Macbeth - Summary and Analysis Act V: Scene 9


In the freshly taken castle of Dunsinane, events move to their natural conclusion. With the tyrant dead and war honors duly acknowledged, Malcolm is proclaimed by all the assembled thanes to be the new king of Scotland.


This joyous scene is offset by its poignancy. Malcolm’s opening line concerning those friends whom “we miss” is not only a gracious acknowledgment of what true loyalty means but also an indication of how he will rule in future, with the graciousness and humility that was associated with his father, Duncan.

A greater acknowledgment of human self-sacrifice comes in the report of young Siward’s death, made more tragic by the fact that he was young (“He only liv’d but till he was a man”) and that he predeceased his father, Old Siward. Nevertheless, Old Siward’s response is one of great courage and faith. Asking whether his son was killed by a stroke to the chest or the back (in other words, whether he was facing or running from his opponent), Siward is told that he died “like a man,” with his wounds “on the front.” This account is enough to satisfy Siward that his son was “God’s soldier” — a fitting and dramatic contrast with Macbeth who embraced the powers of evil so thoroughly.

Macduff enters the castle with the tyrant’s decapitated head — like Claudius in Hamlet, the victim of his own poisoned chalice. The weight of these sad times has been lifted, and all that remains is for Malcolm to be acclaimed, in stirring fashion, as “King of Scotland.” In his acceptance speech, the soon-to-be-crowned Malcolm invites his immediate audience to see him crowned at Scone, the traditional home of Scottish kings. The actions he will undertake as king will be performed ” . . . in a measure, time and place.” This sentence carries a deep sense of unity and completion, reinforced by the rhyming couplet structure of the final four lines. Moreover, Shakespeare leaves us with the strong impression that the defining feature of future rulers (including James I of England) will be an acceptance of God’s grace.


go off (2) perish

unshrinking station (8) unyielding position

before (12) on his chest

compassed . . . pearl (22) surrounded by the elite of Scotland

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