Macbeth Act 5, Scene 2: Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

While Macbeth attempts to fortify his castle, Duncan's son Malcolm and several noblemen have assembled an army to move against Macbeth. Rumors about Macbeth's state of mind and the makeup of his forces reach the noblemen, leading them to anticipate success in the coming battle.

Previous Scenes

Macbeth has murdered Duncan, the king of Scotland. Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, fearing for their lives, have left the country. Macbeth, fearing a challenge from Macduff, has had Macduff's wife and children murdered. Lady Macbeth, guilt-ridden over her part in Duncan's murder, has gone mad. She has started sleepwalking and obsessively attempting to cleanse her hands of Duncan's blood.

The Order of Battle

Scene 2 opens with Menteth, one of the noblemen, reporting that England has joined Malcolm, Siward, and Macduff in the effort to rid Scotland of Macbeth. The troops expect to meet Macbeth's army at Birnan Wood. Malcolm is Duncan's son, and thus would be considered the rightful heir to the throne.

The nobles ask if Malcolm's brother Donalbain has joined the fight against Macbeth. Lennox has maintained a list of those serving in Malcolm's army, and he says that while Donalbain is not on the list, many other young soldiers are supporting Malcolm in the fray.

Rumors of War

Cathness, another of the noblemen, says that Macbeth is fortifying his castle for the coming battle. Rumor has it that Macbeth has gone mad, Cathness says. He believes Malcolm's army will be able to breach Macbeth's castle and remove the tyrant from power.

Angus says that Macbeth is experiencing repeated revolts within the ranks of his troops and that those who serve Macbeth do so only because he commands them to. The soldiers feel no love for their leader.

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