How It All Goes Down
We start with some creepy witches cackling about some guy named "Macbeth," and then cut to post-battle, where we learn that this Macbeth has been kicking serious tail—so much that King Duncan has decided to reward him with the title Thane of Cawdor.
Then it's time to meet the protagonist, Macbeth. He's prancing home on a dark and stormy night after defending King Duncan in battle with some skilled enemy-disemboweling. Understandably, he's feeling pretty pumped. Just then, he and his BFF Banquo run into three bearded witches (otherwise referred to as the "weird sisters"), who rhymingly prophesy that Macbeth will be named (guess what?) Thane of Cawdor! and King of Scotland! Heavens! Just as Banquo is pouting about being left out, the witches tell him that he'll be father to a long line of future kings of Scotland. (He'll regret that pout!)
The next thing we know, a guy named Ross shows up to say that, since the old Thane of Cawdor turned out to be a traitor and is about to have his head lopped off and displayed on a pike, Macbeth gets to take his place as Thane of Cawdor. Sweet! That takes care of the first prophecy. At this rate, the play will be over before lunch. Something bad better happen quick, William my boy!
While Macbeth is twiddling his agile thumbs, waiting for "chance" to come along and make him king, he starts getting restless. His ambitiously Gothic wife, Lady Macbeth, prods him (through a few nasty sexual references) into acting like a "man" and killing King Duncan when the poor guy comes to Macbeth's castle for a friendly visit. (MORAL: Choose your friends wisely!)
When Macduff (yeah, we know, there are more "Macsomebodies" in this play than an episode of Grey's Anatomy) it is Scotland, the land of the Big Macs! finds the king's dead body, Macbeth kills the guards and conveniently accuses them of murdering the king. What else can he do, eh? Fess up? King Duncan's kids, Donalbain and Malcolm, find out what's happened, they high tail it out of Scotland so they can't be murdered too. They figure if they killed dear old Dad, they're next. That's the way things worked in Scotland at the time! (And Shakespeare loved him a bit of history! That's how he got his bloodthirsty storylines -- truth is stranger than fiction and all that!)
Macbeth is named king and he's on the gravy train. Prophecies fulfilled! Except, wait. Macbeth starts to chew his thumbs and worry about the witch's prophecy that Banquo's heirs will be kings, not his.Well he and the good Lady don't have any offspring. Some mean commentators say she murdered them!) But let's not digress -- Macbeth's not about to let someone bump him off the throne after he's gone to all the trouble of killing his cousin, so, he hires some hit-men to take care of Banquo and his son, the unfortunately named Fleance. Banquo is murdered, but Fleance flees the murderous swords.
Things go downhill for Macbeth from this point. He's more haunted than an episode of Ghost Hunters. He pops in on the clever Weird Sisters for another prophesy to jolly him up. He gets one which comes in three parts: (1) watch out for Macduff; (2) No man born of woman is going to hurt him; and (3) Don't worry until Birnam Wood (a forest) moves to Dunsinane.
Macbeth breathes a sigh of relief with #2 and #3, since those are obviously impossible situations and mean that he's effectively safe. The one about Macduff has him a little worried, though, so he kills off Macduff's family. Naturally. He's sure enough going to hell for one murder (he had his own personal King James -- so why not make it worthwhile?
By now, people are starting to get a little suspicious. About time, you say! Macduff and Malcolm pay a visit to the awesome English king, Edward the Confessor, and start plotting with the English soldiers how to save Scotland from Macbeth's tyranny. Oh, and Lady Macbeth? She's not doing so hot. In fact, she basically dies of guilt. Downhill all the way since King Duncan's passing (thanks to her shenanigans), but Macbeth is safe, right? Not so fast. Macduff and Malcolm show up with their army and whaddya think? They order troops to cut the branches from the trees in Birnam Wood for camouflage. Did the "weird sisters" send them an email?
Remember what the weird sisters said about Birnam Wood moving to Dunsinane? They twisted sisters didn't actually lie -- they mislead the killer king. But you already know where this is headed, don't ya? Macduff corners Macbeth; calls him a "hell-hound" (not very nice, but literally true); tells him that he, Macduff, was "untimely ripped" from his mother's womb, i.e. delivered via C-section rather than being "born. Macbeth should have done his research! Macduff then cuts off Macbeth's head. So much for the phony king of Scotland. Poetic justice. Early on in the play, there were other heads on spikes. Now it's Macbeth's turn.
So, who're the villains here? Macbeth? Lady Macbeth? The Weird Sisters?
Think on it....