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William Shakespeare


Act 5, Scene 4 & 5:
Some questions to tease you!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 23 January 2014
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Scene 4, a very short scene, takes us to Malcolm's forces gathered near Birnam Wood.

Scene 5 is back at Dunsinane where Macbeth appears confident. Then comes the news that Lady Macbeth has committed suicide.

This is followed by more disturbing news: Birnam Wood is indeed coming to Dunsinane!


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 this action of chopping branches from the trees with regard to the witches' prophecy to Macbeth. (4)

[Need help?]


"The cry is still 'They come'. Our castle's strength
Will laugh a siege to scorn. Here let them lie
Till famine and the ague eat them up.
Were they not forced with those that should be ours,
We might have met them dareful, beard to beard,
And beat them backward home
  • What reason does Macbeth provide for his decision to wait out a siege rather than attack the invaders man to man and sword to sword? (2)

[Need help?]

There is a sudden cry of women in the castle.
  • What are they crying about? (2)

[Need help?]

"I have almost forgot the taste of fear.
The time has been, my senses would have cooled
To hear a night-shriek."
  • Why does does Macbeth no longer feel fear? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Is Macbeth disturbed to hear the news of the death of Lady Macbeth? (4)

[Need help?]

"As I did stand my watch upon the hill,
I look'd toward Birnam, and anon, methought,
The wood began to move."
  • Comment on Macbeth's reaction to the news that Birnam Wood is moving. (6)

[Need help?]

"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
Till the last syllable of recorded time
  • Comment on the meaning of these words. What do they show of Macbeth's mood? (6)

[Need help?]

"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
  • Comment on the FOUR different images of life used by Macbeth. (8)

[Need help?]

  • Why does Macbeth remain confident even when it is clear that all is now lost? (6)

[Need help?]

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See also:
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