonably, refusing to hear the news from the field. When his servant reports him about ten thousand soldiers waiting for the battle with him, he angrily sends the attendant away. The doctor tells Macbeth that his wife is suffering the mental illness. Yet, Macbeth doesn’t pay much attention to it and orders the doctor to cure her. When the physician replies that he cannot help her, Macbeth nervously refuses to listen to him and request to bring his armor.

Scene 4

Characters: Malcolm, Siward, and his Son, Macduff, Menteith, Caithness, Angus, Lennox, Ross, and Soldiers.

The rebels, including Lennox, Ross, Angus and the soldiers meet Malcolm and with his allies near the Birnam wood. Malcolm orders every soldier to cut the bough from the forest’s tree and carry them along the way to the battle. This way he wants to cover his army with camouflage. Yet, Malcolm is unaware that actualizes the words from the prophecy: the Birnam forest now is moving on Dunsinane. He sends, thus, Macbeth a sign that symbolizes the end of his days.

Scene 5

Characters: Macbeth, Seyton, the soldiers, the servant.

In the castle, Macbeth encourages his army to the fight. He now is full of determination and fearlessness. He hears a woman’s cry behind the scene but doesn’t feel scared. He asks about the nature of the noise and learns that his wife is dead. He seems to not feel any grief and notice only that she died not in time. Suddenly, one of the servants reports him that he has witnessed some amazing view - the forest is moving toward the castle. At first, Macbeth doesn’t believe him but then see it personally and concludes that there is no way out. He is going to fight to the death.

Scene 6

Characters: Malcolm, Siward, Macduff, the soldiers.

This brief scene draws Malcolm’s army near the king’s castle. Malcolm inspires his allies to the battle. Siward and his son will lead the first regiment and Malcolm with Macduff will forward the rest of the army. He asks the trumpets to signal that they are approaching.

Scene 7

Characters: Macbeth, Young Siward, Old Siward, Malcolm, Macduff.

On the battlefield, Macbeth feels confident since the only one he should fear is the one who wasn’t born by a woman. When he encounters fearless but green Young Siward he easily defeats him in the direct confrontation. The sound of the fight attracts Macduff who is ready to attack Macbeth. The fight is running on.

Meanwhile, old Siward informs Malcolm that their army fight bravely and they are close to the smashing of the enemy forces. He asks Malcolm to enter the castle.

Scene 8

Characters: Macbeth and Macduff.

On the other part of the field, Macduff confronts Macbeth. The Lord yearns for revenge but Macbeth doesn’t intend to kill him since he already has enough of the Macduffs blood on his hands. Macduff is not going to retreat and they start fighting. Being assured that nobody can hurt him, Macbeth tells his enemy that since he is born by a  woman, he cannot harm the king. However, Macduff notices that he wasn’t born by his mother but was cut out of her womb (by Cesarian operation). This moment becomes determinative - Macbeth understands that he was fooled by the Witches. That he was deliberately misled about his invincibility. Yet, he refuses to give up and they continue fighting.

Scene 9

Characters: Malcolm, Siward, Ross, Macduff. All other Thanes and soldiers.

The fight is over and Malcolm’s army solemnly enters the castle. Ross regretfully informs Siward that his son has fallen in the battle. The father regains his spirit when learns that his son has died fighting, and has taken the fatal hit from the front, He admits that for the soldier it is the noblest way to die.  

Macduff returns holding Macbeth’s head in the hands and cheers the new king Malcolm. In the closing speech, Malcolm declares that from now on all the thanes become the earls. He promises to bring home all the exiled by the tyrant and punish all the Macbeth’s stooges.

From his speech, we learn that Lady Macbeth has committed suicide.  

Malcolm ends his speech on the joyful and promising note. All exit to head to the Scone for a coronation.

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