Macbeth By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Act V: Scene 7

Summary

In a scene that foreshadows the final destruction of a tyrant in single combat, Macbeth is challenged by the courageous son of Siward. Immediately afterwards, Macduff is seen eagerly seeking out the man who was responsible for the murder of his family. Lastly, it is announced that Macbeth's forces have surrendered Dunsinane castle. But the business is not yet finished.

Analysis

The image of paralysis that ended Scene 5 is picked up immediately in Macbeth's image of himself as a baited bear. He is like a captured wild animal, furious yet unable to move: "They have tied me to a stake: I cannot fly." All he can do is to await his destiny. When a single figure enters, Macbeth must wonder, half-doubtful, whether his nemesis has arrived in the form of young Siward. The fight itself is preceded by a combat of words in which Siward appropriately taunts Macbeth with the words "devil" and "lie," words that have particular significance for his opponent. Macbeth's replies spur Siward into courageous but futile action. Before his exit, Macbeth gloats over the corpse of his assailant, with one final mockery: "Thou wast born of woman."

With ironic timing, the man who was not born of woman now takes Siward's place on the battlefield stage. The darkly vengeful figure of Macduff speaks of his obligation to the souls of his dead family: Revenge must be his and his alone if he is to escape his personal feelings of guilt at having abandoned his family.

Describing the surrender of Macbeth's castle, Old Siward (who at this point is ignorant of the heroic self-sacrifice of his son) explains that Macbeth's troops surrendered the castle with little resistance — "gently." Perhaps the audience recalls the "gentle" King Duncan, who, on his fateful visit to Macbeth's castle at Inverness in Act I, Scene 6, commented on the sweet air which surrounded it. Here, we feel that a weight has been lifted: the air will shortly "smell wooingly" once more.

Glossary

bruited (22) announced

rendered (22) surrendered

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