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William Shakespeare


Act 5, Scenes 8 & 9:
Questions to test your understanding!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 23 January 2014
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In Scene 8, Macbeth is at last confronted by his worst fear, Macduff. He now realises the fatal truth: Macduff was not born of woman. He nevertheless puts up a fight, and is killed.

The final scene sees the leading men of Scotland assemble. Macduff enters with the head of Macbeth upon a staff. Malcolm is proclaimed King.


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:


"Why should I play the Roman fool, and die
On mine own sword? whiles I see lives, the gashes
Do better upon them."
  • What does Macbeth mean when he says he will not "play the Roman fool"? (2)

[Need help?]

"But get thee back, my soul is too much charged
With blood of thine already
  • What does Macbeth mean by this? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Why is Macbeth initially successful in his battle with Macduff? (4)

[Need help?]

"Despair thy charm;
And let the angel whom thou still hast served
Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother's womb
Untimely ripp'd."
  • How is it that Macduff is not born of woman? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Were the witches' speaking the truth when they told Macbeth to fear no-one born of woman? (4)

[Need help?]

"We'll have thee, as our rarer monsters are,
Painted upon a pole, and underwrit,
'Here may you see the tyrant'."
  • What does Macduff mean by this? (2)

[Need help?]


"We shall not spend a large expense of time
Before we reckon with your several loves,
And make us even with you. My thanes and kinsmen,
Henceforth be earls, the first that ever Scotland
In such an honour named."
  • Explain the changes that Malcolm introduces upon being proclaimed king. (6)

[Need help?]

  • If you were a Scottish nobleman, would you trust Malcolm? (8)

[Need help?]

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