Macbeth Study Guide: Short Summary

Short Summary

By ShakespeareRelease Year: 1623

Plot Overview of Macbeth

The play is set in Scotland and fragmentarily in England of the 11th century. The title of the play indicates its main character. Macbeth is a famed Scottish general, who proves his loyalty to his king bravely fighting against the external enemies of the kingdom. 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 (and Macbeth admits that) a fair and generous ruler of Scotland. 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.

This draft of the play’s storyline cannot reflect the mysteriousness and symbolism of the narrative in all its depth. You can learn more about the plot twists, characters’ relationships and their soul feelings in the act-by-act summary of the play.

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