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In writing Macbeth, Shakespeare created an almost perfect plot line with a short introduction, rapid rising action, a climax that occurs half way through the play, followed by rapid and intense falling action and a brief conclusion. The first two scenes of the play serve as an introduction. The opening witch scene sets the dark, somber mood of the entire play and foreshadows the "foulness" that is to come. The second scene introduces the character of Macbeth through conversation. He is depicted as a brave, intelligent, and noble warrior, who has just been honored by good King Duncan with a new title. In scene 3, the action of the play actually begins and moves forward at breath-taking speed throughout the balance of the play
Macbeth comes into Scene 3 and meets with the evil witches, who plant the seed of greed in his not so noble mind. When they prophesy that Macbeth will become the King of Scotland, he immediately thinks of murdering the king. The audience is then kept on edge during the next few scenes and wonder if Macbeth is evil enough to carry through with seizing the crown through murder. By the opening of Act II, Macbeth is already wrestling with his conscience even though the evil deed is not done. He sees bloody daggers in front of this face and has to steel himself to commit the murder. The second scene in Act II reveals the a aftermath of the execution and Macbeth bemoaning the blood on his hands which can never be cleansed. The rest of Act II show the effects of Duncan's murder on his kin and nobles and, more importantly, on Macbeth.
Act II opens with a scene of comic relief, the only one in the play. Its purpose is to slow the frantic, chaotic pace of the play for a brief interlude, to relax the audience after the tension of the murder and its aftermath, and to allow the audience to catch its breath before the next rush of action. Early in the act, Macbeth's deteriorating mind is clearly developed. He plans the murder of Banquo in Scene 2 and has it accomplished in Scene 3. By Scene 4, Macbeth has become irrational in response to his fear of discovery and guilt. At the royal banquet, he sees the ghost of Banquo sitting in his chair, and it is his undoing. He clearly incriminates himself by saying, "Thou canst say I did it." These words mare the moment of climax or turning point in the play. Macbeth has offered his guilt for all the lords and ladies to see. Now it is simply a question of when and how he will meet his tragic end.
Macbeth spends the rest of the play pathetically fighting his fear and guilt and trying to protect his stolen crown. The falling action that follows the banquet scene continues at the same breath-taking speed of the rising action. Macbeth consults the evil witches again to learn his future and is warned against Macduff. Macduff, however, flees to England in Act IV and joins Malcolm in preparing an attack on the "mad tyrant." In retaliation for this light and refusal to return, Macbeth murders the family of Macduff. Macduff also loses his only family when Lady Macbeth kills herself in Act V.
In response to his wife's death, Macbeth cries out about the emptiness of life, but promises to fight until the end, which is near at hand. Malcolm and Macduff attack and easily overtake the king's castle. Then in the final scene of the play, Macduff fights Macbeth. The short conclusion of the play occurs when Macduff carries Macbeth's head in on a pole and hails Malcolm as the new King of Scotland. The well constructed play ends with the promise that order will return to Scotland under the rule of the new king.