Macbeth Act 5

William Shakespeare

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Appearance vs Reality

Third Apparition:

Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until

Great Burnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill

Shall come against him (4.1.101-103)


As I stand my watch upon the hill

I looked toward Birnam and anon, methought,

The Wood began to move. (5.5.36-38)


The Apparitions give Macbeth various pieces of information

The Apparitions prophecies vs Macbeth's interpretation of them

  1. Macbeth vs Young Siward
  2. Macbeth vs Macduff
  3. Macbeth is murdered
  4. Macbeth is beheaded

Macbeth's ambition got him his crown but it's his tragic flaw so it brings his demise

He begins to doubt the witches after the messenger gives him the news that the forest is moving (actually an army in disguise)

Character Development



“With his surcease, success, that but this blow

Might be-all and end-all here

But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,

We’d jump the life to come.” (1.7.4-7)


“Against my nearest life, and though I could

With barefaced power sweep him from my sight” (3.1.135-136)


“I will not be afraid of death and bane

Till Birnam Forest come to Dusinane” (5.3.68-69)


“And wish the estate of the world were now undone.” (5.5.55)

Lady Macbeth

Two Faced and Careless

“Look like the innocent flower,

But be the serpent under it.” (1.5.72-73)

“A little water will clean us of this deed.” (2.2.80)


“Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One – two –why then ‘tis time to do it. Hell is murky. Fie, my lord, fie!” (5.1.30-31)

“I tell you yet again, Banquo’s buried. He cannot come out on his grave.” (5.1.55-56)



“Hail, King, for thou art.

Behold where stands

The usurper’s cursed head.

The time is free.” (5.8.64-66)

Figurative Language

"Foul whisperings are abroad. Unnatural deeds/Do breed unnatural troubles. Infected minds/To their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets." (5.1.63-65)
  • FORESHADOWS the chaos about to unfold as a result of foul play and wicked occurrences to come
  • ALLUDES to the great chain of being
  • PERSONIFICATION: "deaf pillows" (Though pillows are usually an item for safe sleep, their purpose will change to something much more evil)

"Those he commands move only in command/ Nothing in love. Now does he feel his title/ Hang loose about him, like a giant's robe/Upon a dwarfish thief." (5.2.22-25)

  • FORESHADOWING- What is a loyal king without loyal subjects?
  • IRONIC that acquiring the title of kingship does not come with all the promised benefits
  • A SARCASTIC SIMILE: With a hint of emasculation, angus compares macbeth being king to a dwarf in a giant's robe

"Till Birnam Wood remove to Dunsinane/I cannot taint with fear." (5.3.2-3)

  • PARADOX- it is not common for most forests to uproot themselves
  • Shakespeare formulates a PLAY ON WORDS that doesn't make sense until Scene 4
  • IRONY is shown as Macbeth projects utter confidence

"Then yield thee, coward/ And live to be the show and gaze o' th' time./ We’ll have thee/ as our rarer monsters are/ Painted on a pole, and underwrit/ 'Here may you see the tyrant.'” (5.8.23-27)
  • GRAPHIC IMAGERY- Macduff paints the audience a picture of the tyrant Macbeth experiencing public humiliation
  • SIMILE shown in the statement,"We'll have thee, as our rarer monsters are"; compares Macbeth to abnormal animals seen in freak shows

"Why should I play the Roman fool and die/On mine own sword?" (5.8.1-2)

  • ALLUDES to Ancient Romans, who believed that a death by suicide was much nobler than facing the possibility of being captured and/or tortured by their enemies
  • FUN FACT: Lady Macbeth's death is a matter of controversy among scholars

Figurative Language Continued: Life and Macbeth

1. "I have lived long enough. My way of life/ Is fall'n into the sere, the yellow leaf" (5.3.24-25)
  • METAPHOR: Macbeth compares his current life to that of a withering autumn leaf
  • FORESHADOWS the possibility that his life will soon come to an end

2. "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/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/And then is heard no more." (5.5.22-26)


  • LIFE = A candle, also provides subtle imagery ("dusty death")
  • LIFE = an illusion, compared to an actor with 15 minutes of fame

Key Quotations

1. Macbeth:

Hang out our banners on the outward walls.

The cry is still "They come!" Our castle's strength

Will laugh a siege to scorn. Here let them lie

Till famine and the ague eat them up.

Were they not forced with those that should be


We might have met them dareful, beard to beard,

And beat them backward home. (5.5.1-8)

2. Lady Macbeth

Out, damned spot; out, I say. One, two,—why, then ’tis time to do’t. Hell is murky. Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier and afeard? What need we fear who knows it when none can call our power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?


3. Macbeth

She should have died hereafter;

There would have been a time for such a word.

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

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

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.(5.5.16-27)

Link to Modern Day

  • Rebecca Zahau was a 32 year old girlfriend of millionaire Jonah Shacknai.
  • She felt guilty because his six year old son Max Shacknai got injured under her care.
  • He tumbled down the stairs in the mansion and ended up with severe brains injuries.
  • Max passed away at San Diego Hospital few days after the fall.
  • After the incident Rebecca felt this huge guilt for letting Max get injured.
  • She took her own life two days after Max's death.

Discussion Questions

1. Do you believe that Lady Macbeth influenced Macbeth to become more devious or was that a character trait he always possessed deep within him?

2.Did Macbeth truly loved his wife or was she just subjective to his goal of becoming king?

3. Now that we've finished the play: Do you think Macbeth killing the King was part of the prophecy or his free will?

4. In our world today, should there be more dependence on fate or the choices we make? Explain why.

Macbeth Official US Release Trailer (2015) - Michael Fassbender War Drama HD