MACBETH ACT 5

Anouska Temple
Note by Anouska Temple, updated more than 1 year ago
Anouska Temple
Created by Anouska Temple over 3 years ago
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GCSE English Literature (MACBETH) Note on MACBETH ACT 5, created by Anouska Temple on 02/02/2017.

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SCENE 1 In ScotlandBack in Scotland, at Macbeth's castle in Dunsinane, a doctor waits with one of Lady Macbeth's gentlewomen. They're keeping an eye out for Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking, which the gentlewoman reported began once Macbeth left to prepare the house for battle. Seems like Lady Macbeth has been saying and doing some freaky things on these nightly strolls. They proceed to watch Lady Macbeth ramble through a tortured speech, at once trying to clean her hands of an imaginary spot and nagging at her invisible husband. All the hand wringing and her question, "Who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him?" leave little doubt as to what vexes the lady. The doctor says there's nothing he can do to help her. Lady Macbeth probably needs help from a priest, not a doctor.

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SCENE 2 A bunch of Scottish noblemen converge in the country near Dunsinane, where Macbeth keeps his castle. On their heels, heading for Birnam, is the English army, led by Malcolm, Malcom's Uncle Siward, and Macduff. Cathness informs the group that the tyrant King is hell-bent on protecting Dunsinane. It's pretty clear that his actions are in his own interests and not the nation's. Everyone agrees that Macbeth's a lousy king and needs to go.

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SCENE 3 Macbeth pumped for battle. Thanks to the sisters' prophecies, he's pretty confident that he can't be beat. Just then, a messenger enters with the doubtful and fearful news that there are ten thousand somethings marching to Dunsinane. Macbeth guesses that the somethings are geese. Macbeth starts to get a little worried. He's had a good run, but it's looking like he won't be relaxing in a peaceful old age. Lady Macbeth isn't doing too well, either. The doctor reports she isn't sick so much as she is plagued by ill fantasies. Macbeth suggests that the doctor cure her, sooner rather than later. The doctor replies that the woman's got to fix herself.

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SCENE 4 Macbeth pumped for battle. Thanks to the sisters' prophecies, he's pretty confident that he can't be beat. Just then, a messenger enters with the doubtful and fearful news that there are ten thousand somethings marching to Dunsinane.Somethings? That doesn't sound good. Macbeth guesses that the somethings are geese. Seriously, dude? LOL, good try. Actually, they're men coming to kill you. Macbeth starts to get a little worried. He's had a good run, but it's looking like he won't be relaxing in a peaceful old age. Lady Macbeth isn't doing too well, either. The doctor reports she isn't sick so much as she is plagued by ill fantasies. Macbeth suggests that the doctor cure her, sooner rather than later. The doctor replies that the woman's got to fix herself. By the way, asks Macbeth—does the doctor have the means to purge the English from the countryside of Scotland? Nope. No amount of money could convince him to stay near the madhouse of Dunsinane.

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SCENE 5 Macbeth insists that banners be hung outside the castle. Many of his former forces are now fighting against him on the English side, making it difficult for him to meet the army in a glorious blaze. He's still feeling pretty good, since Dunsinane is so fortified that he imagines the enemy army will die of hunger and sickness before he ever even needs to leave the castle. A shrieking of women tells Macbeth that his wife is dead —it's suicide. Macbeth here launches into one of Shakespeare's best known, beginning "She should have died hereafter," meaning one of two things: she would've died eventually so she might as well have died today or, she should have died later because I'm super busy defending the castle right now. He also gets to say the super famous line, "Life's but a walking shadow […] a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury," which is not only an early, maybe the earliest occurrence of Existentialist thought in literature. Macbeth is quickly distracted by the news that a "grove" of trees seem to be moving towards Dunsinane, which is all around bad news, since said "grove" is likely Birnam Wood. Macbeth finally realizes that the prophecy was as twisted as the prophets, but he's going to face the army anyway. If you have to go down, you might as well go down fighting.

QUOTESMACBETH She should have died hereafter;There would have been a time for such a word. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time And all our yesterdays have lighted foolsThe way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor playerThat struts and frets his hour upon the stageAnd then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,Signifying nothing. (5.5.20-31) In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. Or something along those lines. Here, Macbeth is realizing that all his striving was literally useless: Malcolm is going to be king; he himself is about to die; and his wife is gone. But if there's nothing to be gained, then what's the point of living at all? Macbethdoesn't leave us with much of answer. Are we just supposed to live our lives hopelessly until we die? Or is there a nobler way of putting up with life's ultimate futility?. "life but a walking shadow...full of sound and fury" is an existentialist thought(1 of the first in lit) MACBETHHang out our banners on the outward walls.The cry is still "They come!" Our castle's strength Will laugh a siege to scorn. Here let them lieTill famine and the ague eat them up.Were they not forced with those that should be ours, We might have met them dareful, beard to beard,And beat them backward home. (5.5.1-8) Macbeth's strategy during the siege is to hole up in the palace and bide his time "till famine and the augues" (starvation and illness) destroy the enemy soldiers. What's creepy about this is that he's still acting like he has all the time in the world, when in fact his borrowed time is just about up. (Fun fact: plays are bound by time in the way that other works of literature aren't. You can read a novel as fast or as slowly as you want, but when you're watching a play you only get the amount of time that a director has assigned. Almost—we're just saying—as though you're being controlled by fate.) MACBETH She should have died hereafter.There would have been a time for such a word.Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrowCreeps in this petty pace from day to dayTo the last syllable of recorded timeAnd all our yesterdays have lighted foolsThe way to dusty death. (5.5.20-26) You can interpret this speech six ways to Sunday, but it seems pretty clear that, however he feels about his wife, Macbeth is pretty sure that he no longer has a future.

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SCENE 6 Malcolm, Siward and Macduff land their army (covered with branches from Birnam Wood) outside Dunsinane. Siward will lead the battle with his son, and Malcolm and Macduff will take the rear and manage everything else. The soldiers drop their "leafy screens," the alarms sound, and the battle for Scotland begins. Rumble!

QUOTESMACDUFF Either thou, Macbeth,Or else my sword, with an unbattered edge,I sheathe again undeeded. There thou shouldst be;By this great clatter, one of greatest noteSeems bruited. Let me find him, Fortune,And more I beg not. (5.6.19-24) This is how to do ambition right: Macduff wants to avenge his family and his king, but he doesn’t seek power for himself. He doesn't want to rule fortune; he's content to be fortune's tool. Clearly, he's going to be the one to take down the boss.

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SCENE 7 Macbeth appears on stage and compares himself to a bear in a bear-baiting contest .-Bear-baiting is a blood sport that involves chaining a bear to a stake and setting a pack of dogs on it. Elizabethans thought this was good clean family fun —bear-baiting arenas were located in the same neighborhoods as the theaters, just in case anyone wanted to take in a play and then top off their day of fun with a little animal cruelty. Young Siward enters and quickly dies. Macbeth talks some evil smack over the dead body, to the effect of "swords and weapons can't touch me because you're of woman born." Macduff runs on stage looking for Macbeth and screams for the evil tyrant Macbeth to come out and show his ugly face. Macduff is hot to kill Macbeth with his own sword because he'll likely be haunted by his wife and kids if he doesn't. He begs "fortune" to let him find Macbeth so he can stab him in the guts. Siward and Malcolm commiserate about the situation they're in. So. Many. Enemies.

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SCENE 8 Macbeth enters the stage alone and says he refuses to "play the Roman fool" Macduff enters and calls Macbeth a "hell-hound" and Macbeth talks a little trash in return: I already killed your family so you best be steppin' back now unless you want me to have your blood on my hands, too. Macduff is having none of it. They fight, and Macbeth continues to be cocky. He says Macduff hasn't got a chance since he, Macbeth, can't be killed by anyone "of woman born." That's funny, says Macduff, because "Macduff was from his mother's womb / Untimely ripped." Cesarean section. And apparently that means he wasn't "born."Don't anyone tell Macduff's mom Don't anyone tell Macduff's mom. Recovering from a medieval C-section was probably no fun. Macbeth curses the "juggling fiends" and their twisted prophesy. Now that he knows he's not invulnerable, he doesn't want to fight Macduff anymore—but he also doesn't want to yield. Since he has to pick one, he decides to keep fighting until Macduff kills him. Malcolm and Siward (the father of the young man Macbeth recently killed, so we guess "Old Siward") run across the stage looking for Macbeth. Siward takes time out to exposit for the audience: there's a lot of fighting going on at the castle, the thanes are fighting exceptionally well, and Malcolm's pretty close to victory. Malcolm, Siward, Ross, the thanes, and the soldiers all assess what's been going down during the battle at the castle. It looks like Siward's son and Macduff are missing. Ross delivers the news that Young Siward was slain by Macbeth. That's okay, says Young Siward's dad; at least he died "like a man." In fact, he kind of wishes he had a lot of sons so they could all die in battle. Things seriously improve when Macduff shows up waving Macbeth's severed head. Everyone turns to Malcolm and yells "Hail, King of Scotland." Malcolm delivers the play's final speech, which goes something like this: All the Scottish thanes will be made earls, as in the English system, making them the first earls in Scottish history. But all those who helped "the dead butcher and his fiend-like queen" are going to be in serious trouble because King Malcolm's going to fix everything. And now, it's time to party down at the coronation ceremony at Scone. Hope you remembered to bring your snacks.

QUOTESSIWARD Had he his hurts before? ROSS Ay, on the front. SIWARD Why then, God's soldier be he!Had I as many sons as I have hairs,I would not wish them to a fairer death;And so, his knell is knolled. (5.8.53-58) If your son has to die in battle, you at least want him to die with his wounds "before," or in front, facing the enemy. For Siward, this is the best possible way for a young man to die. MACDUFF Despair thy charm,And let the angel whom thou still hast servedTell thee, Macduff was from his mother's wombUntimely ripped. (5.8.17-20) "untimely"! We just saw it in the "untimely emptying of the happy throne" (4.3.7) MACDUFF Hail, King! for so thou art. Behold, where standsTh' usurper's cursèd head. The time is free.I see thee compassed with thy kingdom's pearl,That speak my salutation in their minds,Whose voices I desire aloud with mine.Hail, King of Scotland! (5.8.65-70) When Macduff says "the time is free" he means that Macbeth's reign has come to an end and the people of Scotland now live in freedom from tyranny. But there's also the sense that time had somehow come to a halt when Macbeth murdered Duncan and became king. Now that the rightful heir, Malcolm, will be crowned monarch, linear time, is back on track, just as lineal succession is reestablished.

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