Macbeth: Act I

By: Nolis, Patrick, Michelle H, Lucas, Ryan, Julia

Summary: Introduction of Characters

"Instruments of Darkness"

- Three Witches (Weird Sisters)

Royal Household of Scotland

- King Duncan

- Malcolm (elder son of Duncan)

- Donalbain (younger son of Duncan)

Noblemen of Scotland

- Lennox, Ross & Angus (noblemen)

- Banquo (a general in Duncan's army)

- Macbeth (a general in Duncan's army)

- Lady Macbeth (Macbeth's wife)

- Sergeant (survivor of battle/soldier in the Scottish army)

Other Side Characters

- Macdonwald of the Western Isles (rebel)

- King Sweno of Norway

- Thane of Cawdor (to be executed)

- Sailor and his wife who loves chestnuts

- Sinel (Macbeth's deceased father)


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Analysis: Theme 1 - VIOLENCE

- Represents the degradation of man through the bloodthirsty nature of human greed (portrayed literally).

- Scene ii opens with a bloodied sergeant recalling the battles of Macbeth and Banquo (1.2.9-35)

- Proclaimed execution of Thane of Cawdor (1.2.72-73).

- Lady Macbeth's violent analogy: "I would, while it was smiling in my face, / Have plucked my nipple form his boneless gums / And dashed the brains out had I so sworn..." (1.7.61-63).

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Analysis: Theme 2 - INNER CONFLICT

Macbeth's consideration of murder

- "Against the use of nature" (1.3.149).

- "My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, / Shakes so my single state of man" (1.3.151-152).

- Foreign thoughts invade his mind

Macbeth is ambitious but wimpy

- "Thou wouldst be great, / Art not without ambition, but without / The illness should attend it" (1.5.16-18).

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Analysis: Theme 3 - POWER AND GREED

- Norway invasion (1.2.33-35).

- Macbeth's prophecies are based on noble status (1.3.49-53).

- His greed for power is so strong that he would go to such great lengths to seize it; through murder.

- "I am settled, and bend up / Each corporal agent to this terrible feat" (1.7.90-91).

- Macbeth controlling the fate of royalty may be compensation for his inability to control his inner evil nature.

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Analysis: Theme 4 - LIGHT VS. DARK

The idea that there is a opposing force for every existence.

- "Fair is foul, and foul is fair" (1.1.11).

- "As whence the sun begins his reflection / Shipwrecking storms and direful thunders break, / So from that spring whence comfort seemed to come / Discomfort swells" (1.2.28-30).

- "Stars, hide your fire! / Let not light see my black and deep desire" (1.4.58-59).

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Figurative Language






Character Development

  • Macbeth was moral in the beginning
  • Then he begins to question his moral
  • Finally after being persuaded by his wife he abandons his morals and aid in King Duncan's death

Key Quotations

  • "All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be King forever"(1.3.53)
  • Sisters predicted that Macbeth would be King leading Macbeth to have to possibly kill King Duncan
  • "Fair is foul, and foul is fair"(1.1.11-12)
  • The sisters talk about how the moral order of the world they inhabit has been reversed(ex Cawdor traitor, Macbeth deciding to kill the King, etc.
  • "What cannot you and I perform upon the unguarded Duncan? What not put upon his spongy officers, who shall bear the guilt of our great quell"(1.7.76-79)
  • Lady Macbeth continued to push Macbeth into making the decision to kill Duncan assuring him nothing would go wrong

Quotation 1 – Fair and Foul?

Fair is foul, and foul is fair;

Hover through the fog and filthy air. (1.1.12-13)

  • A Motif seen in the play.
  • A Paradox
  • Simply it means that appearances are often deceptive, and that things are different from what they appear to be. This line focuses on the inconsistency between appearance and reality found throughout the play.
  • This motif relates to various characters in the play, specifically to Macbeth. In line 116 Act I, Scene 111, when he questions whether the predictions of the witches for his future are fair or foul. And again when we first hear Macbeth speak, in line 39 Act I, Scene III, where he compares victory with the weather.
  • The weather is "foul" - bad - but the day is "fair" - good, because they have won. The day is foul and fair at once.

Quotation 2 – Masculinity vs Femininity

" The raven himself is hoarse

That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan

Under my battlements. Come, you spirits

That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,

And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full

Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood,

Stop up th’access and passage to remorse,

That no compunctious visitings of nature

Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between

Th’ effect and it. Come to my woman’s breasts,

And take my milk for gall, you murd’ring ministers,

Wherever in your sightless substances

You wait on nature’s mischief. Come, thick night,

And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,

That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,

Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,

To cry ‘Hold, hold! "(1.5.41-57).

  • At this point in the play we have already seen Macbeth’s uncertainty about whether he should take the crown by killing Duncan. In this speech, there is no such confusion, as Lady Macbeth is clearly willing to do whatever is necessary to seize the throne.

  • Lady Macbeth has a strength and purpose, which is shown in contrast to her husband who can be uncertain about things. This speech shows the audience that lady Macbeth is Macbeth's backbone.
  • Certain language she uses make it so she pokes fun at masculine characteristics that her husband possesses, this brings the theme of gender roles into the play.
  • Her language suggests that her womanhood is represented by the milk of her breasts, something that is usually seen as very motherly. This hinders her from performing acts of violence and cruelty which she associates with manliness.

Link to Modern Day

- Macbeth had to make a risky decision when hearing King Duncan's son would heir to the throne.

- Had to choose whether to kill King Duncan in order to be King or allow Duncan's son to be King

- In danger of facing huge consequences (being labeled a traitor and being executed)

- In 2009 Obama had to make a risky decision to sign the American Recovery and reinvestment act which basically bails out both some of the larger banks in America who were in large debt, in order to create jobs immediately and preserve economy.

- In the end he took the risk and it worked out, but had it not Obama would, like Macbeth, have faced sever consequences and scrutiny.

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Discussion Questions

1) Since Macbeth has difficulty following through with his ambitions, how do you think this quality will affect him if he does become a powerful king who must make bold decisions for his country?

2) During Shakespeare's time, women had minimal functionality within society, why do you think that the character, Lady Macbeth is portrayed to have almost complete control over her husband?

3) The Three Witches prophesize that Macbeth will be the King of Scotland. Do you think that Macbeth's plan to murder King Duncan is the natural course of this prophecy or is Macbeth unknowingly changing his fate?