ISC Class 12 Macbeth Act 1 Summary
Macbeth Act 1 Scene 1 Summary
It is a short scene of twelve lines only. The scene is laid in an open, desolate place in Scotland. The weather is foul, and there is thunder and lightning. Witches are the concrete symbols of evil in human nature. They are the embodiments of the malign forces in Nature and in human nature. They thus suggest the underlying spiritual forces of the play. The witches delight in the reversal of values.
They belong to the world of darkness and mischief (Saturn). The symbolise forces opposite to the moral orders presided over by God. In such foul weather three witches meet in the open place. From their conversation we learn that they intend to meet again on some heath before the end of the day, as soon as the battle which is being fought at the time is over.
They would assemble there to meet Macbeth, on his way back from the battle.The scene is a stroke of genius. It is at once known that in the present play values are all Topsy- turvy, and what is Evil is considered good by its tragic hero, Macbeth. The scene is also dramatically effective for it startles and at
once captures attention. The hostile weather, the “fog and filthy air”, and the loathsome witches croaking out riddles create a world of darkness and foulness in keeping with the sinister designs of Macbeth Macbeth and his wife to be seen later. In Holinshed which is the source of the play, Macbeth, there are ‘certain wizards’ and ‘a certain witch’ besides the weird sisters. For dramatic economy Shakespeare has made three witches do all that the wizards and the witches and the horrible creatures do in Holinshed.
Macbeth Act 1 Scene 2 Summary
The scene is a glorification of Macbeth. The scene is laid in a camp near Forres in Scotland. As the curtain rises King Duncan. his two sons- Malcolm and Donalbainare shown in the camp. A bleeding sergeant comes to tell them the news from the battlefield. He presents Macbeth as the decision factor and Ross gives the same impression from his point of view. We get a remarkable picture of Macbeth as a kind of superman, a fearless, ferocious, almost invulnerable. champion of right of treachery.
The picture of brave Macbeth- “bridegroom and Valour’s minion” – presented in this scene should be compared with our impression of him at the close of the play. The reports stress the heroism of Macbeth, of Duncan’s general’s who killed Macdonwald and then, joined by Banquo, defeated the combined forces of Norway and Cawdor and forced Norway to sue for a truce and to pay an indemnity. Duncan orders the execution of Cawdor and conferment of his title on brave Macbeth.
The scene does not advance the action of the play, but it tells us much about Macbeth, about his loyalty to the king, and of his exemplary courage and heroism. He has fought bravely and defeated the rebels. As a matter of fact there were two vastness, but Shakespeare has telescoped them into one, in the interest of dramatic effectiveness.
Macbeth Act 1 Scene 3 Summary
This part of the scene is a continuation of the opening scene- the witches are waiting for Macbeth. They are the hags of superstition and more than that. They are concrete symbols of the malign forces of the universe. They are also living beings-old withered women with skinny lips and choppy fingers, killing swine for simple amusement and taking cruel revenge on a sailor for denying them the nuts by the sailor’s wife. The three witches meet again on a desolate heath, according to their decision in Act 1 scene of the play.
They wait there to meet Macbeth, who would soon reach the place on his way back from the battlefield. They dance and cast their wicked spells till Macbeth and Banquo arrive. They greet the two and make their prophecy. They greet Macbeth as the Thane of Cawdor and also foretell that he would be the King of Scotland hereafter. They prophesied that Banquo’s sons would be the future kings of Scotland.
The first prophecy is fulfilled soon after as Ross and Angus come to inform Macbeth that the title of Cawdor has been conferred upon him, and the present Thane of Cawdor is to be beheaded shortly for his treachery. The three witches speak in enigmatic language and vanish leaving Macbeth in suspense and expectation.
This is the temptation scene. Macbeth is tempted more by himself than by the witches. “The idea of fulfilling it (the prophecy) of the witches are presented simply as dangerous circumstances with which Macbeth has to deal. The witches do not solicit. They simply announce events. Fascinated by this speedy proof of the witch’s foreknowledge, Macbeth is “rapt” and he begins to speculate to himself upon the prospect of becoming the king in future.
While Macbeth is disturbed and frightened, Banquo remains calm and skeptical. When Macbeth is “All hailed” as “King hereafter”, he starts in the manner of a “guilty thing surprised”. On the other hand, Banquo remains level-headed and conscious of the fact that men can easily be tempted into wrong-doing by such “instruments of darkness”.
Macbeth Act 1 Scene 4 Summary
The scene is laid in Forres in a room of King Duncan’s place. In the royal place at Forres, Duncan hears his son Malcolm relate how the treacherous but penitent Cawdor faced his execution with dignity. Macbeth and Banquo arrive and are warmly welcomed by the king.
Macbeth has thus already become the Thane of Cawdor. Duncan designates Malcolm as heir to the throne that confers upon him the title of Prince of Cumberland. This is an obstacles to Macbeth’s hope of gaining the throne The king out of gratitude decides to visit Macbeth’s castle at Inverness. Macbeth leaves to make preparation for the reception of the king.
Thus Duncan invites himself to his own death. Macbeth may have secret hope that he will be proclaimed their to the throne (Macbeth is the king’s cousin, and he has saved the country from threats to destruction. Moreover. succession in Scotland was not hereditary; it was settled by nomination by the reigning king). This is a step. on which Macbeth must fall or overlap. So his thought of murder is again roused. The trustful generous king invites himself to his own tragedy.
The scene is a departure from Holinshed. En Holinshed there is the creation of Malcolm as the prince of Cumberland. and there is the suggestion of Macbeth’s mental trouble. Holinshed does not say anything about Duncan’s declaration to visit Macbeth’s castle. Holinshed keeps it vague as to whether the king was killed in Inverness or Bothgowanan. Shakespeare suggests how natural relationships, honorable bonds and the political order are soon to be violated.
“There’s no art to and the mind’s construction in the face” which are fully applicable to Macbeth also. His soliloquy at the end shows that he is already thinking of getting throne by foul means :
Thur is a step
On which must fall down, else o’er leap,
For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires,
Let not light see my black and deep desires:
The eye wink at the hand, yet let that be.
Which the eve fears, where is done, to see.
It is as if Fate is driving him to his doom.
Macbeth Act 1 Scene 5 Summary
The scene is Shakespeare’s invention. There is no precise original for this scene in Holinshed. Holinshed only tells that in his plan of murdering the king, Macbeth was “great encouraged” by his wife who “lay sore upon him to attempt the thing” she was very ambitious to bear the name of the queen
The scene is laid in Macbeth’s castle in Inverness. In Inverness castle, Lady Macbeth, reading a letter from Macbeth which describes his meeting with the Witches, immediately realises that she must encourage her husband “to catch the nearest way” seize the throne.
The prophecy can be fulfilled only through the murder of Duncan, and now that the king would be their guest for the night, they have a good opportunity to do so. But Lady Macbeth is afraid of the noble nature of her husband who is too “full of the milk of human kindness”, as so unfit from such a task. She says,
Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be
What thou art promis’d; yet do I fear thy nature,
It is too full so prime the milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way; thou wouldst be great;
Are not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend ot; what thou wouldst highly
That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false,
And yet wouldst wrongly win.
She, therefore, decides to chastise him “with the vapour of her tongue” and remove all obstacles that lie in his way to “the golden round” and thus make the prophecy of the witches a reality. The scene introduces us to the second great character of the drama, Lady Macbeth. She is a woman of iron will and determination and it is she who will goad him on to murder. She does not hesitate like Macbeth, she has no scruples like those of Macbeth. She can concentrate on her task.
She is decisive, determined and cruel. She offers a cntrastto Macbeth who is indecisive, dithering and overwhelmed with the varied aspects and consequences of the murder. She, however, does not understand herself. She cannot appreciate Macbeth’s imagination, his conscience. She mistakes conscience for cowardice, she even over power. herself. She does violence to her feminine instinct and has to pay the penalty for it.
Macbeth’s letter to his wife must have been written somewhere between scene iii and scene iv after his meeting with the witches, and effort his meeting with Duncan. Her soliloquy, after she has read the letter of Macbeth, shows that they had talked on some previous occasion of the possibility of Macbeth getting the crown of Scotland. She would now proceed to make the possibility a reality. So the fate of poor Duncan is sealed.
Macbeth Act 1 Scene 6 Summary
This is a quiet scene interposed between two stormy scenes. It is a magnificent and elaborate specimen of dramatic irony. It anticipates the grim tragedy. The scene introduces the sunshine- the daylight. (Most of the scent: of the tragedy are dark). The scene reveals the tension and emphasis the grimnrss by ironic contrast.
Duncan, his two sons, Banquo, and other attendant Lords arrive at Macbeth’s castle. They are graciously welcomed by Lady Macbeth. They admire the peaceful atmosphere of the place. Lady Macbeth seems almost to overdo her humble greetings but the king suspects nothing.
The appearance of the castle and that of its mistress are both pleasant. But as Duncan himself had remarked earlier, appearances are deceptive. He does not even cream that he is about to enter a den of crime, from where he will never return alive. Lady Macbeth’s appearance as the perfect, loyal hostess constantly reminds us of her advice to Macbeth in the earlier scene,
Look like the innocent flower
But be the serpent under….
and further illustrates the hypocrisy in her character. Also to be noted is the dramatic irony in Duncan’s admiration to the location of the castle where hevis fated to meet his doom.
Macbeth Act 1 Scene 7 Summary
It is night and the scene is laid in the castle of Macbeth. The stage-directions of the mind is revealed here. That the banquet in honour the royal guest has been going on. Macbeth quits the banquet. Fears and scruples shake him. Thus is a very critical point in the action of the play. The scene shows the infinite deeps of the human heart.
Macbeth cannot see his guest at the table. He is overpowered by fears and scruples. He debates the question of murder. He considers the practical consequences as well as the moral issues involved. He sees how he will be alienated from humanity by this “deep damnation of his taking off”. Macbeth’s wide imaginative power is at its best here.
Lady Macbeth however urges him on by reproof, taunts etc and then Macbeth is again led to the resolve on murder. This the sea – saw movement of the mind is revealed here. Macbeth’s soliloquy is the example of his supreme example of visual imagination. Lady Macbeth’s inflexible will and grim determination are shown as contrasts to Macbeth’s indecisiveness and hesitations. Lady Macbeth has single-minded devotion to the task of murder, while Macbeth is distracted by the wider aspects and moral issues involved.