Macbeth Act 5, Scenes 8-11: Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Margaret Stone

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

In the final scenes of Shakespeare's ''Macbeth'', Macduff kills Macbeth. Poor Macbeth has already lost his wife and his life; and now he loses his head! Macduff presents Macbeth's severed head to Malcolm, the new king, who promises to share wealth and titles with those who helped eliminate Macbeth.

Previous Scenes

Macbeth has murdered Duncan, King of Scotland, and has claimed the throne for himself. The army opposing Macbeth has faced little resistance at Macbeth's castle and has breached the castle walls. The noblemen learn that those fighting for Macbeth do so only for pay; Macbeth's soldiers do not love him. Macbeth has listened to the witches' promises of ultimate success, but he has begun to see that his position may be unsustainable.

A Charmed Life?

As scene 8 begins, Macbeth contemplates falling upon his sword in an act of suicide but decides against this course of action. Macduff enters the scene and confronts Macbeth, who says he had wanted to avoid combat with Macduff. 'My soul is too much charg'd/With blood of thine already,' Macbeth says, referring to the blood of Macduff's wife and children. This passage is one of the few in the play that indicates Macbeth's remorse for the brutal acts he has committed in his quest to obtain and keep the throne.

As they begin to fight, Macbeth says, 'I bear a charmed life, which must not yield/To one of woman born.' He still believes the witches' prophecies, but his hopes for success in battle are quickly extinguished when Macduff reveals that, technically, he was not of woman born since he was delivered by Caesarean section.

Macbeth now sees that the witches have misled him. His position is now untenable (not able to be sustained.) Brave to the end, Macbeth does not yield, but instead cries, 'Lay on, Macduff,/And damn'd be him that first cries, 'Hold, enough.' Macduff and Macbeth fight, and Macduff kills Macbeth. Macduff carries Macbeth's body off the battlefield.

The King Is Dead, Long Live the King!

Malcolm, Siward, Rosse, and the soldiers await news of those not yet returned from battle. Rosse informs Siward of the death of his son, Young Siward. Rosse speaks of the young man's bravery. Siward is comforted by the report that Young Siward has sustained injuries to the front of his body, for injuries to the back would indicate a coward's death.

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