A detailed description and in-depth analysis of Macbeth in Macbeth. SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription.
Macbeth is one of William Shakespeare’s most celebrated plays. Classified as a tragedy and thought to be performed for the first time in 1606, it tells the story of a Scottish nobleman who becomes obsessed with power and is driven mad by guilt.
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Macbeth is the protagonist of the play, even though he is not a good or sympathetic character. His ambition to be king at any cost drives the action of the play. From the beginning of the play, Macbeth is unrelentingly ambitious; nothing that happens to him, up to and including the death of his wife, can thwart him in his quest.
Macbeth is named king and things are gravy. Prophecies fulfilled! Except, wait. Macbeth starts to worry about the witch's prophecy that Banquo's heirs will be kings. Macbeth's not about to let someone bump him off the throne so, he hires some hit-men to take care of Banquo and his son, the unfortunately named Fleance.
Macbeth and Banquo, who are generals serving King Duncan of Scotland, meet the Weird Sisters, three witches who prophesy that Macbeth will become thane of Cawdor, then king, and that Banquo will beget kings. Soon thereafter Macbeth discovers that he has indeed been made thane of Cawdor, which leads him to believe the rest of the prophecy.
Macbeth has become manic, cruel, and haughty—many of his men desert to Malcolm's side. In Birnam Wood, Malcolm and his generals devise a strategy to hide their numbers—they cut branches to hold up in front of them. As Macbeth prepares for the siege, Lady Macbeth dies, perhaps of suicide.