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1. Introduction: Presentation of the setting and the characters. The situation is on the verge of change
Setting: An open place in Scotland, the weather is stormy (metonimy of the weather and the environment), 3 witches are introduced. They speak in a cryptic way.
Setting: a military camp after a battle. The Norwegians with Macdonwald’s help (the Thane of Cawdor, a traitor) have tried to invade Britain, but the attempt has failed thanks to Macbeth’s bravery. M. is the king’s cousin and bravest captain. King Duncan, Malcolm, Donalbain talk about Macbeth’s courage.
Setting: A heath: while coming back from the battle, Macbeth and his friend Banquo meet the witches who greet M. as the Thane of Cawdor and predict he will become king of Britain. They also predict that a line of kings will come from Banquo (event which presents/anticipates the change in the situation). Then they meet a messenger who tells M. the king has decided to reward him with the title of Thane of Cawdor.
2. Development: The rise of the Hero
The witches’ prophecy begins to work on M.’s ambition: (event that sets the story into motion) he would like to become king and this means killing Duncan, M. is filled with horror at the idea, but his wish is strong, he decides to leave his hopes to chance.
At the Royal palace Duncan praises M. and promises him rewards, but then he announces his son Malcolm will be his successor, this denies the witches’ prophecies and M.’s hopes. M. invites the king to his castle and writes a letter to his wife to inform her. Lady Macbeth knows her husband is not ruthless enough to murder the king. She invokes evil spirits to eliminate any womanly feelings from her which could make her stagger and sweeps away M.’s doubts with her determination. Duncan is killed and the king’s servants sleeping outside the room are blamed for this. M. is overwhelmed by remorse, he has hallucinations, he can’t sleep, he can’t pray anymore. A terrible storm and unnatural events happen during the night. Duncan’s sons leave the castle fearing for their lives, M. is now king, but Macduff and Banquo suspect him.
3. Climax: start of the Crisis
M. is frightened of the witches’ prophecy about Banquo’s sons becoming kings and decides to have him killed to neutralise it. Banquo is killed by two men hired by M. but B.’s son, Fleance manages to escape. B’s ghost starts to haunt the banquet organised to celebrate his coronation, he also has terrible nightmares.
4. Crisis: The fall of the Hero
We get to know through a Lord’s words that Macduff has deserted the coronation banquet to join Malcolm in England. M. decides to visit the witches again, he wants to speak to the witches’ masters. They warn him to beware of Macduff, but they also tell him that ”none of woman born shall harm Macbeth, M. shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come against him”. He is reassured, but he wants to know about Banquo’s heirs. So they show him the line of 8 kings descendants of Banquo who will reign after him. After learning that Macduff has left for England, M. decides to attack Macduff’s castle and to exterminate his family. Macduff swears revenge. Meanwhile Lady Macbeth has become crazy: she sleepwalks and obsessively tries to wash Duncan’s blood away from her hands. In her delirium, she reveals detail about the murders of Duncan, Banquo and Macduff’s family. The doctor understands she needs spiritual rather than medical help. Many of M.’s thanes desert him and join forces with Malcolm and Macduff. In his castle M. receives news about these desertions, but he is assured nothing bad will happen to him by the apparitions’ prophecies.
5. Catastrophe: Death of the Hero, final catharsis
M. is alone in his castle because all his followers have allied with Malcolm. Malcolm, who has marched North from England with his army, orders his soldiers to cut down branches from Birnam wood and carry them to disguise their numbers. M. receives news that his wife has died, but he is resigned, he reflects on the meaning of his life and concludes everything has been useless and meaningless. He receives news that “Birnam wood is moving”, he understands that his end is near, he also learns from Macduff that “Macduff was from his mother’s womb untimely ripped”, so he realises he is going to be destroyed, but he refuses to surrender: “at least we’ll die with harness on our back, yet, I will try the last. Before my body I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff, and damned be him that first cries, Hold, enough!” Macbeth is slain by Macduff. The play ends with Macduff carrying M.’s head and proclaiming Malcolm king of Scotland.