* Three witches (a.k.a. the "weird sisters") meet on a foggy heath (an open plain) in Scotland, amidst thunder and lightening. (It's all very dramatic and mysterious.) * They discuss when they'll meet again, and decide to hook up "When the hurly-burly's done, when the battle's lost and won." The implication is that they've been up to something really naughty. * Note: Even though the play's speech headings and stage directions refer to these three lovely ladies as "witches," the term "witch" only shows up once in the play. The sisters are, however, called "weird" six times, which seems significant because the term "weird" comes from the Old English term "wyrd," meaning "fate," aligning the three sisters with the three fates of classical mythology. (You know, the ones who controlled man's destiny.) In the opening scene, though, Shakespeare doesn't name them at all – they're referred to as "we three," which only adds to their mystery. * They agree to get together again before sunset, and let the audience in on their plan to meet Macbeth. It seems whatever they've been plotting has included him, as this is the first mention of our title character. * The witches then call out to Graymalkin and Paddock, who are the witches' "familiars," or spirits (usually animals like cats) that serve the witches. * All three witches then repeat a chorus that sets the tone for the play: "Fair is foul and foul is fair," whereupon they set back to their supernatural business, hovering through the fog and filthy air. Act 1. Scene 2
* Duncan (the King of Scotland), his two sons (Malcolm and Donalbain), and Lennox (a Scottish nobleman) gather together with their attendants at a military camp in Scotland. (Check out this nifty map of major locations in the play.) * King Duncan's forces have been busy fighting against the King of Norway and the traitor, Macdonwald. * A wounded Captain arrives, fresh from the field, where he fought to help Duncan's son, Malcolm, escape capture. The group asks the bleeding man for more news from the battle. * The Captain reports that the battle wasn't looking so good – Macdonwald's forces kept arriving from Ireland and the Western Isles – until brave Macbeth fought through the "swarm" of enemy soldiers and disemboweled the traitorous Macdonwald. * There's some hemming and hawing about Macbeth's great courage in the face of seemingly impossible adversity and the Captain continues his story: after Macbeth spilled Macdonwald's guts all over the ground, the battle flared up again when the "Norwegian Lord" brought new men to the field, but even this didn't daunt Macbeth and Banquo, who just redoubled their efforts. * Then the Captain announces he's feeling faint from all the blood he's lost so he needs to see a surgeon, ASAP. * The Thane of Ross arrives and announces he's just come from Fife, where the Scottish traitor, the Thane of Cawdor, has been fighting against Scotland along side the King of Norway. It turns out that Macbeth kicked serious butt here too. Sweno, Norway's king, is not allowed to bury his men until he hands over ten thousand dollars to the Scots. * Duncan then proclaims the traitorous Thane of Cawdor will be executed, and Macbeth, responsible for the victory, shall have his title. * Ross is sent to announce the news to Macbeth.
* The three witches meet again on the heath and check in about what everyone's been up to. The usual witchy stuff: one was killing swine; another recently asked a sailor's wife for her chestnuts. The sailor's wife told the lady to scram so the witches are going to punish the stingy chestnut hoarder by stirring up a little trouble (a storm with some crazy winds) for her husband's ship, which is currently at sea. * The weird sisters are also going to torment the poor guy by depriving him of sleep and by "drain[ing] him dry as hay," which means the sailor's going to have some serious gastro-intestinal problems and/or that he's...
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