Go to Knowledge4Africa.com

William Shakespeare


Act 5, Scenes 2 & 3:
Questions to test your understanding!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 23 January 2014
Contact the English4Africa Subject Coordinator

It is with great sadness that we have to announce that the creator of Knowledge4Africa, Dr T., has passed away. Helping people through his website gave him no end of pleasure. If you had contact with him and would like to leave a message, please send us an e-mail here.


Scene 2 takes us briefly to the opposing English forces gathering near Macbeth's fortress at Dunsinane. We notice that Macbeth's army is beginning to desert.

In Scene 3, we notice that Macbeth's confidence hangs on a very thin thread. Indeed, he is not at all happy with his situation. Then comes the news that Lady Macbeth herself is mentally ill and cannot be cured.


The story has come full circle.

The play started with the Thane of Cawdor proving to be a traitor to Scotland for which he was executed and his head was presumably mounted on a stake.

The play ends with the new Thane of Cawdor proving to be a traitor to Scotland and his head too would be mounted on a stake.

In-between we have witnessed Macbeth becoming the victim of the ultimate equivocation. First, the witches made prophecies to him which were truths, half-truths or even possible truths.

Had Macbeth -- like Banquo -- not acted upon them but simply let events take their course, it is possible that the prophecies might have reached fulfilment without his lifting a finger.

Even Macbeth himself came to a similar conclusion but allowed himself to fall prey to Lady Macbeth, who persuaded him to take the shortest route.

Finding himself embarking upon a path of habitual murder, Macbeth returned to the witches to check on his fear for Macduff. Yet Macbeth already knew that Macduff was his greatest threat.

Nevertheless he allowed the witches to deceive him once more by their equivocation. Fear Macduff -- but have no fear till great Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane. And fear no-one born of a woman.

These prophecies gave Macbeth false hope. Ultimately Macduff was his greatest fear -- and perhaps also the greater warrior.

The final shock for Macbeth, of course, was probably to witness the real Porter of Hell's gate coming to claim him!

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:


Comment on the significance of the fact that they are near Birnam Wood. (3)

[Need help?]

What does this scene tell us of the activities of Macbeth? (4)

[Need help?]

Comment on the loyalty of Macbeth's current army. (3)

[Need help?]

Why does Macbeth believe that he need not fear "till Birnam wood remove to Dunsinane"? (2)

[Need help?]


Why does Macbeth not fear Malcolm? (4)

[Need help?]

Macbeth insults the English forces by calling them "epicures".
  • What does he mean by this? Why is the term insulting? (4)

[Need help?]

"My way of life
Is fall'n into the sere, the yellow leaf."
  • What does Macbeth mean? (2)

[Need help?]

  • What does this tell you of his current mental condition? (4)

[Need help?]

"Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Raze out the written troubles of the brain
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuff'd bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart?"
  • Is Macbeth referring to Lady Macbeth or to himself? Explain. (6)

[Need help?]

"SEYTON: What is your gracious pleasure?"
  • Considering that the witches played such an important role in Macbeth's life, is there any reason why we never see them again after the king has consulted them concerning Macduff? (10)

[Need help?]

Try another worksheet?

See also:
This document is copyrighted. No part of it may be reproduced in any form whatever without explicit permission in writing from the author. The sole exception is for educational institutions which may wish to reproduce it as a handout for their students.

Contact the English4Africa Subject Coordinator