ISC Class 12 Macbeth Act 5 Summary
Macbeth Act 5 Scene 1 Summary
This is the famous sleep-walking scene. There is no hint of it in Holinshed. Lady Macbeth suffers from somnambulism (sleeplessness). She walks as she sleeps. She sleeps and keeps awake at sametime. It is a strange illness. Every night she gets up from her bed, dresses herself in a night-gown, and with a lighted taper in her hand passing from room to room, muttering strange fancies to herself. In this scene we have a vivid representation of the sleep-walking Lady.
In Dunsinane castle a doctor and Lady Macbeth’s waiting gentlewoman are discussing Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking. While they talk Lady Macbeth enters, carrying a candle. She tries to get rid of the oppression of her secret by committing it to paper. The doctor explains it as the agitation of the mind. Lady Macbeth enters with a taper. She has light by her continually. Darkness frightens her. She rubs her hand continually in an attempt to wipe away the stain of blood. (Washing mania) Old memories come in a disorderly fashion.
She taunts her husband. She recalls her old words to her husband before the murder. “Who dares receive it?” The sight of Duncan lying in a pool of blood has been a persistent memory with her. She recalls the horror of it even in sleep. She questions her husband about the Wife of Macduff. His hands are always red with blood. Lady Macbeth gives out the secret here.
The same old persistent spot in the hand comes back to her mind. She feels now that the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten the damned spot. She remembers the Banquet scene. She exhorts her husband. The knocking of Act II Scene ii comes back to her mind. She is filled with consternation. She goes back to bed.
The sleepwalking scene shows the broken, shattered lady. She is a shadow of her former self. The resolute, ruthless, fiend-like Lady has been reduced to a pale woman creeping from bed and mumbling incoherently, throwing up dreadful memories. There are however indications of this development of this Lady. Her fierce exterior conceals a soft core.
The sleep walking scene is filled with ironical overtone. It is an ironical travesty by Lady Macbeth of the heroic Lady of the first act. After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth says, “Macbeth doth murder sleep”. Lady Macbeth cannot understand what he says. She too murdered sleep. This scene is indeed an ironic commentary on her complacency after the murder.
Macbeth Act 5 Scene 2 Summary
This scene tells about the rebel Scottish Lords who prepare to join with Malcolm’s English forces near Birnam wood for a united attack against Macbeth. Malcolm and with English Siward to help them are now on the March towards Scotland; the Scottish nobles are also coming out to join gorges with them. There is significant departure from Holinshed. Shakespeare would have believe us that yhr thanes deserted Macbeth. But this is not what Holinshed tells us. We learn that no one any longer serves Macbeth from a sense of love and loyalty and that Macbeth is finding it difficult to keep his men under control. This scene is purely informative and it emphases Macbeth’s gradual isolation.
Macbeth Act 5 Scene 3 Summary
Macbeth is in the castle of Dunsinane.He hears the reports of the thanes falling away from him more and more everyday. But Macbeth is determined to meet the situation bravely because of his strong faith in the prophecies of the witches – that he will have no cause for fear till Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane and that no one “born of woman” will have power to hurt him. In his castle Macbeth, deserted by his former supporters, puts a desperate trust in the prophecies of the witches and apparitions.
A servant, who tries to report the proximity and size of the enemy armies, warns of violent reproof from Macbeth for his pains. Macbeth orders his one remaining officer, Seyton, to scour the countryside and hang all those who take of fear or desertion. He finds no solace in the doctor’s diagnosis of Lady Macbeth’s condition and asks him to diagnose and cure Scotland’s illness.
The materials of the scene are taken from Holinshed. Holinshed tells that Macbeth’s friends asked him to take the help of foreigners, but Macbeth is so confident of his security that he did not do anything. He was sure that he would not be vanquished. Shakespeare however emphasises his mental insecurity and restlessness. He is not at peace with himself. He feels sick and tired, and again he is lashed into fury and desperation.
His language is violent and again there is a tender note when he pines for the loss of ‘honour, love, obedience and troops of friends’. His moods give rise to an ambivalent attitude- even in our disgust and horror, we feel a movement of compassion for the tyrant. Even in adversity he shows his practicality and brutality in having people put to death, but his questioning of the doctor strikes a pathetic note, for his own mind is “diseased” and the care he urges fr Lady Macbeth applies most terribly so himself.
Macbeth Act 5 Scene 4 Summary
The English Force led by Malcolm, Macduff and Siward has now reached Scotland, and has advanced as far as Birnam wood. The combined forces against Macbeth is ordered by Malcolm to cut boughs from the trees of Birnam wood to use as camouflage during their movement towards Dunsinane. Malcolm assures Siward that those who remain with Macbeth are acting under duress and have no loyalty to their master.
Imminent battle is the keynote. Tension is mounting with the dramatic and ironic fulfilment of the prophecy brought nearer by Malcolm’s instructions to his soldiers. “The toils of retribution close quickly around him”.
When Malcolm gives order that every soldier shall “hew him down a bough and bear’t before hom”, we are at once aware how the witches’ promise, that Macbeth will not be defeated until Birnam Wood moves to Dunsinane, is open to a different meaning, and how Macbeth has been beguiled.
Macbeth Act 5 Scene 5 Summary
Macbeth is waiting in Dunsinane Castle; his castle can endure a seizure. He hears the cry of a woman which announces the fact that Lady Macbeth has taken her own life. He ponders on the nature of existence- everything leads to death. Then a messenger enters to tell him that he has seen Birnam wood move. Macbeth prepares himself for fight. Macbeth can now forder his approaching doom, but with a desperate courage he decides to die fighting.
Macbeth’s mental defence against the odds is now almost shattered. His bravado in the openings of the scene is reduced to emptiness when he is told of his wife’s death. Life does not signify anything to him now. The report of Birnam Wood’s movement confirms to him the deceptiveness of the Witches’ promise. Aware now of the futility of the struggle, he becomes desperate and raises himself to fight to his death. The scene also brings out Macbeth in all glory of his pride and brooding self-analysis. The scene shows the regeneration of Macbeth in his self recovery from delusion and audacity of follies.
Macbeth Act 5 Scene 6 Summary
It shows the progress of the battle. The English Force has come close up to Macbeth’s castle. Malcolm, Macduff and old Siward on a plain before the castle, preparing to shed their boughs and fight. Malcolm asks his soldiers to throw down their “leave screens” and gives battle-orders to his commanders. It is a short scene conveying the activity prior to battle.
Macbeth is on the battlefield. He finds himself surrounded by the enemies. Macbeth kills young Siward in a single combat. Evidently, there is no heart for fight among Macbeth’s followers, and the castle is surrendered almost without resistance.
Macbeth Act 5 Scene 7 Summary
Macbeth finds consolation in the prophecy that no one born of a woman can defeat him. Macbeth’s bravery is still evident. He will not surrender inside of all the odds against him. But he is no longer Bellona’s bridegroom. Now he fights from instinct, like a wild animal clinging to life. He compares himself to a bear tied to a post and baited with dogs. He cannot fight but still he tries to fight. He still has hopes of success, for he cannot be killed except by a person not born of woman. But there can be no such person.
Macbeth Act 5 Scene 8 Summary
There is no scene division in the Folio.at this point. Most editors follow Pope and Johnson in beginning a new scene. Macbeth will not play the Roman fool (like Cato and Brutus) and commit suicide. Macduff meets Macbeth, and Macduff reveals that he was “from his mother’s womb untimely ripped off. He now realises that the witches are in reality” equivocating fiends”, and none should trust them.
Macduff calls uponMacbeth to surrender and prepare for the humiliation that will be heaped upon him. Macbeth, refusing to suffer such degradation, puts up a fight and is slain in the encounter. They fight, and Macbeth is killed, but not before he has denounced the witches for their double sense’. Thus the prophecy has come true.
Macbeth Act 5 Scene 9 Summary
There is jubilation in the English camp, as Macduff comes from the field with Macbeth’s head held high on a pole for all to see. Their victory has been complete, though they have also suffered heavy losses. Malcolm is hailed by all as the king of Scotland. He makes his trusted Thanes, ‘Earls’, the first-ever in Scotland.
He also promises to reward them all suitably after his coronation at Scone, to which he invites all of them. Thus disorder represented by Macbeth is put down and replaced by order, symbolised by Malcolm, the new king of the country. His victory is the victory of good over evil. The play ends with the re-assertion of legitimate kingship at Scotland and of the normal order of the universe. Scotland is now restored “to a sound of pristine health”.