Macbeth: Novel Summary: Act 1, Scene 3-Act 1, Scene 4

Act 1, Scene 3: Now that the witches prophecy has been realized, they reconvene at the predetermined heath.  The first witch explains to the others why she was late in coming.  Angered at the impudence of a sailors wife in not giving her chestnuts, the first witch vows to seek revenge on the sailor, making him a sleepless, cursed man.  It is important to note here that the witch (and thus Shakespeare and the audience) associates sleeplessness with an evil or cursed life.  Macbeth, after killing King Duncan, can hardly sleep because of his ghastly nightmares.  While the witches are talking, Macbeth and Banquo enter the area.  Macbeth proclaims that he has never seen a day “so fair and foul.” (Act 1, Scene 3, Line 38) This is reminiscent of the weird sisters statement in Act 1, Scene 1 that “fair is foul and foul is fair.” This is a prominent theme in the play, as it beautifully expresses the macabre state of affairs within Macbeth and without.  Banquo, after seeing the witches, becomes horrified by their hideous appearances.
Macbeth, however, ignores the physical aspects of the sorceresses and asks them to speak.  Each witch addresses him in a different manner-one as the Thane of Glamis, the second as the Thane of Cawdor and the third as “that shalt be king hereafter.” (Act 1, Scene 3, Line 50) After hearing these strange prophecies, Macbeth remains in a sort of ecstatic stupor while Banquo asks the witches to look into his future.  The weird sisters say that while Banquo himself will not be as happy or lucky as Macbeth will, he will be much more fortunate in the long run.  Also, they tell him that he will beget a line of kings even though he will never be a monarch himself.  Awakened from his stupor, Macbeth asks the witches how it can be possible that he will be the Thane of Cawdor, when to his knowledge, the nobleman still lives.  He also asks them from whence they get their knowledge of the future.  Suddenly, the weird sisters disappear into thin air, much to the surprise of Banquo and Macbeth.
Ross and Angus, sent by King Duncan, meet up with the pair at this time.  Ross tells Macbeth that in return for his brave combat, Duncan bestows upon him the title of the Thane of Cawdor.  Angus explains that the current Thane of Cawdor will be executed for his treachery.  Both Macbeth and Banquo are stunned to realize that the witches first prophecy has actually come to pass. Banquo, however, tells Macbeth that oftentimes the prophecies of such evil creatures come with heavy consequences.  It is important to note here that while Banquo quickly realized the truly “foul” nature of the witches, Macbeth still considered them as “fair.” While Banquo talks to Angus and Ross, Macbeth engages in profound thought.  He cannot determine whether the prophecies are good or evil.  If the sayings are evil, he says, then it is strange that he has achieved so much success by them already.  If the predictions are good, however, then he wonders why he is so frightened by the sudden thought that has just occurred to him.  Macbeth has just considered killing King Duncan in order to shorten the interim period between the present and the realization of the last prophecy.  At the same time, however, Macbeth concedes that he could also just let fate run its course.  Macbeth urges Banquo to carefully analyze the nights strange incidents so that they can talk about them in detail later.  The group then leaves the heath and travels towards the residence of the king.
Act 1, Scene 4: At the palace, King Duncan asks Malcolm if the Thane of Cawdors execution has taken place.  Malcolm tells him that the nobleman repented his actions.  In response, Duncan says that there is no way of determining a persons thoughts, whether good or evil, in the physiognomy of the face.  The king says that the Thane of Cawdor betrayed him although he had absolutely trusted him.  This is ironic because in the same way Macbeth plots to kill Duncan albeit with a sweet and servile countenance.  At this point, Macbeth enters and Duncan laments that he can never amply recompense him for all of his work.  Macbeth replies that his work for the king is a reward in itself.  The king also highly praises Banquo.  Then, in front of the entire assembly, King Duncan proclaims his son Malcolm to be his heir to the crown.  Macbeth asks to take leave of the king so that he can write a letter to his wife telling her about the turn of events in the castle.  He also determines that he must kill Duncan and Malcolm if he wants to be king; in the space of a scene, his mind is firmly resolved to commit the crime.