What Is Shakespeare's "Macbeth" About?


Quick Answer

Shakespeare's "Macbeth" is a play that tells the story of a Scottish general named Macbeth, who kills the King of Scotland after three witches tell him he is destined to become king of Scotland. Ruled by fear of losing the throne, Macbeth kills more people to keep the throne. A civil war ensues, and both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth die as a result of their actions.

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Full Answer

Generals Macbeth and Banquo are returning from successful campaigns in Ireland and Norwary at the start of the play, and they encounter three witches outside King Duncan's camp. The witches prophesy over both generals, telling Macbeth he is destined to become the thane of Cawdor and the future king of Scotland. They tell Banquo his descendants are future kings, as well. The witches disappear, and the generals are skeptical until some men at camp congratulate Macbeth for being named thane of Cawdor.

Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth about the prophecy, and she convinces him to kill King Duncan when he comes to stay at their home. Macbeth kills Duncan while he sleeps, making it look as though the chamberlains did it. Macbeth takes the throne but is paranoid over Banquo's prophecy, thinking Banquo's son may take the throne from him. He has Banquo killed, but a visit from Banquo's ghost sends Macbeth into a public rage. He visits the witches, who warn him about Macduff, a nobleman.

Macbeth has Macduff's family executed, and Macduff plans his revenge with Duncan's son, Malcolm, and the army he has raised in England. The Scottish nobility supports Malcolm because they are afraid of Macbeth's behavior. Lady Macbeth commits suicide after sleepwalking and seeing blood on her hands. Macbeth and his army fight against Malcolm's army but are overcome. Macduff beheads Macbeth on the battlefield, and Malcolm is crowned king.

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