This dead butcher and his fiend-like queen


As you read Act 5, consider the theme of illness and suffering and how the power of characters has changed from when we first met them at the play’s beginning.  Macbeth is the acknowledged tyrant; his wife a mere shadow of her former self.  The Doctor, speaks in verse as he alerts us to the distempered nature of events:

‘Unnatural deeds/Do breed unnatural troubles; infected minds to their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets.’

When Macbeth is brought the news of his wife’s death, he responds with indifference.  He delivers one of the most famous soliloquies dealing with the futility of life which begins wearily:

She should have died hereafter; There would have been a time for such a word.  To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow…

For an insight into this soliloquy, watch Sir Ian McKellen analyse it with the keenness and attention to detail of a practiced Shakespearean actor.

As Macbeth receives word of the approaching Birnam Wood, he delivers his final battlecry:

‘Ring the alarum-bell! Blow, wind! come, wrack!/At least we’ll die with harness on our back.’

As Macduff enters and commands Macbeth: ‘Turn, hell-hound, turn!’ we get this from Macbeth: ‘…But get thee back, my soul is too much charg’d with blood of thine already’


Consider the advice the witches gave at the beginning of Act 4: ‘Be bloody, bold and resolute.’  How does this play out for Macbeth?




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