Macbeth is a fast-paced five-act play

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is structured into five acts like most classical dramas. However, the number of scenes pe…


The play can be analyzed using Freytag’s pyramid

The structure of Macbeth can be analyzed in detail using Freytag's pyramid. This diagram divides a plot into five parts: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

Freytag's pyramid of plot structure.
Fig. 1. Freytag's pyramid of plot structure.

Act 1: Exposition

Macbeth starts in medias res in Act 1, Scene 1 when we meet the three witches who are in the middle of a conversation about a battle. The strange words and appearance of the witches, combined with the violent storm, catch our attention from the start and create a sense of suspense. What are these creatures up to? What is the battle they talk of? And who is Macbeth?

As we move into the following scenes of Act 1, we are introduced to the central characters, time, place, and key conflicts of the story. We learn that Macbeth is a brave warrior and Du…


Is the ending open or closed?

Order in Scotland is restored as Macduff kills Macbeth and Malcolm heads for Scone to be crowned as king. Traditionally, this has been read as a closed and relatively happy ending.

However, we may leave the play with an ominous feeling that history may repeat itself. Firstly, the ending has many parallels to the beginning: Malcolm relies on Macduff to kill the treacherous M…

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