MACBETH – Act 5 Summary

Scene 1

Characters: Doctor, Gentlewoman, Lady Macbeth

Location: At night in king Macbeth’s castle

Events: The doctor and gentlewoman watch-on and discuss LadyMacbeth’s strange sleepwalking habits. They are both very concerned for her as it is clear she is going mad. She enters a trance and starts sorrowing over the deaths of her husband and herself. She keeps referring back to her hands, saying they will never be clean and rubs them hard trying to get the ‘blood’ she is imagining off them. Of course, the doctor and gentlewoman grow suspicious and wary of what she is saying but are more concerned about her health than anything else. She is slowing going mad and developing a mental illness as a result of the murders that have taken place.


“Out, damned spot! Out, I say!—One, two. Why, then, ’tis time to do ’t. Hell is murky!—”

(Lady Macbeth)

Lady Macbeth says this line while vigorously washing her hands. The murder of King Duncan and Banquo are starting to take their toll and are haunting her into a mental state. In this line, she is saying that she can’t and will never get the blood off her hands. She see’s spots of it all over her hands is trying to get it off but it won’t go away. This, of course, is just in Lady Macbeth’s head.

“Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, Oh, Oh!”

(Lady Macbeth)

She is saying that even the smell of blood haunts her. She says that not even all the perfumes of Arabia will get rid of the smell from her hands.

“To bed, to bed. There’s knocking at the gate. Come, come, come, come. Give me your hand. What’s done cannot be undone.—To bed, to bed, to bed!”

(Lady Macbeth)

She is reliving the moment when she and Macbeth killed King Duncan. The only difference is that in the scene when they actually did the murder she says ‘come to Macbeth clean your hands, once they are washed from this bloody witness it is as if we never did it’. But now she is saying give me your hand because want has been done can never be undone and we will forever be murderers.

Scene 2

Characters: Menteith, Angus, Caithness, Lennox

Location: Outside Macbeth’s castle

Events: A group of Scottish lords discusses the upcoming battle between England and Scottland. But really its a battle between England and Macbeth because they tell us that the Scottish army has agreed to meet the English troupes at Burnum wood to join forces and side against Macbeth.

Scene 3

Characters: Macbeth, Servant, Seyton, Doctor,

Location: Inside Macbeth’s castle

Events: Macbeth strides through the halls of his castle assuring himself and his servants that they must not fear the battle because of what the witches said (No man woman born could harm Macbeth and that he will not be defeated until Birnam wood moves to Dunsinane). The Doctor talks to Macbeth about Lady Macbeth’s health. And tells him that an illness like this can not be cured


“I have lived long enough. My way of life
Is fall’n into the sere, the yellow leaf,
And that which should accompany old age,
As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends,
I must not look to have, but, in their stead,
Curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honor, breath
Which the poor heart would fain deny and dare not.”
Macbeth is saying that his life is beginning to wither (like a plant drying up and falling away). Like a yellow leaf in Autumn. He says that things that should go along with old age like Love, honor, obedience, good friends, he can no longer have. Instead, he has cursed and is surrounded by people who honor him with their words and not their hearts. He says that his heart is tired of living like this and wishes his life was over. But he can’t let himself die so easily. 
Scene 4
Characters: Malcolm, Menteith, Siward, Soldiers, Macduff,
Location: Birnam wood
Events: Malcolm talks to fellow English lords about Macbeth’s decision to fight against them. Malcolm tells the soldiers to break off a branch off the trees in the wood (Birnam wood) and use it to disguise themselves so they can hide the numbers of their troupes until they battle.
Scene 5
Characters: Macbeth, Seyton, Messanger,
Location: Inside Macbeth’s castle
Events: Macbeth continues to order his servants around in preparation for the battle. A woman screams and Seyton reports to Macbeth that the Queen is dead; the scream was from Lady Macbeth. Shocked, Macbeth processes the news. A messenger arrives with news that it looks like Birnam wood is advancing to Dunsinane castle. Terrified that this is what the witches had told Macbeth he says that he would rather die fighting and prepares nervously for the battle.
“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”
Macbeth says this FAMOUS passage in reaction to hearing that Lady Macbeth is dead. He talks about the meaning of time and states that time is measured in words – meaning as the words run out (as we’re nearing the end of the play) time and life is running out too. He refers to pace/time as if it were creeping (personification) this indicates that time is like a slow motion/creeping preditor. This passage shows how Macbeth is mentally entering a state of despair, he is starting to doubt the importance of life and instead wonders what it must be like to die.
Scene 6
Characters: Malcolm, Siward, Macduff
Location: Outside Macbeth’s castle
Events: The battle begins and Malcolm orders his soldiers to throw down their branches and bring out their swords.
Scene 7
Characters: Macbeth, Young Siward, Siward, Malcolm
Location: On the batte field
Events: Macbeth kills every man he passes and holds on to the witches promise that no man woman born shall harm Macbeth. He even kills young siward, and continues fighting.
“Thou wast born of woman.
But swords I smile at, weapons laugh to scorn,
Brandished by man that’s of a woman born.”
Macbeth says that he smiles and laughs (he will not be afraid) of any type of weapon held by a man born of woman.
Scene 8
Characters: Macbeth, Macduff, Malcolm, Siward, Ross,
Location: On the battlefield
Events: Macbeth and Macduff finally find each other and fight. When Macbeth finally states that he has no fear for no man woman born can harm Macbeth, Macduff replies with the news that he was NOT woman born instead he was born of c-serian. Macbeth is shocked by this and comes to the conclusion that he is going to die tonight as all of the witches promises have come true. He decides that if he is going to die then he will die to fight. Macduff kills Macbeth and walks to the others holding only Macbeth’s head. Ross tells Siward that his son died. The rest of them celebrate that Macbeth is dead and no Malcolm will become king of Scottland.

Respond now!