Act IV, Scene 3
MacDuff has come to see Malcolm, the rightful heir to the throne. MacDuff urges Malcolm to fight and take Scotland back. Malcolm is suspicious of MacDuff though. It wasn’t that long ago that MacDuff loved MacBeth. In addition, MacBeth has not done any grievous wrong to MacDuff. AND he left his wife and children behind. MacDuff tries to explain the horrible situation in Scotland, but at the mention of his wife and children gives up trying to convince Malcolm.
Malcolm stops him from leaving though. At this point, he reveals the honest reason for his hesitation. Malcolm is worried that the already tarnished country will be made much worse by his own vices. You see, Malcolm is plagued with an insatiable lust. MacDuff doesn’t think he should worry about it, lots of good Kings have had worse vices. Plus, there will be plenty of women wanting to get into his bed, once he’s king.
Malcolm is also worried that he would try to take land and riches from the other nobles. MacDuff isn’t too worried about that either because there are plenty of riches at the King’s disposal. He doesn’t need to steal it. Also, they’re generally prepared for that because so many kings have already tried it.
Malcolm remains unconvinced. He doesn’t have any of the virtues necessary to be a good king. He does, however, have all the vices that would make him a terrible king. MacDuff loses hope at this point. Scotland seems doomed to have terrible royalty.
Apparently, Malcolm just needed MacDuff to lose all hope to convince himself that he would actually be a pretty good King. And, it just so happens that he is ready to march on Scotland with an army from England. MacDuff doesn’t quite know how to handle this rollercoaster of emotion.
Pause here to glorify the saintly English King that has not only sheltered Malcolm, but has supernatural (divine) abilities to heal and prophesize.
MacDuff’s cousin, Ross, comes in bearing more sad tidings. Apparently the whole of Scotland is sad or dying or dead. It’s all around a terrible situation. MacDuff asks about his family and Ross tells him they’re fine. He goes on to say that MacBeth is stirring up some kind of trouble and they better get to England. Malcolm assures him that he is ready to march North.
Ross seems to think this is a good time to break the news that MacDuff’s family has actually been slaughtered. They are, in fact, not fine. As MacDuff grieves the loss of his wife and children, Malcolm urges him to turn his grief into manly anger. MacDuff pretty quickly moves from denial to anger and is ready to fight.
Act V, Scene 1
One of Lady MacBeth’s ladies has called the Doctor because Lady MacBeth is doing some weird sleepwalking. The gentlewoman will not say what Lady MacBeth says in her sleep because she insists she needs a witness. The Doctor presses her for an answer when Lady MacBeth walks in.
Her eyes are open, but she doesn’t seem to perceive anything. She instead repeats what she said to MacBeth throughout the play, mostly about the people they killed. In her dream she is apparently trying to wash the blood off her hands, but it won’t come off. Eventually, she just goes back to bed.
The Doctor finds this most peculiar and says this affliction is beyond his skills. They decide it’s best not to tell anyone and just keep an eye on her at night.
Act V, Scene 2
Two lords provide needed exposition. Malcolm is marching north with the English, Siward, and MacDuff. These lords and others plan to join their forces by Birnam wood.
MacBeth has locked himself in his castle and is consumed with either rage, or madness. No one is sure which it is, but the important bit is that he seems to have lost control of himself.
Act V, Scene 3
MacBeth rambles on about what the witches said like he is trying to convince himself to not be worried. A servant tells MacBeth that there are ten thousand men in Malcolm’s army. MacBeth yells at him for looking scared and sends him off. He calls in another man to fetch his armor and have riders comb the area, killing anyone who speaks of fear.
He finally turns his attention to the Doctor that has been standing there the whole time. The Doctor explains that a troubled mind is keeping Lady MacBeth from sleeping. MacBeth insists that there must be some cure available even though the doctor assures him that there’s not. Eventually, the Doctor capitulates to his demands, if only to get away.
Act V, Scene 4
Malcolm tells the soldiers to carry branches from Birnam wood to conceal their numbers. They’re confident they can defeat MacBeth because he has no friends left and they are all around better people.
Act V, Scene 5
MacBeth hears the wailing of women. He doesn’t recognize the sound because he is so unaccustomed to the sound of fear. Turns out Lady Macbeth is dead. He contemplates the fleeting nature of life, until a messenger comes in.
The messenger says he saw Birnam woods moving. This, obviously, sends Macbeth into a panic and swears to kill the messenger if he is lying.
Act V, Scene 6
Malcolm instructs his men to throw away the branches and gives some battle instructions.
Act V, Scene 7
Siward’s son tries to fight MacBeth, but he was born of woman, so he loses. Then MacDuff comes in swearing vengeance for his family and chases MacBeth into the castle. Siward and Malcolm follow close behind. The battle is almost over.
Act V, Scene 8
MacBeth turns to fight MacDuff because he can’t be slain by any man born of woman. But, surprise! MacDuff was born by caesarian section. Making him not born of woman? MacBeth doesn’t want to fight MacDuff or surrender, so he’s kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. He decides to try running with MacDuff in hot pursuit.
Malcolm and Siward comment on how easy this battle was. Siward finds out his son died, but isn’t too broken up about it because it was a soldier’s death. MacDuff comes in with MacBeth’s head and hails Malcolm as King. Malcolm delivers a rousing speech about the bright future of Scotland now that MacBeth is dead and Lady MacBeth apparently killed herself. He invites everyone to see him crowned at Scone (the traditional location of Scottish coronations.)