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William Shakespeare


Act 5, Scenes 6 & 7:
Questions to test your understanding!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 23 January 2014
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In Scene 6, Malcolm orders his men to throw down their branches and reveal to Macbeth just how large is the opposing army.

Scene 7 finds Macbeth trapped inside his castle and yet he still believes he is invincible because all men are born of woman. In the meantime, Macduff is scouring the fortress in search of him.


Act 5 has many short scenes as the audience watches the final quick collapse of Macbeth's kingdom.

First comes Lady Macbeth's mental illness and the infamous sleepwalking scene. Then we witness the English forces assembling at Dunsinane.

After this, we note Macbeth's ever-weakening attempt to defend himself, his soldiers deserting him, his wife being mentally ill, and he himself clearly distracted.

Malcolm's forces gather at Birnam Wood, and chop down branches of trees to hide their numbers.

Lady Macbeth commits suicide and Macbeth is distressed to find that one more prophecy turns out to be equivocal: the great forest at Birnam is indeed coming to Dunsinane.

Malcolm's forces throw down their branches to reveal just how large a force confronts Macbeth

The forces attack and Macbeth confidently defends himself, believing still that no-one born of woman can defeat him. Macduff goes about in search of him.

The two leading Scottish protagonists finally meet face to face. Macbeth at last learns the fatal truth: the witches have once again deceived him. Macduff was not born of woman but was cut from his mother's womb.

The shock news dismays Macbeth and he is killed. His head is mounted on a pole for all to see. Malcolm is proclaimed king of Scotland.

These final short episodes are mostly action scenes to bring the tragic events to a conclusion.

Macbeth has been deceived throughout by the witches' equivocal statements and, in the end, dies -- bravely but nevertheless ignominiously.

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


Explain the purpose of these several short scenes. (4)

[Need help?]


"Swords I smile at, weapons laugh to scorn,
Brandish'd by man that's of a woman born."
  • Explain why Macbeth seems to believe there is hope right to the bitter end. (6)

[Need help?]

"They have tied me to a stake; I cannot fly,
But bear-like I must fight the course."
  • Comment on the image used in these lines. (4)

[Need help?]

"That way the noise is. Tyrant, show thy face!
If thou be'st slain and with no stroke of mine,
My wife and children's ghosts will haunt me still.
I cannot strike at wretched kerns, whose arms
Are hired to bear their staves: either thou, Macbeth,
Or else my sword with an unbatter'd edge
I sheathe again undeeded."
  • What is the driving force behind Macduff's quest to find Macbeth? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Why does Macbeth still believe he can defeat Macduff? (4)

[Need help?]

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