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William Shakespeare's Macbeth

Macbeth - 2014

A battle rages between Scottish forces led by King Duncan and rebels from Ireland helped by invaders from Norway. Three weird sisters prophesy that after the battle one of Duncan’s most brave and courageous soldiers, Macbeth, will first be made thane (a rank of Scottish nobility) and then become King of Scotland. They also foresee Macbeth’s friend and fellow soldier, Banquo, will have sons who will be Kings of Scotland – although Banquo himself will never be King. Both Macbeth and Banquo are sceptical of the prophecy and remain loyal to King Duncan. But after King Duncan is victorious over the rebels and invaders, Macbeth learns he has inherited the title of thane and plots to become king. Duncan makes his son, Malcolm, next in line to the throne and Macbeth realises he will now have to kill both Duncan and Malcolm if he is to succeed to the throne. King Duncan travels to Macbeth’s castle to dine. Inspired by the prophecy that she has learnt about in a letter from her husband, Lady Macbeth seizes upon the opportunity for power and persuades Macbeth to murder Duncan that night.

Following the party to celebrate the battle victory, Macbeth acts upon his wife’s instructions and kills King Duncan in his bed chamber. When Duncan’s death is announced the next morning, Duncan’s sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, realise they are in great danger and flee to England. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth move into the royal castle at Dunsinane. Macbeth then hires a group of murderers to kill his friend Banquo and his son, Fleance, in order to protect against Banquo’s heirs seizing the throne, which was a part of the prophecy. Banquo is murdered but his son escapes. Macbeth is furious and scared for he fears what he has done will be discovered. At a feast that night, the ghost of Banquo appears to him and Macbeth’s mad outbursts unsettle many of the Scottish nobility who support him. Lady Macbeth attempts to calm her husband but in desperation he seeks out the weird sisters who present him with further prophecies: including a threat from Macduff, a Scottish noble, who opposed Macbeth’s accession to the throne. However, the sisters say Macbeth is incapable of being harmed from anybody who is born of a woman and is safe until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Castle. Knowing that all men are born of women and that forests cannot move, Macbeth is greatly relieved and feels secure. He decides nevertheless to have Macduff murdered. Upon learning that Macduff has fled, Macbeth orders that Lady Macduff and her children are murdered.

In England, Macduff learns of the murder of his wife and children and vows revenge on Macbeth. He joins with Duncan’s son, Malcolm, who has raised an army and they ride back to Scotland to challenge Macbeth’s forces. The Scottish nobles who previously supported Macbeth desert him because of his tyrannical and murderous behaviour. Lady Macbeth is wracked with guilt and has fallen ill. During bouts of sleepwalking she confesses to having blood on her hands and her mental state drives her to suicide.

When Macbeth learns his wife has killed herself, he falls into despair but rallies what little support he has left to oppose the forces of Malcolm and Macduff. He still trusts that he is invincible because of the prophecy that Dunsinane is safe until Birnam Wood moves. Macbeth then learns the opposing army is advancing upon the castle, shielded with boughs cut from Birnam Wood: the forest is indeed moving! Now that the prophecy is almost complete, Macbeth strikes out on to the battlefield. He encounters Macduff who is intent on revenge. Macduff declares that he was not ‘of woman born’ but was ‘untimely ripped’ from his mother’s womb (what is known now as birth by caesarean section). Doomed to die, Macbeth continues to fight until he is killed by Macduff. Macduff hails Malcolm, son of Duncan, as the rightful heir. Malcolm invites everyone to Scone to see him declared King of Scotland. But the weird sisters prophesied Banquo’s son, Fleance, would become King and establish a long line of sons. Therefore, in spite of Malcolm being crowned King, the future for Scotland remains uncertain.