Macbeth: Act 1, Scene 3 Full Summary {Step by Step Guide}

Macbeth: Act 1, Scene 3 Full Summary {Step by Step Guide}

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Macbeth: Act 1, Scene 3 Full Summary | Macbeth: Act 1, Scene 3 Summary

There is thunder and three witches appear. The First Witch asks the Second Witch where she has been. The Second Witch says she has been killing swine (pigs). The Third Witch asks the First Witch where she has been.

The First Witch says she had seen a sailor’s wife who had been eating chestnuts. The First Witch had asked for some, but the woman, whom the witch calls “rump-fed” (fat) and a “ronyon” (someone with ugly skin), would not give her any.

The First Witch is very angry with the sailor’s wife. The witch decides she will hurt the woman’s husband who is the master of a ship named Tiger.

The ship is sailing to Aleppo, Syria. The First Witch says she will turn herself into a tailless rat and sail in a sieve (a bowl that has holes to let liquids out but keeps in solids). She will then do bad things to the sailor.

Note: In medieval times, some people believed that there were witches who could turn themselves into animals, but the animals would have something wrong with them – like a missing tail.

The Second Witch says she will give the First Witch some wind to sail to Aleppo. The First Witch says the Second Witch is kind.

The Third Witch says that she will give the First Witch more wind. The First Witch says that she, herself, can already control all of the winds everywhere.  She says she can take all of the energy (blood) out of the sailor until he is as “dry as hay.”

The First Witch says that she does not have the power to sink the sailor’s “bark” (ship), but she can use the winds to keep him away from any port (landing place) for 81 days.

The sailor will be unable to sleep during the day or night and he will be a cursed (very unhappy) man.

Note: It is important to remember that the witches are powerful, but their power has limits.

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The First Witch tells the other witches to look at what she has. She shows them the thumb of a pilot (sailor) who drowned while trying to sail home. The Third Witch says, “A drum, a drum!/ Macbeth doth (does) come.”

The witches hold hands and begin to dance and chant (say in a singing voice): The weird sisters, hand in hand, Posters of the sea and land, Thus do go about, about: Thrice to Thine and thrice to mine And thrice again, to make up nine.

Peace! the charm’s wound up.” (The witches are saying that they are weird which can mean either that they can control the future or that they are unusual.

They also say that they are “posters” (travelers) who will now dance around in a circle nine times to prepare for Macbeth’s coming. Then
they say “Peace” (Stop) when they finish making magic. They say their charm (their magic) Is ready.)

Note: Shakespeare, the author of Macbeth, wanted to make his king King James – happy. King James was very interested in witches. He even wrote a book about them. Shakespeare’s descriptions of the witches and their actions match the beliefs of his king and of many of the people of the time.

It is interesting that King James is connected to the greatest and most often read works were written in the English language- Shakespeare’s plays and the King James Version of the Bible – but he is not well known for his own book about witches.

Shakespeare’s group of actors were known as the King’s Men and it was King James who supported a request for scholars to make a new English translation of the Bible.

Macbeth tells Banquo he has never seen such a foul and fair day. (The weather Banquo keeps changing. He has fought terrible Macbeth
battles but has won. It has been a day where bad things and good things have happened.)

Note: Macbeth uses very similar words to the words the witches used in Act 1, Scene 1 when they talked about finding fair things foul and foul things fair. Shakespeare, the author is helping readers connect Macbeth to the witches.

Banquo asks Macbeth how much longer it will take to get to the town of Forres. Before Macbeth can answer, Banquo sees witches.

Banquo asks Macbeth what the things are that they see. He says they look unusual, not like normal people. They look like something from another planet or like dead people. Banquo asks the witches if they can answer questions.

Banquo tells the witches that they look like women, but their beards keep him from believing that they really are women. Macbeth tells the witches to speak. He asks them what they are.

Note: Sometimes the witches look like ghostly skeletons and sometimes they look like aliens from another planet. In the play, the witches can change their appearance; they try to look like women when they interact with Macbeth and Banquo.

The witches’ beards make them imperfect images of women. They are manlike. Shakespeare is introducing the idea that women must have masculine characteristics to be truly evil. He develops this idea later in the play.

The First Witch says, “All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis!” The Second Witch says, “All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!” The Third Witch says, “All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!”

Macbeth is completely surprised by the witches’ words. Is it possible that he could become more than what he is now – the Thane of Glamis?

Note: A thane was an important man in 11th century Scotland – a man given land and the right to lead some of the king’s people. Glamis is a town in eastern Scotland.

Macbeth continues to think about the witches’ words. How could he become the Thane of Cawdor when someone else already leads Cawdor? How could he become the King of Scotland when Duncan is the king?

Banquo sees Macbeth’s reactions to the witches’ words and asks Macbeth why he has jumped with surprise and seems afraid of the witches’ words which sound so “fair” (so good).

Note: We are reminded by Banquo’s use of the word “fair” that the witches find fair things foul (bad) and foul things fair. We ask ourselves if the witches are truly giving Macbeth good news.

Banquo moves forward and speaks to the witches. He asks them to be honest and tell him if they are “fantastical” (supernatural) or women.

He says the witches greeted his noble friend with first a new noble title and then a royal one. Their words have made Macbeth unmoving and silent.

Banquo says that if the witches can really see “the seeds of time” (the future), then they should tell him. He will not “beg for their “favors,” nor “fear” their “hate.”

Each witch says “Hail” to Banquo. The witches tell Banquo the future-what will be. The First Witch says Banquo will be “Lesser than Macbeth, and greater.”

The Second Witch says Banquo will be “not so happy, yet much happier.” The Third Witch says, “Thou shalt (will) get (have) kings, though thou be none.”

Note: The witches have given Macbeth and Banquo a lot to think about. Why will Macbeth be king, but not any future sons of his? Why will Banquo have a son, grandson, and other descendants who will be kings, but not be king himself?

Note: Paradox in Shakespeare’s Macbeth The witches speak to confuse people. They use paradoxes: statements or situations that are made up of two opposite ideas which seem to be impossible, but which in special conditions might be true.

The witches said, “Fair is foul and foul is fair” in Act 1, scene 1, line 12. (The words “fair” and foul” are opposites.)

We wondered how that could be true but discovered that good thing had happened even in the terrible battle Macbeth and Banquo had fought.

We saw that the witches believed fairly good things were foul/bad and foul/bad things to be good/fair. The witches are evil and see everything differently than good people.

Shakespeare is showing readers that people may find it difficult to understand or fight evil because sometimes good people cannot even imagine the acts evil people can do.

Now Macbeth has been told he will be king, so what will happen to King Duncan? Will it be possible for Macbeth to be a “fair,” not a “foul” king?

The witches begin to disappear, but Macbeth tells the “imperfect speakers” (the witches) to “stay” and tell him more. Macbeth says he knows he is the Thane of Glamis because when his father Sinel died, he inherited the title and property.

He has just defeated the Thane of Cawdor, but he has not been given that title. It is impossible for him to believe that one day he will be king.

Macbeth commands the witches to tell him how they know what they know and to tell him why they have stopped him to give him their prophecies.

The witches ignore Macbeth. They disappear.

Banquo says that the earth and water have bubbles, and the witches are like those bubbles. He asks Macbeth where the witches have gone.

Macbeth says the witches’ bodies seemed to melt and disappear into the air just like a person’s breath disappears into the air. He says he wishes the witches would have stayed.

Banquo asks if they had really seen witches or if maybe they had eaten the root of a plant that had acted as a drug to make them see things that were not real.

Macbeth does not really answer. He just says that Banquo’s children will be kings. Banquo says Macbeth will be the king.

Macbeth asks Banquo if the witches also had said that he, Macbeth, would be Thane of Cawdor.

Banquo says Macbeth is using the same tune and words as the witches. (Banquo is saying that yes, Macbeth is correct.) Banquo hears someone coming. He turns and asks, “Who’s here?”

Ross and Angus arrive, and Ross tells Macbeth that King Duncan was happy to get the news of Macbeth’s success. Ross says the king is filled with wonder about and praise for Macbeth’s success in fighting rebels.

Ross says the king became silent with surprise when he learned that on the same day that Macbeth had defeated rebels, he also had defeated Norwegian invaders.

Ross says he respects Macbeth because Macbeth did not fear what he had made on the battlefield: death. Ross says all of the soldiers who had reported to the king about the battles had Sergeant praised Macbeth.

Angus says that King Duncan sent him and Ross to give the king’s thanks and to bring Macbeth to the king. He also says that he and Ross have no money or reward from the king.

Ross says that although they have no money from the king, the king told them to call Macbeth “Thane of Cawdor,” and Macbeth should expect more honors and rewards when he comes to the king.

Banquo is very surprised to hear that one of the witches’ prophecies has already come true. He says to himself, “What, can the devil speak
true?

Macbeth says that the Thane of Cawdor lives. How can Ross call him the Thane of Cawdor? Isn’t Ross giving him “borrowed
robes” (honors that belong to another man – the real Thane of Cawdor)?

Angus says that the Thane of Cawdor lives, but he has been judged guilty of helping the rebels, Norwegians, or both, so he will soon be killed for his crimes against King Duncan.

Macbeth thinks about the witches prophecies. He is the Thane of Glamis and the Thane of Cawdor. He says, “The greatest is behind” (next). He thinks he might one day be king.

Macbeth says, “Thanks for your pains” (for the effort) Ross and Angus made to bring him the news from the king.  Macbeth asks Banquo softly, so Ross and Angus cannot hear if Banquo now hopes that his descendants will be kings.

After all, the witches had promised that Macbeth would be Thane of Cawdor, and they were right about that. Maybe the witches were also correct about the future of Banquo’s family.

Banquo does not say if he believes that his descendants might be kings. Instead, he warns Macbeth: “That trusted home Might yet enkindle you unto the crown, Besides the Thane of Cawdor. But ’tis strange:

And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray ‘s In deepest consequence.” (Lines 120-126)

Banquo is telling Macbeth that trusting the witches and hoping to become king might cause Macbeth to do things that will have terrible results.

The witches are “instruments of darkness” who are telling Macbeth just enough “truths” to trick him.

Banquo asks Ross and Angus if he can talk to them. The three begin a conversation.

While Banquo speaks to Ross and Angus, Macbeth speaks to himself, thinking aloud. At first, he is happy because the witches said two truths (he is the Thane of Glamis and now the Thane of Cawdor).

He says the two truths are “happy prologues to the swelling act” (happy introductions to the main event – Macbeth becoming king). Since the witches were correct about two events, they might be right about the third.

Then Macbeth becomes worried. He says the witches’ words were “supernatural soliciting,” words that asked him to do something. The witches’ words cannot be good or bad.

The truth that promises success should be good, but if the witches’ words were good, why, Macbeth wonders, is he thinking about a “suggestion,” a “horrid image” that makes his hair stand up and his “heart knock” (beat quickly).

He says that he is more worried about what he is thinking of doing in the future (killing King Duncan) than he is about all of the troubles of the present.

Macbeth tells himself that his thought of murder is just a thought, but he says it is so horrible that he cannot “function.” (Macbeth is thinking so hard that he is unable to move.)

Macbeth ends his time of thinking by saying, “nothing is but what is not.”

Here Shakespeare foreshadows (shows us) what Macbeth will do. Macbeth thinks of murder and ends his thoughts by saying a paradox. He is speaking just like the witches, in a confusing way. They said, “fair is foul, and foul is fair.”

Now Macbeth says that nothing exists except what does not exist. Shakespeare is showing us that Macbeth is turning towards the darkness, towards evil.

Macbeth is saying that the present does not exist for him, only the future that has not happened yet is what exists for him. All of his heroic actions on the battlefield (what is true) are less important than becoming king (what is not yet true).

Banquo sees the unmoving Macbeth and tells Ross and Angus that Macbeth is “rapt” (thinking so hard he does not move.)

Macbeth decides that if “chance” (luck or fate) wants him to be king, then he will NOT have to do anything. He will NOT have to murder Duncan.

Banquo tells Ross and Angus the “new honors” (King Duncan’s praise and gift of the title and property of the Thane of Cawdor) are like “strange garments” (new clothes) that Macbeth will have to get used to.

Macbeth says that no matter what happens, time and events will continue. Banquo tells Macbeth everyone is waiting for him. Macbeth apologizes and thanks to them for their patience.

Macbeth quietly asks Banquo to think about what has happened (the witches’ prophecies and that he is now the Thane of Cawdor). Macbeth asks Banquo if they can talk about everything later after they have had more time to think. Banquo agrees, and they all ride off.

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