Macbeth Plot Summary

Excited to see Macbeth at Fort Point, but want to brush up on the story before you see it? Look no further!

Read on for a plot summary of Shakespeare’s tragedy brought to you by our co-directors, Ava and John.

 

Ancient Scotland: Macbeth, a small-time thane (chieftain), is instrumental in defeating a very powerful rebellion against the aging King Duncan. On the trek home from battle with his comrade-in-arms Banquo, three “Weird Sisters” appear and prophecy that Macbeth will be king and that Banquo will father a long line of kings. Next, Duncan promotes Macbeth for his part in the war and names his son Malcome heir to the throne. The king and his retinue will stay with the Macbeths that night on their way home from the front.

Macbeth returns to his castle ahead of the others and confides in his wife, who persuades him to kill the king. Lady Macbeth hosts a party, drugging all the guests, thus laying the groundwork for the murder. Macbeth, weary still from battle and rattled by inner turmoil, does the deed. Macduff, a powerful thane who has not spent the night, arrives in the morning to find the king dead. Macbeth, pretending vengeance, kills the king’s two bodyguards, and Malcome flees to England.

Macbeth is crowned King, but, still unable to sleep and afraid of the sisters’ prophecy, he hires two servants to kill his friend Banquo and Banquo’s son Fleance. During the muddled assassination, Fleance escapes. At another banquet, Macbeth confronts Banquo’s bloody ghost, much to the confusion of the thanes loyal to Macbeth, whose numbers are beginning to dwindle. By now, Lady Macbeth is losing her grip on sanity.

Macbeth returns to the Weird Sisters who present him with two consoling riddles: His power is safe until the forest approaches his castle and no man “born of woman” will ever threaten his life. However, Banquo’s line of kings will “stretch out to the crack of doom.” The Thane of Ross appears on the empty heath with news that Macduff has fled to England to join forces with Malcome. Macbeth, “stepped in blood so far,” orders the utter destruction of Macduff’s entire clan.

In England, Macduff pledges his support to Malcome and learns from Ross that his wife and children have been slaughtered. Aligned against the tyrant and with the support of the English forces, Macduff and Malcome lead the charge towards Dunsinane.

As overwhelming forces approach Macbeth’s castle, the crazed Lady Macbeth dies. The attacking soldiers disguise their numbers by carrying branches hacked from the forest, breach the walls and fight Macbeth’s remaining soldiers. Macduff meets Macbeth who prevails in the ensuing duel until he learns that his adversary was not “born of woman” but was “from his mother’s womb untimely ripp’d!” Macbeth loses his head and young Malcome is crowned the new King of Scotland.

— Ava Roy & John Hadden, Co-Directors of Macbeth at Fort Point 2014

3 thoughts on “Macbeth Plot Summary

  1. Went to preview last Friday, having seen your previous performance, before the government shut-down. It was great, performances even better than last time, but missed the trees of Birnam Wood! The smudged faces not nearly as effective. I hope you plan to use it in the upcoming program.

  2. D,
    Thank you for attending a performance of our remount production! Yes, it was a new artistic choice to change the Birnam Wood scene to involve audience members in different ways. Thank you for your feedback! Perhaps the branches will make a reappearance in the future!

  3. My husband and I also went to one of last year’s performances and attended again last night (6/10) with friends, and we all missed Birnam Wood, even the members of our group who hadn’t seen this production before! We found the smudged faces and lack of Birnam Wood not as effective and actually somewhat confusing, so we hope you’ll reinstate the Wood in future productions. Excellent job, again, with the rest of the staging and performances!

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