The witches tell each other of their evil deeds. When the generals Macbeth and Banco return victoriously from battle, the witches prophesy that Macbeth will become first Thane of Cawdor and later King of Scotland. Banco, they prophecy, will become the father of kings. Shortly afterwards, the King’s messengers confirm Macbeth’s promotion, as the old Thane of Cawdor has been executed for his part in the rebellion. While Macbeth is horrified by his thoughts of murder, Banco senses the approaching danger. Lady Macbeth reads her husband’s letter telling her of the prophecies. She intends to bolster his bravery and the unscrupulousness his rise will require. A servant announces that King Duncan will visit the castle overnight. By the time Macbeth arrives, his wife already has a plan to murder the King in his sleep that night. Duncan and his son Malcolm enter, accompanied by Banco and Macduff. Macbeth shudders at the prospect of the deed: he has visions of the murder weapon in front of him. When he returns from the murder entirely distraught, Lady Macbeth is already waiting. She mocks his fear and advises him to throw suspicion on Duncan’s guards. Because Macbeth is incapable of returning to the scene of the crime, she takes matters into her own hands. Macbeth already regrets the murder. While Banco is recalling that horrific night, Macduff uncovers the crime. His shouts make everyone come running. They curse the unknown assassin and call for God to punish him.
Because Duncan’s son Malcolm has fled to England, suspicion for the murder has fallen on him. To prevent Banco’s prophecy from being fulfilled, Macbeth intends to do away with both him and his son that night. When Lady Macbeth is alone, she convinces herself that these murders are necessary and is carried away by a lust for power. That night, the murderers Macbeth has hired lie in wait for their victims. But Banco senses danger and is able to warn his son Fleance at the last moment. The new King and Queen hold a banquet. In order to enliven the rather frosty mood, Lady Macbeth sings a toast. One of the murderers secretly reports to Macbeth that Banco is dead but Fleance has managed to escape. Macbeth is openly pretending to be amazed at Banco’s absence when he suddenly sees Banco’s ghost and panics. Lady Macbeth tries her utmost to cover up this embarrassing situation. Macbeth decides to consult the witches again while Macduff makes plans to escape from Scotland.
Macbeth goes in search of the witches in order to learn his fate. The three apparitions make these prophecies: they warn Macbeth about Macduff; no man born of woman can be a danger to him; and Macbeth will remain undefeated until Birnam Wood moves. When Macbeth asks about Banco’s descendants, he sees kings march past followed by Banco. At this point, Macbeth knows that he is doomed. Macbeth tells his wife of the prophecies. Both of them agree to kill Macduff’s family as well as Banco’s son. What began with blood, must end with blood.
At the English border the fleeing Scots lament that their fatherland has turned into a mass grave. Macduff mourns for his family and intends to kill the tyrant Macbeth. Malcolm has mobilised an army against Macbeth and orders his soldiers to disguise themselves with branches cut from Birnam Wood. All of them wish to avenge their “betrayed fatherland”. Lady Macbeth’s doctor and lady-in-waiting watch over the sleepwalking mistress. Her feelings of guilt have caused her to lose sense of reality and she repeatedly gives away her bloody crimes by attempting to wash herself clean. Macbeth curses his enemies, who have joined forces with the English. He feels completely isolated. The news that his wife is dead he greets with contemptuous indifference. The opposing army, camouflaged with branches from Birnam Wood, is advancing. Macbeth summons all his men for the final battle. In that battle, Macduff, who was “from his mother’s womb untimely ripped”, tracks down Macbeth and kills him. Malcolm is crowned the new King and Macduff is hailed as a hero.