Scenes in detail

In the following, we give you a detailed analysis of selected scenes of Shakespeare's Macbeth. The scenes have been chosen according to their popularity and general importance to the overall plot of the play. Note that our scene analyses are no substitute for actually reading and analyzing the text yourself. 

Here you can read an extract from our study guide:

Act 1, Scene 3 gives a deeper insight into the witches. Before Macbeth and Banquo arrive, we see them telling each other what they have been up to. One of them has been “killing swine” (1.3.2), which was considered a very witch-like activity at the time. 

Another witch is plotting revenge on a sailor because his wife would not give her some of her delicious chestnuts. The witch now plans to curse the husband so that he becomes unable to sleep: “sleep shall neither night nor day/ Hang upon his penthouse lid;/ He shall live a man forbid.” (1.3.20-22). This curse foreshadows what will happen to Macbeth: Once he has murdered Duncan, he is unable to sleep properly anymore.

Finally, the three witches prepare a spell, concluding with the words: “the charm’s wound up.” (1.3.38). This indicates that they are using evil magic to ensnare Macbeth who enters right after. This gives the impression that Macbeth was not just tempted by the prophecy itself; he was also enchanted by their evil magic. You could argue that this takes away some of the responsibility for Macbeth’s cruel actions.

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