CENE 1 Three witches gather and say that they’ll meet with Macbeth before sunset and after a terrible battle that has been fought nearby. The three witches are later referred to as “the three weird sisters.” Remember: “Fair is foul and foul is fair.”
ACT I, SCENE 2 The scene is set on a battlefield where Macbeth’s army has been fighting the army of the traitor Macdonwald. The King, Duncan, asks a brave soldier to comment on the course of the battle. This sergeant has proved his valor by fighting to save the King’s son, Malcolm, from capture by the rebel Macdonwald’s forces.
ACT I, SCENE 2, CONT. The Sergeant says that… The battle was evenly matched – with the “whore” Fortune smiling temporarily on Macdonwald… until Macbeth “brandished his steel, which smoked with bloody execution.” Macbeth carved his way through Macdonwald’s men until “he came face-to-face with the slave (Macdonwald)...” …at which point Macbeth “unseamed him (Macdonwald) from the nave to the chops and stuck his head upon the battlements.”
ACT I, SCENE 2, CONT. Macdonwald’s men run – “trusting their heels.” The King of Norway fights on the side of Macdonwald. Norway hopes that a successful uprising by the traitor will allow him to capitalize on his support and gain political power in Scotland. At this point, Norway sends his fresh forces onto the field to fight Macbeth and Banquo’s tired and battle-worn men. Duncan asks: “Didn’t this dismay Macbeth (and Macbeth’s co-leader, Banquo)?” The Sergeant replies: “Yes. Like the sparrow dismays the eagle or the rabbit dismays the lion.”
ACT I, SCENE 2, CONT. Macbeth’s men defeat Norway’s army, and then march to Fife, where Norway – here working with the traitor the Thane of Cawdor – has a second force battling the loyal Scottish thane, Ross and his troops. Remember: “Thane” = “Lord” or “Duke” Macbeth wins there, too. The King orders that the traitor Cawdor be executed and that Macbeth be named the new Thane of Cawdor in gratitude for his awesome performance on the battlefield.
ACT I, SCENE 3 Macbeth and Banquo ride from the battlefield. Macbeth observes: “So foul and fair a day I have not seen.” Where have we heard this before? Macbeth and Banquo happen across the three weird sisters, who greet Macbeth: “Hail Thane of Glamis.” “Hail Thane of Cawdor.” “Hail he that shalt be king hereafter.”
ACT I, SCENE 3, CONT. The greeting unnerves Macbeth. He already is Thane of Glamis (that was his father’s title, he inherited it). Macbeth knows, though, that he cannot be Thane of Cawdor. “The Thane of Cawdor yet lives…” Macbeth wonders (he knows; he is responsible for Cawdor’s arrest as a traitor on the battlefield). “Why do you dress me in borrowed robes?” Macbeth asks. Macbeth is even more flabbergasted at the witches’ suggestion that he could ever be king.
Act I, Scene 3, cont.• While Macbeth thinks-through the witches’ greeting, Banquo asks them about himself.• About Banquo the witches say • “You are lesser than Macbeth, but greater.” • “You are not so happy as Macbeth, but happier.” • “You are not a king, but you will be the father of kings.”
ACT I, SCENE 3, CONT. Ross and Lennox arrive, and greet Macbeth as “Thane of Cawdor.” They tell him that Duncan has promoted him in gratitude for his bravery and loyalty, and that Duncan wants to meet with Macbeth and Banquo so he can personally deliver his thanks. “Can the devil speak true?” wonders Macbeth. Banquo suggests that all of what the witches said must be true.
ACT I, SCENE 3, CONT. Macbeth ponders this, and wonders whether the witches are good, or evil. “If their prediction is evil, how could it have been fulfilled… and fulfilled for the good (i.e. “with me replacing the traitorous Cawdor.”) “BUT,” he continues, “if what they said was good, why is the last part of their prediction evil (i.e. that Macbeth will have to somehow unseat Duncan and Malcolm and Donalbain)?” So: what Macbeth thinks about is whether the witches are foul creatures making fair predictions or fair creatures making foul ones. Where have we heard this before?
Act I, Scene 4• The King says to Macbeth that there is no way he can fully repay him both for helping to save his eldest son Malcolm from capture and for driving-off the traitors Macdonwald and Cawdor.• Duncan then announces that he has an important announcement to make regarding an official declaration as to who will inherit his throne.• Could it be?......• Yes! Malcolm has been named Prince of Cumberland and next in line to the throne! Why would Macbeth have any hopes that he would be elevated even ahead of the King’s own son? What is Macbeth’s reaction to this announcement?
ACT I, SCENE 4, CONT. Important: In this scene, Duncan says … “There is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face. He (the executed Thane of Cawdor) was a gentleman on whom I built an absolute trust.” In other words…?
Freytag’s TriangleIn Technique of the Drama (1863), Gustav Freytag outlined what heconsidered to be the most successful structure for a play, based on thewritings of Aristotle, Shakespeare, and other he considered to beoutstanding playwrights. Briefly, Freytag believed the action of the playcould be organized in the shape of a triangle, stressing that there shouldbe five distinct parts: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/lit_resources/english%20102/miscellaneous/freytag.htm 3. Climax 2. Complication 4. Falling action 1. Introduction (exposition) 5. Conclusion (dénoument)
THEMES ESTABLISHED THUS FAR IN MACBETH “Fair vs. Foul” “Borrowed robes” “Why do you dress me in borrowed robes; the Thane of Cawdor yet lives.” “New honors hang on Macbeth like new clothes; they cleave not to their mold but with aid of use.” Banquo says this to Lennox and Ross while Macbeth is lost in thought. One cannot read a man’s mind in his face. Our outward appearance does not reveal our inward thoughts/plans.
ACT I, SCENE 5 Lady Macbeth reads a letter sent by her husband in which he relates the details of what the witches have predicted and what Duncan has done. He tells his wife that he’s invited Duncan to their castle as a guest. She begins to formulate her plan to assassinate Duncan.
ACT I, SCENE 5, CONT. Lady Macbeth asks “spirits that tend on mortal thoughts” to unsex her. She continues, saying: “Come to my woman’s breasts and take my milk for gall.” She reveals her intentions to her husband. Macbeth dismisses her immediately. Lady Macbeth reminds her husband that he is too loyal to the king and that her plan has obviously upset him. “Your face, my thane, is as a book where men may read strange matters.” Where have we heard this before? Lady Macbeth also urges her husband to consider treachery as the quick way to become king. Deceit is easy: “Look like the innocent flower,” she says, “But be the serpent under it.” Lady Macbeth knows that her husband is “too full of the milk of human kindness” to “catch the nearest way” to power.
Act I, Scene 6• Duncan arrives at Macbeth’s castle (Inverness) and comments on its pleasantness and “good vibe.” Dramatic Irony.Dramatic Irony happens when the audience knows more about what is going on in a drama/comedy than one or more of the characters know. Dramatic irony is a staple of horror movies. we – the audience – know that the psycho-killer is hiding with his machete in the basement where the cute girl and her obnoxious boyfriend are about to go make-out.• Lady Macbeth welcomes him cordially, giving no hint of her real intentions.• Duncan remarks on how happy he is to be with Macbeth and his wife: “I love him greatly, and will continue to show him favor.”
Act I, Scene 7• Macbeth’s first soliloquy: “If it were done when it is done, then it is better it were done quickly.”• He is here in double-proof, Macbeth says, reminding us that Duncan is not just Macbeth’s sovereign, but his cousin as well.• In the same speech, Macbeth comments that as Duncan’s host he “should lock the door against any murderer” not bear the knife himself. Macbeth continues to observe that Duncan has been a good and benevolent king, not worthy of any treachery against him.• Macbeth decides that he and his wife will make no more plots against Duncan: “We will proceed no further in this business.”• She calls him a wuss. “When you dared to do the deed, then you were a man… now that [our opportunity] has presented itself… you [are] impotent.” [1, 7, 50ff.]• She also reminds Macbeth that had she promised so, she would “dash the brains out” of a baby even in the act of nursing the infant.