Macbeth: Act 1 Scene 2 - Summary

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Macbeth Act 1 Scene 2 - Notes

Macbeth Act 1 Scene 2 - Quotes & Explanations

What bloody man is that?


Why it’s important

The theme of violence introduced in Macbeth Act I Scene II through the use of blood communicates to the audience the severity and maturity of the play’s content. The fact that this imagery appears in Act I Scene II, immediately proceeding the thematically dark and evil Act 1 Scene 1 helps to amplify the feelings of despair and darkness of the play overall.

Symbolism, themes, and motifs related to this quote

This quote introduced the theme of violence and the motif of blood itself. Throughout the play, we’ll see that blood is a recurring component used to signify the decaying purity of the characters. As the amount of blood present in the play increases, so we will see various characters such as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth descend into madness.

For brave Macbeth (well he deserves that name),
Disdaining Fortune, with his brandished steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like Valor’s minion, carved out his passage


Why it’s important

This quote is the first time we hear about Macbeth - It’s important because we know nothing about him, yet hearing about him from an injured Captain who just saved Prince Malcolm lends Macbeth a significant amount of credibility.

This ‘credibility-lending’ technique is used later on in the scene, spoken by “The worthy Thane of Ross" as well! (1.2.50)

Symbols, themes, and motifs related to this quote

The quote is also important because it brings up the concept of “Fortune" or luck. The notion of luck isn’t quite present in the play, but it contrasts the theme of Fate, which is a continually present theme in the play

God save the King.


Bonus quote

While it might be a little early to reveal too many future events, since you’re probably using this for academic purposes and not for pleasure reading, we’ll talk about this one right now. This is not a super significant quote that would appear on an “essential quotes" list if you’re cramming, but you might find it useful later in an essay or an assignment when you talk about how it might qualify as evidence of Shakespeare setting up some foreshadowing (spoiler alert: King Duncan dies later on so Ross’ wish for the King to be saved could be said to have been overthrown by destiny).

Further, it’s interesting to note that Ross says, “God" save the King, when in actuality it was Macbeth who saved the king - could this lend credence to Macbeth’s cockiness later as he decides to take on an entire army and impending doom without fear and a god-like assurance? Surely, he who wishes to act like God will be smitten, isn’t that right 18th century Elizabethan English audience?

Macbeth Act 1 Scene 2 - Symbols

Violence is ever present in this scene as the descriptions of Macbeth and Banquo’s bloody back-to-back victories paint them as war heros - know what war heroes are good at? Killing other war non-heroes. Yes, violence is an easy symbol to pick up on in this play. Look for quotes in the captain’s description of Macbeth’s fight to use for an essay or assignment.

Betrayal is also present in this scene - the entire first battle, described by the Captain, was about how Macbeth beat down the “revolt" led by the “merciless MacDonwald"

Another bonus quote:

What he hath lost macbeth has gained

While it seems straight forward, there’s a hidden message here: Duncan is saying Macbeth will inherit that which the now-former Thane of Cawdor has lost. That could mean that Macbeth will simply inherit lands and a title, but it can also be interpreted as Macbeth gaining the characteristic which led the Thane of Cawdor to betray Duncan in the first place.

Contextual Info: We learn about Macbeth (and Banquo)

  • This scene sets up Macbeth’s reputation, based on the accounts of his army peers who testify for Macbeth’s bravery and strength in battle
  • The scene involves Duncan, the King of Scotland, his two sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, a wounded army captain who speaks as a witness of Macbeth’s work ethic on the battlefield, and the Thane of Ross (kind of like an owner of land, in this case a place called “Ross")

Plot Summary:

  • This scene sets some of the early foundations for what will cause Macbeth’s tragic downfall
  • In this opening scene, we see everybody who mentions Macbeth does so with awe and respect - in other words, we’re getting a picture of Macbeth that’s really positive, based on everybody else’s testimony
  • A wounded military captain tells the first great tale of Macbeth - apparently, the captain’s unit was losing pretty badly to Macdonwald (a Scottish traitor, the Thane of Cawdor)
  • However, once Macbeth (and Banquo) entered the fight, even though Duncan’s forces were being swarmed, they sliced through the enemy ranks like a hot knife through butter
  • As if it weren’t good enough for Macbeth to face overwhelming odds and take down Macdonwald’s forces, right after winning that first battle, Sweno of Norway saw that Macbeth’s forces were at a disadvantage, having just fought a hard fight, and decided to attack
  • This second story about Sweno’s ultimate defeat at the hands of Macbeth (and Banquo) is told by the Thane of Ross
  • At the end of the scene, Duncan proclaims that the Thane of Cawdor, who rebelled against Duncan’s armies and rule, is to be executed - Macbeth is to be named the Thane of Cawdor, and as Ross is sent out to deliver this news, the scene comes to a close

Are the line numbers different in your book? Here’s why:

There are many different versions of Shakespeare’s works throughout the world, and different versions sometimes interpret dialogue line numbers differently. At Nerdstudy, we follow the Folger version of Shakespeare’s works, which may be different from the version you are using. Always make sure that you refer to your instructor’s recommendations about which version of the play you’re using in class and whether they will grade you based on accuracy of line numbers for essays, tests, and assignments. Folger Digital Texts is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported license.

Which of the following betrays and starts the first revolt against the crown of Scotland?

The Norweyan Lord
Ross, Thane of Cawdor
Macdonwald, Thane of Ross
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Who joined the Norweyan king in attacking Scotland's armies (including Macbeth) when they looked weak and easily beatable?

the Thane of Fife
the Thane of MacDonwald
the Thane of Ross
the Thane of Cawdor
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What is Macbeth’s current title:

Thane of Glamis
Thane of Cawdor
Thane of Fife
Thane of Aberdeen
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What is a Thane?

A rank of Scottish nobility
A rank of French nobility
A rank of English nobility
A rank of Irish nobility
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Who does Duncan name the new Thane of Cawdor?

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