Act 5, Scene 5


Act 5, Scene 5 is not the final scene of Macbeth by Shakespeare, but you may say that it is the beginning of the end. The setting is one of dark chaos: outside the castle, the army led by Malcolm is about to attack, and inside the castle, Macbeth receives the news that Lady Macbeth is dead.

Macbeth launches into a sorrowful soliloquy on how life is really without meaning. He then receives more bad news: Birnam Wood is moving towards Dunsinane Castle - just like the witches’ second prophecy said.

Generally, Act 5 of Macbeth is full of action and very fast-paced, and this scene is no exception. The function of Scene 5 is to make us realise that this is really the end - it will all end in tragedy. Macbeth loses his loyal wife, and yet another part of the witches’ prophecy seems to be coming true. You could argue that this kick-starts our sense of catharsis; we suffer along with Macbeth and pity him, although we know that he brought this on himself.

Macbeth goes through a psychological change in this scene. He starts out eager to fight the disloyal thanes who abandoned him for Malcolm: “Hang out our banners on the outward walls.” (5.5.1). Displaying his banners is his way of showing Malcolm that he is ready to fight. He hopes to cheat fate by preventing the witches’ second prophecy from coming true. That prophecy included three predictions: that he should be wary of Macduff; that no man born of woman can kill Macbeth; and that it will not happen until Birnam Wood moves.

When cries of women - probably Lady Macbeth’s maids - are suddenly heard, Macbeth is not startled by it: “I have supp’d full with horrors;/ Direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts/ Cannot once star...

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