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Macbeth Act 1, Scene 1: Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Wendy A. Garland

Wendy has a Ph.D. in Adult Education and a Master's Degree in Business Management. She has 10 years experience working in higher education.

This lesson will begin with an introduction to William Shakespeare's 'Macbeth.' It will then include a summary of Act 1, Scene 1 of the play, and will end with a quiz.

The Scottish Play

William Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, also known as The Scottish Play, in 1603, after he had already written Hamlet and Othello. He used a lot of historical sources for Macbeth. And while not a true history of the Scottish battles of the Dark Ages, it still has much true history written into it.

Macbeth was first performed on stage in 1606 in front of King James I, who was believed to be a descendant of Banquo, a Scottish King of the era in which the play is set. Macbeth is also the shortest of all Shakespeare's tragedies. This is possibly because the original and much longer version has since disappeared. The version that exists today has likely been revised and edited over the centuries.

In modern times, a superstition exists among theatre actors about this play. It is widely believed that the mention of the name Macbeth is an invitation of disaster. To satisfy this belief, they all refer to Macbeth simply as The Scottish Play.

Macbeth transcript

The Three Witches Meet

Scene 1 of Macbeth begins with a thunderstorm on a moor, or a large piece of rough and unused land, in Scotland. Three witches, in the shapes of unwell old women, appear out of the terrible storm and discuss the timing of their next gathering.

When shall we three meet again, In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

The first witch asks the other two if they should meet before the storm is over. But the second witch has a better idea.

When the hurleyburly's done, when the battles lost and won.

She proposes that they meet when the hurlyburly, or the severe thunderstorm, is over. As well as war Macbeth is fighting in King Duncan's army, which we will discuss in the next act.

The Purpose of the Next Meeting

The third witch then asks where their meeting will take place. The second witch replies that it will be upon the heath, or an open area of unused land that is similar to a moor. The third witch reveals the reason for their next meeting.

There to meet with Macbeth.

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