Macbeth: Act 4, Scene 1 Full Summary {Step by Step Guide}

Macbeth: Act 4, Scene 1 Full Summary {Step by Step Guide}

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Macbeth: Act 4, Scene 1 Full Summary | Macbeth: Act 4, Scene 1 Summary

There is the sound of thunder as the three witches enter a cave where there is a boiling cauldron.

The first Witch says that the “brinded” (brindled or striped) cat has “mewed” (meowed) three times.

The second Witch agrees that the cat meowed three times and adds that a hedgehog whined (cried out) once.

The third Witch says her supernatural spirit helper, a harpy, is saying, “Tis time, ’tis time.” (It is time.)

The first Witch says that it is time to dance. She says, “Round about the cauldron go, In the poisoned entrails [body parts] throw.”

The first Witch picks up a toad and says that it will be the first thing to go into the “charmed” (magical) pot. She says it had sat under a cold rock for a month with poison coming out of its skin as it sweated.

After First Witch puts the toad in the pot, the witches dance around the cauldron. They chant (speak musically): “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”

Note: The witches are creating magic to cause trouble for Macbeth

The second Witch says they should next put in a piece of “fenny snake” (swamp snake).

The second Witch says that next, they must add “eye of newt and toe of frog.”

Next Second Witch says that they must add “wool of bat and tongue of dog.”

Then Second Witch says that they are adding “adder’s fork and blind- worm’s sting.”

The second Witch concludes by lizard’s leg saying that they must put in “lizard’s leg and owlet’s Wing.”

The second Witch says the body parts they have put in are for “a charm of powerful trouble,” and they must “like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”

Again, the witches dance around the cauldron. They chant. “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”

The third Witch says it is time to add more body parts to the cauldron. She begins, “Scale of dragon, the tooth of a wolf..”

The third Witch continues, “Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf Of the ravin’d [hungry] salt-sea shark,…”

The third Witch says the next things to add are the root of the poisonous hemlock plant (which had been dug up on a dark night) and the liver of a Jew who had spoken against the Christian god.

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The third Witch continues by saying it is time to add “gall of goat” and pieces of a yew tree that were cut off during a lunar eclipse.

The third Witch finishes putting things into the cauldron by adding a Turk’s nose, a Tartar’s lips, and a finger of a newborn baby whose prostitute mother strangled it after giving birth to the baby in a ditch.

The third Witch tells the mixture to get thick. The third Witch tells the other witches to add the main body parts from a tiger to the cauldron.

Again, the witches dance around the cauldron. They chant. “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”

The second Witch says they will cool the mixture in the cauldron by adding a baboon’s blood. Then the charm (the magic potion or mixture) will be done.

Hecate comes in and says, “Oh well done!” She says she is happy with the witches’ work and everyone will share the rewards. Hecate tells everyone to sing around the cauldron “like elves and fairies in a ring.” The witches sing a song called “Black Spirits.”

Hecate leaves. The second Witch says, “By the pricking [feeling] of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes.” The second Witch says, “Open locks, Whoever knocks.”

The door magically unlocks. Macbeth enters, calls the witches “secret, black, and midnight hags,” and asks what they are doing. The witches say they are doing something for which there is no name.

Macbeth says he is asking them to use their magic to answer his questions. He says he doesn’t know how they know the things they know, but he tells the witches to answer his questions.

Macbeth tells the witches he wants answers even if they must “untie the winds” and let them blow churches down, cause waves to sink boats, push crops into the ground, blowdown trees, push castles onto the heads of those who live in them, and push the “heads” or tops of castles and pyramids to their “foundations” (bottoms).

Macbeth tells the witches that even if they must cause all of the growing things in nature to mix together and everything to be destroyed, the witches must answer his questions.

The first Witch says, “Speak.”
The second Witch says, “Demand.”
Third Witch says, “We’ll answer.”

The first Witch asks Macbeth if he wants to hear his answers from the witches’ mouths or from their masters’. Macbeth tells the witches to call their masters.

The first Witch tells the other witches to put into the cauldron blood from a sow that ate her nine babies and then add to the fire sweat from a murderer who died on a gibbet.

Note: Macbeth is like the sow who eats her children. Instead of protecting the Scottish people, he thinks only of himself and will murder anyone who gets in his way.

All of the witches call out to high and low spirits. They ask the spirits to show themselves and what they can do.

There is thunder and First Apparition (First Ghost a head wearing a helmet) appears. Macbeth says, “Tell me, thou [you unknown power]

The first Witch interrupts and tells Macbeth that the ghost knows his thoughts. She tells Macbeth to listen and not speak.

First Apparition speaks: “Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! beware Macduff; Beware the thane of Fife. Dismiss me. Enough.”

As the First Apparition goes back down into the cauldron, Macbeth tries to get him back. Macbeth thanks him for his warning, says the warning was the same as his own fear and asks for “one word more.

The first Witch says that the apparition cannot be commanded. She says another apparition will appear which is stronger than the first.

There is thunder. The second Apparition (a bloody child) appears.

The second Apparition speaks: “Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth!-” Macbeth says if he had three ears, each ear would hear the apparition.

The second Apparition tells Macbeth to be “bloody, bold, and resolute [determined].” The apparition tells Macbeth to laugh at the power of other men because “none of woman born shall harm Macbeth.”

After Second Apparition goes back down into the cauldron, Macbeth is confused.  The first Apparition had said to “beware” (to be careful) of Macduff, but Second Apparition had said Macbeth had nothing to fear from a man born from a woman.

(Second Apparition is being equivocal – being misleading because he makes it sound like Macbeth is safe from all men since all men are born from a woman. We will learn later that Macduff was not exactly born from a woman.)

Macbeth speaks his thoughts aloud. At first, he says, “Then live, Macduff. What need I fear of thee?” Then Macbeth changes his mind.

Macbeth decides to control his own fate and make “double sure” that Macduff will be no problem. Macbeth says (as if he were speaking to Macduff), “Thou shalt not live.”

Macbeth adds that when Macduff dies, Macbeth will not have fear to keep him awake. Macbeth says he will be able to sleep even if there is thunder.

There is thunder. Third Apparition (a child wearing a crown and carrying a tree) appears. Macbeth asks what the spirit is that looks like the son of a king and wears a crown.

The witches say, “Listen but speak not to ‘t.”

The third Apparition tells Macbeth to be brave like a lion and proud. The apparition says that Macbeth does not need to worry about his enemies until Great Birnam Wood comes to him at high Dunsinane Hill.

The witches tell Macbeth not to look for more answers. Macbeth says he must know more. He says if the witches do not give him more information, they should be cursed (have bad luck) forever.

Macbeth says, “Let me know.” Then he asks why the cauldron is sinking and why there is music.

The first Witch says, “Show.”
The second Witch says, “Show.”
Third Witch says, “Show.”

They all say to show Macbeth and make him sad. They call out asking for shadows to come and then to leave. Eight shadowy kings come, the last one carrying a mirror. He is followed by the Ghost of Banquo.

Macbeth talks to the last figure, saying it looks too much like Banquo’s ghost. He tells it to go away. He looks at the first king and says that its crown hurts his eyes.

Macbeth looks at each king and says they are all alike. He asks the witches why they are showing him the line of kings. He asks if the line will stretch out forever.

Macbeth says the eighth king has a mirror that shows many more kings, some carrying double balls and triple scepters (showing that some of the kings rule two or three countries).

Macbeth says that now he sees the “horrible sight” and the truth that the line of kings are Banquo’s descendants. Macbeth says he sees the bloody Banquo smiling and pointing at the kings to show that they are his.

The kings and Banquo’s ghost disappear. Macbeth asks the witches if what he has seen is true. They say it is true, and ask why he is surprised.

The witches say they will cheer him up by showing him their talents. They will charm the air into making music, so King Macbeth will say they did their duty and entertained him.

After the witches dance, they disappear. Macbeth asks where they have gone. He says the “pernicious hour” (the evil hour) should be marked on the calendar as forever Cursed. Macbeth calls for the person he has had outside waiting to come in.

Lennox enters and asks Macbeth what he wants. Macbeth asks Lennox if he has seen the “weird sisters” (the witches). Lennox says no, and Macbeth asks if the witches had not passed by Lennox. Again, Lennox says no.

Macbeth says the air the witches ride on is infected. He says those who trust them should be damned. Macbeth says he heard horses galloping by and asks who came by.

Lennox says two or three men have brought the message that Macduff has run away to England.

Macbeth speaks aloud to time as if time were a person. He tells time that it knew Macbeth’s plan (his plan to kill Macduff). Macbeth says a plan is not completed unless it is done immediately.

Macbeth says that from now on the first feelings in his heart will cause the first actions of his hand. (He will act as soon as he has an idea.)

Macbeth says he now has thought and will act on it immediately. He will attack Macduff’s castle and the county of Fife. Macbeth says he will kill Macduff’s wife, children, and relatives.

Macbeth says he will not speak of his plans with pride. He will not see more sights (more ghosts). He asks Lennox where the messengers are and tells Lennox to take him to them. They leave.

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