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A tragedy by Shakespeare, first printed in the First Folio of 1623, probably written and first performed in 1606. The text has often been thought to contain some non‐Shakespearian material, probably by Middleton. Two songs certainly by him were added to the play.

Macbeth and Banquo, generals of Duncan, king of Scotland, returning from a victorious campaign against rebels, encounter three weird sisters, or witches, upon a heath, who prophesy that Macbeth shall be thane of Cawdor, and king hereafter, and that Banquo shall beget kings though he be none. Immediately afterwards comes the news that the king had created Macbeth thane of Cawdor. Stimulated by the prophecy, and spurred on by Lady Macbeth, Macbeth murders Duncan, who is on a visit to his castle. Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, escape, and Macbeth assumes the crown. To defeat the prophecy of the witches regarding Banquo, he orders the murder of Banquo and his son Fleance, but the latter escapes. Haunted by the ghost of Banquo, Macbeth consults the weird sisters, and is told to beware of Macduff, the thane of Fife; that none born of woman has power to harm Macbeth; and that he never will be vanquished till Birnam Wood shall come to Dunsinane. Learning that Macduff has joined Malcolm, who is gathering an army in England, he surprises the castle of Macduff and causes Lady Macduff and her children to be slaughtered. Lady Macbeth goes mad and dies. The army of Malcolm and Macduff attacks Macbeth; passing through Birnam Wood every man cuts a bough and under these ‘leavy screens’ marches on Dunsinane. Macduff, who was ‘from his mother's womb | Untimely ripp'd’, kills Macbeth. Malcolm is hailed king of Scotland.

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism.

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William Shakespeare (1564—1616) playwright and poet

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