Literature Study GuidesMacbethAct 5 Scene 2 Summary

Macbeth | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Act 5, Scene 2

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 5, Scene 2 of William Shakespeare's play Macbeth.

Macbeth | Act 5, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

In the countryside near Dunsinane, the lords Caithness, Menteith, Lennox, and Angus meet with a number of soldiers. Menteith says English troops are on their way, led by Malcolm and Macduff. Angus says they will join these troops near Birnam Wood, and Lennox confirms that Donalbain is not with Malcolm and the English army. They then discuss Macbeth, who is fortifying the castle at Dunsinane. They speculate that he cannot hold his position, as the troops that will follow him are moved only by orders, not by love or true loyalty. The thanes and their soldiers march on toward Birnam to meet the English army and Malcolm, whom they see as the rightful heir to the Scottish crown.

Analysis

With the other lords against him and the English army on its way, Macbeth's final defeat looms, just as prophesied by the witches. The armies will meet at Birnam Wood, whose move to Dunsinane Hill was prophesied as a danger to Macbeth. While the precise method by which the forest will move is not yet clear, the troops are marching at the edges of Macbeth's destiny.

As the thanes speculate about Macbeth's unstable mind, his guilt, and the lack of loyalty among his troops, they gain conviction that they and Malcolm will succeed in healing their sickly country. By shedding their blood to drown the weeds—Macbeth—they will purge Scotland of the source of its illness.

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