Act I
Act II
Act IV
Act V

Information taken and adapted from: http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/macbeth/

Macbeth - Macbeth is a Scottish general and the thane of Glamis who is led to wicked thoughts by the prophecies of the three witches, especially after their prophecy that he will be made thane of Cawdor comes true. Macbeth is a brave soldier and a powerful man, but he is not a virtuous one. He is easily tempted into murder to fulfill his ambitions to the throne, and once he commits his first crime and is crowned King of Scotland, he embarks on further atrocities with increasing ease. Ultimately, Macbeth proves himself better suited to the battlefield than to political intrigue, because he lacks the skills necessary to rule without being a tyrant. His response to every problem is violence and murder. Unlike Shakespeare’s great villains, such as Iago in Othello and Richard III in Richard III, Macbeth is never comfortable in his role as a criminal. He is unable to bear the psychological consequences of his atrocities.
Lady Macbeth - Macbeth’s wife, a deeply ambitious woman who lusts for power and position. Early in the play she seems to be the stronger and more ruthless of the two, as she urges her husband to kill Duncan and seize the crown. After the bloodshed begins, however, Lady Macbeth falls victim to guilt and madness to an even greater degree than her husband. Her conscience affects her to such an extent that it eventually leads to her demise. Interestingly, she and Macbeth are presented as being deeply in love, and many of Lady Macbeth’s speeches imply that she has a strong influence over her husband. Their joint alienation from the world, occasioned by their partnership in crime, seems to strengthen the attachment that they feel to each another.
The Three Witches - Three “black and midnight hags” who plot mischief against Macbeth using charms, spells, and prophecies. Their predictions prompt him to begin his reign of terror and to blindly believe in his own immortality. The play leaves the witches’ true identity unclear—aside from the fact that they are servants of Hecate, we know little about their place in the cosmos. In some ways they resemble the mythological Fates, who impersonally weave the threads of human destiny. They clearly take a perverse delight in using their knowledge of the future to toy with and destroy human beings.
Banquo - The brave, noble general whose children, according to the witches’ prophecy, will inherit the Scottish throne. Like Macbeth, Banquo thinks ambitious thoughts, but he does not translate those thoughts into action. In a sense, Banquo’s character stands as a rebuke to Macbeth, since he represents the path Macbeth chose not to take: a path in which ambition need not lead to betrayal and murder.
King Duncan - The good King of Scotland whom Macbeth, in his ambition for the crown, murders. Duncan is the model of a virtuous, benevolent, and farsighted ruler. His death symbolizes the destruction of an order in Scotland that can be restored only when Duncan’s line, in the person of Malcolm, once more occupies the throne.
Macduff - A Scottish nobleman hostile to Macbeth’s kingship from the start. He eventually becomes a leader of the crusade to unseat Macbeth. The crusade’s mission is to place the rightful king, Malcolm, on the throne, but Macduff also desires vengeance against Macbeth.
Lady Macduff - Macduff’s wife. The scene in her castle provides our only glimpse of a domestic realm other than that of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. She and her home serve as contrasts to Lady Macbeth and the hellish world of Inverness.
Malcolm - The son of Duncan, whose restoration to the throne signals Scotland’s return to order following Macbeth’s reign of terror. Malcolm becomes a serious challenge to Macbeth with Macduff’s aid (and the support of England). Prior to this, he appears weak and uncertain of his own power, as when he and Donalbain flee Scotland after their father’s murder.
Donalbain - Duncan’s son and Malcolm’s younger brother.
Hecate - The goddess of witchcraft, who helps the three witches work their mischief on Macbeth.
Fleance - Banquo’s son. At the end of the play, Fleance’s whereabouts are unknown. Presumably, he may come to rule Scotland, fulfilling the witches’ prophecy that Banquo’s sons will sit on the Scottish throne.
Porter - The drunken doorman of Macbeth’s castle. He provides the comic relief in the play.
Menteith, Caithness, Lennox, Ross - Scottish Noblemen.
The Murderers - A group of ruffians convinced by Macbeth to commit murders on his behalf

The Corrupting Power of Unchecked Ambition
The main theme of Macbeth—the destruction wrought when ambition goes unchecked by moral constraints—finds its most powerful expression in the play’s two main characters. Macbeth is a courageous Scottish general who is not naturally inclined to commit evil deeds, yet he deeply desires power and advancement. He kills Duncan against his better judgment and afterward stews in guilt and paranoia. Toward the end of the play he descends into a kind of frantic, boastful madness. Lady Macbeth, on the other hand, pursues her goals with greater determination, yet she is less capable of withstanding the repercussions of her immoral acts. One of Shakespeare’s most forcefully drawn female characters, she spurs her husband mercilessly to kill Duncan and urges him to be strong in the murder’s aftermath, but she is eventually driven to distraction by the effect of Macbeth’s repeated bloodshed on her conscience. In each case, ambition—helped, of course, by the malign prophecies of the witches—is what drives the couple to ever more terrible atrocities. The problem, the play suggests, is that once one decides to use violence to further one’s quest for power, it is difficult to stop. There are always potential threats to the throne—Banquo, Fleance, Macduff—and it is always tempting to use violent means to dispose of them.

Without loyalty everything falls apart. The king must be loyal to Scotland above his own interests. Macbeth, by contrast, brings only chaos to Scotland—symbolized in the bad weather and bizarre supernatural events—and offers no real justice, only a habit of capriciously murdering those he sees as a threat. Loyalty to the king, spouse, and countrymen.

Order vs Disorder
As in other Shakespearean tragedies, Macbeth’s grotesque murder spree is accompanied by a number of unnatural occurrences in the natural realm. From the thunder and lightning that accompany the witches’ appearances to the terrible storms that rage on the night of Duncan’s murder, these violations of the natural order reflect corruption in the moral and political orders. If there is disorder in the human world it is reflected in nature.


Violence and Evil
In Shakespeare's time it was believed that if you were evil you were aligned with hell and therefore dammed. Evil happens under the cover of night.
Macbeth is a famously violent play. Interestingly, most of the killings take place offstage, but throughout the play the characters provide the audience with gory descriptions of the carnage, from the opening scene where the captain describes Macbeth and Banquo wading in blood on the battlefield, to the endless references to the bloodstained hands of Macbeth and his wife.
Hallucinations/ Reality vs Imaginary
Visions and hallucinations recur throughout the play and serve as reminders of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s joint culpability for the growing body count. When he is about to kill Duncan, Macbeth sees a dagger floating in the air. Covered with blood and pointed toward the king’s chamber, the dagger represents the bloody course on which Macbeth is about to embark. Later, he sees a ghost sitting in a chair at a feast, pricking his conscience by mutely reminding him that he has committed murder. The seemingly hardheaded Lady Macbeth also eventually gives way to visions, as she sleepwalks and believes that her hands are stained with blood that cannot be washed away by any amount of water. In each case, it is ambiguous whether the vision is real or purely hallucinatory; but, in both cases, the Macbeths read them uniformly as supernatural signs of their guilt.

Dramatic Irony - The audience has knowledge that the characters do not.

The characters are based on historical figures from 11th Century Scotland (toward the end of the Dark Ages).

Thane-Title for a soilder
Regicide-To kill a king
Blind Ambition-get what you want no matter the consequences
Mettle-tough material
Husbandry-frugal, cheap
Asides - the actors speak to the audience while there are others on stage. Only the audience hears these inner thoughts
Infanticide-killing of a child
Cauldron-kettle used by witches
Soliloquy-talking to oneself on stage at a dramatic moment
Wyrd (Weird)-mysterious, eerie

Glossary of Early Modern English
anon - at once
thine - yours
art - are
thou - you (informal)
ay - yes
thy - your
cousin - any relative
till - until
doth - does
'tis - it is
ere - before
whence - what, where, or when
hark - listen
wherefore - why
hath - yes
whither - where (from where)
hither - near or to a place
withal - within
i' - in
wrought - made
nay - no
o' - of
o,er - over
pray - please
prithee - please
quoth - said
shalt - shall
sooth - truth
th' - the
thee - you

Act One
chastise - to punish or severely criticize
dwindle - to make or become less until little remains
lavish - extravagant; to give in abundance
prophetic - speaking or predicting as if by divine intervention
surmise - to infer with little evidence; guess
trifle - something of little importance or value
wrought - shaped, created

Act Two
allegiance - loyalty to a cause or nation
carousing - acting boisterously or loudly, as if drunk
dire - indicating trouble or disaster; urgent
lechery - lewd or vulgar behavior
palpable - capable of being touched or felt; tangible
quenched - put out; extinguished
sacrilegious - grossly disrespectful of what is sacred

Act Three
dauntless - fearless, unable to be intimidated
fruitless - unproductive or unsuccessful
grapple - wrestle or struggle with
malice - a desire to harm others or to see others suffer
predominant - having greatest importance or authority
sundry - various; miscellaneous
tyrant - a harsh or cruel leader

Act Four
antic - a childish act or gesture
avaricious - having extreme desire for wealth; greedy
desolate - without inhabitants; deserted
entrails - internal organs, especially the intestines
laudable - praiseworthy, commendable
pernicious - deadly or destructive
sovereignty - supreme authority or rule

Act Five
arbitrate - to judge or settle a dispute
fury - uncontrollable anger or rage
gentry - people of good family or high social position
mar - to damage or spoil
perturbation - something that disturbs or makes one anxious
pristine - remaining in a pure state; uncorrupted
upbraid - to criticize sharply; to reprimand