Macbeth Act I Scene iii Summary

Plot Summary / The Story-line

In Act I, Scene III of Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth”, Macbeth and Banquo, the two generals, are met by three witches on a heath while returning from the battlefield. The witches hail Macbeth as Thane of Glamis (his present title), Thane of Cawdor, and “king hereafter”. They also prophesy that Banquo himself will not be king, but his descendants will be kings. Macbeth is both shocked and intrigued by the witches’ predictions.

As Macbeth and Banquo are trying to make sense of what they just witnessed, Ross and Angus arrive to inform Macbeth that he has been named Thane of Cawdor, fulfilling one of the witches’ prophecies. Macbeth is startled by the news and begins to wonder if the witches’ other prophecy will come true as well. The scene ends with Macbeth pondering on the possibility of becoming king and how he might achieve that goal.

Commentary on Act I, Scene iii

Act I, Scene III of “Macbeth” is a pivotal moment in the play that sets the stage for the events to follow. This scene introduces the audience to the supernatural world of the play through the three witches, who are often seen as the catalysts for the tragedy that unfolds later in the play.

The witches’ prophesies serve to both intrigue and unsettle Macbeth. They confirm his current position as Thane of Glamis, reveal his imminent appointment as Thane of Cawdor, and make the startling prediction that he will become king. This sudden elevation of status creates a sense of ambition and desire in Macbeth that will ultimately lead to his downfall.

The scene highlights the theme of appearance vs. reality, as the witches’ prophecies appear to be real, but their true meaning is ambiguous. Macbeth’s ambition also clouds his perception of reality, as he becomes fixated on becoming king at any cost.

Act I Scene III of “Macbeth” also presents us with a glimpse inside the characters of Macbeth and Banquo. Their reactions to the witches’ prophecies show the difference in their characters. While Macbeth is disturbed and excited, Banquo remains calm and skeptical. Macbeth’s soliloquy at the end of the scene reveals his inner thoughts and desires, as he contemplates the possibility of becoming king.

Furthermore, the witches’ prophesies also provide the audience with a sense of dramatic irony. While Macbeth and Banquo are unaware of the witches’ true intentions, the audience may guess that their predictions are not to be trusted. This creates a sense of dramatic tension as the audience wonders how the events will unfold.

The use of language in this scene is particularly striking, with the witches speaking in rhyme and using supernatural imagery. The repetition of the phrase “fair is foul, and foul is fair” and even Macbeth’s first words “So foul and fair a day I have not seen” serve to create a sense of confusion and moral ambiguity that permeates throughout the play.

Overall, Act I, Scene III is an important scene in “Macbeth” that establishes the supernatural elements of the play, introduces the central conflict of the story, and creates a sense of dramatic tension and anticipation in the audience.

Written by , Last updated on February 28, 2023