Macbeth act 1

scene 1 As a storm rages, three witches appear, speaking in rhyming, paradoxical couplets: “when the battle’s lost and won” (1.1.4); “fair is foul, and foul is fair” (1.1.10). They agree to meet again on the heath (plain) when the battle now raging ends. There they’ll meet Macbeth.[The witches’ rhyming speech makes them seem inhuman, ominous, and paranormal, which, in fact, they are.]
scene 2 At a military camp, King Duncan of Scotland, his sons Malcolm and Donalbain, and the Thane of Lennox wait for news of the war. A captain enters, covered in so much blood he is almost unrecognizable. The captain tells them of the state of the battle against the invading Norwegians and the Scottish rebels Macdonald and the Thane of Cawdor. Two Scottish nobleman have been especially brave, Macbeth (the Thane of Glamis) and Banquo. Macbeth killed Macdonald (“unseemed him from the nave to th’ chops” (1.2.22)).The Thane of Ross arrives, and describes how Macbeth defeated Sweno, the Norwegian King, who now begs for a truce. Duncan proclaims that the traitorous Thane of Cawdor shall be put to death, and that Macbeth shall be made Thane of Cawdor.
scene 3 On the heath the witches appear. They call themselves the “weird sisters” (1.3.30) and brag of their dread and magical deeds such as killing swine and cursing a sailor to waste away.Macbeth and Banquo enter. The witches hail Macbeth as Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor, and “king hereafter” (1.3.47). Banquo asks Macbeth why he seems to fear this good news, then questions the witches about his own future. They say that Banquo is “lesser than Macbeth and greater” (1.3.63) because though he’ll never be king, his descendants will.Macbeth asks how the witches know this information. But the witches vanish, making the two men wonder if they could have imagined the whole thing. Just then, Ross and Angus enter. They tell Macbeth that the old Thane of Cawdor was a traitor and that Duncan has made Macbeth the new Thane of Cawdor.Macbeth and Banquo are shocked. Macbeth asks Banquo if he now thinks that his children will be king. Banquo seems unsure, and comments that “instruments of darkness” sometimes tell half truths to bring men to ruin.As Banquo talks with Ross and Angus, Macbeth ponders the prophecy. If it’s evil, why would it truly predict his being made Thane of Cawdor? If it’s good, why would he already be contemplating murder, a thought that makes “my seated heart knock at my ribs” (1.3.134-136)? Macbeth feels that he’s losing himself, and hopes that if fate says he’ll become king, he won’t have to act to make it happen.Ross and Angus think Macbeth’s reverie is caused by becoming Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth and Banquo agree to speak about the witches’ prophecy later.The witches are established as both wicked and magically powerful.Does the fear Banquo notes in Macbeth signal that Macbeth’s doomed struggle against his ambition starts the instant he hears the prophecy?The prophecy is fulfilled and the witches’ power is proved to be genuine.The traitorous old Thane of Cawdor is replaced by Macbeth.Banquo guesses the witches’ plot exactly.This means that when Macbeth chooses to believe the witches and act, he knows the risks.Macbeth is already thinking about killing Duncan, but the thought terrifies him: he’s strug- gling against his ambition. His thoughts about fate are classic: does fate happen no matter what, or must one act?This exchange with Banquo is the last time Macbeth is honest in the play.Act 1, scene 6
scene 4 t a camp near the battlefield, Malcolm tells Duncan that the old Thane of Cawdor confessed and repented before being executed. Duncan notes that you can’t always trust a man by his outward show. Macbeth, Banquo, Ross, and Angus enter. Duncan says that even the gift of Cawdor is not as much as Macbeth deserves. Macbeth responds: “The service and loyalty I owe, in doing it, pays itself” (1.4.22).Duncan is pleased. He says: “I have begun to plant thee, and will labour to make thee full of growing” (1.4.28-29). Next, he announces that Malcolm will be heir to the Scottish throne (the kingship was not hereditary in Scotland at that time). Duncan then adjourns the meeting and decides to spend the night at Inverness, Macbeth’s castle.Macbeth goes ahead to prepare for the King’s visit, but notes that Malcolm now stands between him and the throne. He begs the stars to “hide your fires, let not light see my black and deep desires” (1.4.51).Deeply ironic that just as Duncan comments about how you can’t trust people’s outward shows, Macbeth enters. Dun- can’s great strength as a kingis his trust in his people and his thanes, but it also makes him vulnerable to treachery.Duncan thinks of his role as King in terms of what he can give. He’s like a gardener in nature; putting his country above his own desires……Macbeth, in contrast, thinksin terms of what he can take. This makes his relationship with nature adversarial.
scene 5 At Inverness, Lady Macbeth reads a letter in which Macbeth tells her of the witches’ prophecy. Lady Macbeth worries Macbeth is too kind and honorable to fulfill his ambition and the prophecy. She decides to question his manhood to make him act.A servant enters with news that Duncan will spend the night, then exits. Lady Macbeth says Duncan’s visit will be fatal, and calls on spirits to “unsex me here… and take my milk for gall” (1.5.39-46).Macbeth enters, and says Duncan will spend the night and leave the next day. Lady Macbeth says Duncan will never see that day. She counsels Macbeth to look like an “innocent flower,” but be the viper hiding beneath it (1.5.63). Macbeth remains unconvinced. Lady Macbeth tells him to leave the plan to her.Lady Macbeth is established as power-hungry. She sees honor as a weakness, and knows how to push her husband’s buttons: question his courage.In order to murder Duncan, Lady Macbeth not only renounces her womanhood, she literally asks to be turned into an unnatural fiend!Macbeth is still struggling against his ambition. Lady Mac- beth’s advice on how to hide one’s true intentions involves exploiting nature. (Note: in the Garden of Eden, the devil hid himself in the form of a snak
scene 6 Duncan, Malcolm, Donalbain, Banquo, Lennox, Macduff, Ross, and Angus arrive at Inverness. Duncan comments on the sweetness of the air. Banquo notes that martlets, a species of bird that usually nests in churches, have nested in the castle.Lady Macbeth warmly greets the King and the thanes, though Macbeth is nowhere to be seen.Ironic that Duncan thinks the castle where he’ll be murdered is beautiful.Also shows what beauty Macbeth loses when he gives in to his ambition.At this point, the planned mur- der weighs more on Macbeth than on Lady Macbeth.
scene 7 Macbeth, alone, agonizes about whether to kill Duncan. He’d be willing to murder Duncan if he thought that would be the end of it. But he knows that “bloody instructions, being taught, return to plague the inventor” (1.7 .10). Also, Macbeth notes, Duncan is a guest, kinsmen, and good king. He decides ambition is not enough to justify the murder.Macbeth wrestles with his ambition and wins! He knows that murdering Duncan will only end up leading to more bloodshed, and ruin his honor, which he prizes.