Plot

A quick overview of what happens in Macbeth. 
  • After a battle in Scotland, Macbeth and his friend Banquo meet three witches, who make three prophecies - Macbeth will be a thane, Macbeth will be king and Banquo’s sons will be kings.

    Did you know? Witches

    When Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, King James I was king. He was fascinated by the supernatural and wrote a book about witchcraft called Daemonologie, which included the methods of identifying witches.

  • The witches’ first prophecy comes true and King Duncan makes Macbeth Thane of Cawdor.

  • When King Duncan visits Macbeth’s castle, Lady Macbeth persuades Macbeth to murder King Duncan in his sleep to make the second prophecy come true.

    Did you know? King Duncan

    King Duncan was a real Scottish king in the 11th century and so was Macbeth.

  • With Lady Macbeth’s help, Macbeth frames King Duncan’s dead servants as the murderers. Duncan’s children, Malcolm and Donalbain, leave Scotland for their own safety.

  • Now king, Macbeth worries about the witches’ third prophecy and sends murderers to kill Banquo and his son.

  • At a banquet, Macbeth is haunted by visions of Banquo’s ghost in front of all his guests.

  • Macbeth visits the witches and they tell him - the only person he needs to beware of is Macduff, no one a woman has given birth to can harm him and he won't be defeated until Birnam Wood moves. He thinks he's unbeatable.

  • While Macduff is in England convincing Duncan’s son Malcolm to fight against Macbeth, Macbeth has Macduff’s family murdered.

  • Macduff and Malcolm arrive in Scotland with an army. On their way to attack Macbeth's castle they cut down branches from the trees in Birnam Wood to use as camouflage. When the wood moves, one of the witches' prophecies come true.

  • Macduff reveals that he was born by a caesarean birth and kills Macbeth, fulfilling the final prophecy.

Teacher Notes

The following activity is a great way to introduce the story of Macbeth to a group of students who are getting to know the play.

The story in Twenty Minutes (2018)

The activity can be found on page 3 and takes approximately 40 minutes.

You can also print the ten lines on this page and ask students to work in pairs to arrange them in the order they take place in the play.