About Macbeth

Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth

Glorious Music – Gripping Drama!

Verdi and the Bard -- the results are among the most remarkable combinations of great drama and great music ever created.  This opera is a psychological thriller that portrays an ambitious Scottish nobleman who becomes caught in a web of supernatural power and murder. 

Macbeth is always visually exciting, Verdi’s score is powerful and glorious and the story is dramatic and familiar to many.  What a way to endDelaware’s Year of the Bard!

Performances take Place at The Grand, 818 North Market Street, Wilmington, DE 19801.
Click on the date to order ONLINE tickets

The Story

Act I.

The Story is based around a historic king of Scotland in the 11th century.

Act 1

Scene 1: Scotland has just defeated the army of Norwegian invaders.  Three covens of witches have decided to lure an outstanding specimen of humanity into a contest with the powers of evil.  Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, the greatest warrior in Scotland, is enticed with very attractive promises for his future; he will become Thane of Cawdor and then King of Scotland.  For Banquo, Macbeth’s comrade-in-arms, the prophesies are more ambiguous; he will not be as great as Macbeth yet far greater, not as happy as Macbeth but far happier, not king but the father of kings.  As the two men ponder the strangeness of it all, messengers from King Duncan arrive announcing the execution of the Thane of Cawdor for treason, and the elevation of Macbeth to that high position. Macbeth and Banquo realize the witches possess more than mortal knowledge.

Scene 2: Macbeth's castle

Lady Macbeth ponders the meaning of her husband’s letter which tells of the strange episode with the witches.  She has decided to encourage her husband to ascend the throne by whatever means when a messenger announces that King Duncan will arrive to spend the night in their castle.  She invokes the powers of darkness to aid her in her quest for power. When Macbeth arrives, they come to an understanding – they will murder King Duncan that very night.  The King and his entourage enter and immediately retire to their chambers.  Macbeth, left alone, summons up the courage for murder, in spite of hallucinations involving a dagger with blood.  After the deed, he returns to his wife, very shaken by the experience.  She questions his manhood and, taking the dagger from him, returns to the King’s chamber to complete the crime by smearing Duncan’s blood on his guards.  Macduff, Banquo and other nobles arrive to attend the King.  Banquo comments on the strange night he has passed – what does it all mean?  The murder is discovered and the entire crowd cries out for the unknown assassin to be found and executed.

Act II.

Act 2

Scene 1: Macbeth is now king.

Lady Macbeth queries her husband about being so preoccupied and downcast. They are secure; King Duncan’s son Malcolm fled to England immediately following the murder and therefore is suspected of the crime.  But Macbeth’s preoccupation concerns Banquo and the witches’ prophecy that he would be the father of kings.  Macbeth declares that both Banquo and his only son, Fleance, must be murdered before the royal banquet that evening.

Scene 2: Sundown

Macbeth’s assassins prepare for the double murder and await the victims in the shadows.  As Banquo and Fleance pass through the dark woods on their way to the banquet, the noble warrior reflects on the strange premonitions he has been having.  The murderers attack, and Fleance escapes.

Scene 3: Later that evening

The nobility of Scotland have gathered to honor the new King and Queen.  As Lady Macbeth sings a drinking song enjoining everyone to forget pain and celebrate love, one of the murderers reports to Macbeth that Banquo was murdered but his son escaped.  Macbeth joins his guest at the banquet table and sees the bloody ghost of Banquo seated in his place.  His frenzied reaction alarms and frightens the guests, who have seen nothing.  Lady Macbeth tries to restore calm as Macbeth pledges that more blood will flow, and he will ascertain his future from the witches. Macduff, now suspicious of Macbeth, determines to abandon Scotland and flee to England.

Act III.

Act 3

The witches' cave

The witches add ingredients to a cauldron in a dark cave. Macbeth enters and they conjure up three apparitions for him. The first advises him to beware of Macduff. The second tells him that he cannot be harmed by a man “born of woman,” and the third that he cannot be conquered till Birnam Wood marches against him.  Macbeth is then shown the ghost of Banquo and his descendants, the future Kings of Scotland, verifying the original prophecy.  He collapses and the Witches soothe him with a simulacrum of the Queen. Macbeth tells this “wife” of the new prophesies, and they resolve to track down and kill Banquo's son and Macduff's family.

Act IV.

Act 4

Scene 1: Near the border between England and Scotland

Scottish refugees huddle together at the English border, near Birnam Wood. Macduff is in anguish over the deaths of his wife and children at the hands of the tyrant, and determined to avenge them.  He is joined by Malcolm with an English army.  Malcolm orders each soldier to cut a branch from a tree in Birnam Wood and carry it as they attack Macbeth's army. The refugees join Malcolm, and all are determined to liberate Scotland from tyranny.

Scene 2: Macbeth's castle

A doctor and a servant observe the Queen as she walks in her sleep, wringing her hands and attempting to clean them of blood.

Scene 3: The battlefield

Macbeth has learned that an army is advancing against him but is reassured by remembering the words of the apparitions.  He receives the news of the Queen's death with indifference. He learns that Birnam Wood has indeed come to his castle, but he rallies his troops and battle is joined.  When Macduff finds Macbeth and they fight, he tells Macbeth that he was not "born of woman" but "ripped" from his mother's womb. Macbeth responds in anguish and the two disappear from view, still fighting. Macduff returns, announcing that he has killed Macbeth, and hails Malcolm King. The scene ends with a hymn to victory sung by bards, soldiers, and Scottish women.

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