'Macbeth' is Shakespeare's most terrifying play. Macbeth, a great general, is on his way home after a
battle. He is in the King of Scotland's army (=King Duncan), and a good and loyal soldier. Suddenly three horrible
witches appear, shouting at him. Frightened, he and his fellow-soldier Banquo hear astonishing news:
The witches hail Macbeth as the future King of Scotland and Banquo's descendants will thereafter also
be kings. Ambitious to become king, Macbeth with the help of his wife, Lady Macbeth, murder Duncan and
recalling the witches' prophesy that Banquo's progeny would become kings, arranges for Banquo also to be
killed at a formal dinner. After Banquo is killed, Macbeth sees the bloody ghost of Banquo. Duncan's son, Malcolm,
is still in Macbeth's way to the throne. That's why Macbeth turns to the witches who have a series of visions:
they explain that the king should beware Macduff, a nobleman, but vow that 'none of woman born' will harm
Macbeth. They also promise that he will be safe until he sees the forest at Birnam Wood rise against him.
In reprisal against Macduff, Macbeth orders the nobleman's wife and children murdered. Malcolm and Macduff
resolve to join forces against Macbeth. Macduff is informed that his family has perished. Lady Macbeth, racked
with guilt, loses her sanity. Macbeth makes ready to do battle with the English. To make estimates of the size
of their force more difficult, the English soldiers march with boughs cut from trees in Birnam Wood, making
it appear the forest is moving. This knowledge is conveyed to Macbeth, as is the fact that his Queen has died.
Macbeth resolves to fight the battle out. In time, he is confronted by Macduff. Macbeth boasts that no man born of woman
can slay him; Macduff informs his adversary that he was not born of a woman. Instead, he was 'from his mother's womb
untimely ripp'd' (=Caesarian). Macduff kills the usurping king; Malcolm ascends to the throne.
Scene V. Dunsinane, Macbeth's castle.
Enter Macbeth, Seyton, and Soldiers, with drum and colours.
Macb. Hang out our banners on the outward walls;
The cry is still They come'. Our castle's strength
5 Will laugh a siege to scorn. Here let them lie
Till famine and the ague eat them up.
Were they not forc'd with those that should be ours,
We might have met them dareful, beard to beard,
And beat them backward home [A cry within of women.]
10 What is that noise?
Sey. lt is the cry of women, my good lord. [Exit]
Macb. I have almost forgot the taste of fears.
The time has been my senses would have cool'd
To hear a night-shriek, and my fell of hair
15 Would at a dismal treatise rouse and stir
As life were in't. I have supp'd full with horrors;
Direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts,
Cannot once start me.
20 Wherefore was that cry?
Sey. The Queen, my lord, is dead.
Macb. She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
25 Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
30 That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Enter a Messenger.
Thou com'st to use thy tongue; thy story quickly
35 Mess. Gracious my lord,
I should report that which I say I saw,
But know not how to do't.
Macb. Well, say, sir.
Mess. As I did stand my watch upon the hill,
40 I look'd toward Birnam, and anon methought
The wood began to move.
Macb. Liar and slave!
Mess, Let me endure your wrath, if't be not so.
Within this three mile may you see it coming;
45 I say, a moving grove.
Macb. lf thou speak'st false,
Upon the next tree shalt thou hang alive,
Till famine cling thee. lf thy speech be sooth,
I care not if thou dost for me as much.
50 I pull in resolution, and begin
To doubt th' equivocation of the fiend
That lies like truth. ‚Fear not, till Birnam wood
Do come to Dunsinane.'And now a wood
Comes toward Dunsinane. Arm, arm, and out.
55 If this which he avouches does appear,
There is nor flying hence nor tarrying here.
I gin to be aweary of the sun,
And wish th'estate o' th' world were now undone.
Ring the alarum bell. Blow wind, come wrack;
60 At least we'll die with harness on our back. [Exeunt.]
5 siege - Belagerung
5 scorn - Hohn, Verachtung
6 ague - Krankheit, Seuche
8 dareful - tapfer
15 treatise - Abhandlung
17 direness - Schrecken, Grauen
30 to strut - stolzieren
30 to fret - sich sorgen, beunruhigen
40 anon - sogleich
43 wrath - Zorn
48 sooth - wahr
51 equivocation - Prophezeiung (der Hexen)
51 fiend - Teufel
55 to avouch - schwören
56 to tarry - abwarten
57 gin - to begin
59 wrack - Verderben
60 harness- kriegerische Rüstung
1. Divide the excerpt into three parts, find headlines for them and
summarize the contents in your own words.
2. The excerpt is full of figurative language and literary devices. Find at least three metaphors,
one synecdoche, two examples of alliteration and one of onomatopoeia. Explain their meanings.
3. Comment on the metrical form of this excerpt.
4. How would you characterize Macbeth? Write c. 100-150 words.