The first we hear of Macbeth is with praises to his name. He is called brave Macbeth', valiant cousin' and worthy gentleman,' fighting a war for God, king and county. We hear of further acts of bravery in the same episode as Macbeth and Banquo repelled another assault as sparrows eagles' and the hare the lion.' These two phrases are significant because they represent bravery and to remind us of the patterned order of the universe, nature and society in which every creature has it's appointed place. For all his gallantry, Macbeth is rewarded with the title thane of Cawdor' and well he deserves this decoration.
The scene is very important as we get to see opinions of Macbeth from the other characters, and all the good words leave a deep impression of respect and admiration from the reader. It can be noted that already Shakespeare has an effect on the reader, and this is an important aspect in the tragedy.
In the next scene we see the three witches upon a heath. They speak of their experiences, in particular how one wreaked havoc and devastation upon a boat in vengeance. This leaves the audience feeling quite horrified and gives one a sense of wariness as doom seems imminent. Now Macbeth and Banquo enter, and quite appropriately the former quotes so foul and fair a day I have not seen', although he has just won the battle he can sense a surrounding evil. They see the witches and are greeted by them: All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!' All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!' Naturally Macbeth is startled by these prophecies, as he has no knowledge that he is going to be made Thane of Cawdor, much less that he will be king. Banquo sees this and questions it why do you start and seem to fear things that do sound so fair' he gets no answer but perhaps the prophecy scares Macbeth because deep down he does desire to become king.
The next prediction is for Banquo: lesser than Macbeth, and greater' Not so happy, yet much happier.' Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none.' At this the witches disappear, and Macbeth is greeted by Angus and Ross who bestow him with his title. So one prophecy has come true, and Banquo tells Macbeth about the dangers of this supernatural soliciting' often to win us to our harm the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray's in deepest consequence.'
Some say that this is the beginning of Macbeth's downfall, as in his first soliloquy he has already thought of the idea of murdering his king. This small seed planted in his mind will soon sprout and he will indeed commit treason. Already the audience are losing their adoration for Macbeth as we see his mental frailty and evil intention.
In the next scene we learn of the execution of the former Thane of Cawdor, who from being a person devoured by greed and corruption has died a true gentleman. Perhaps this is a parallel to Macbeth. We also learn of Malcolm being named Prince of Cumberland, heir to the throne. Here one can see an obvious conflict between Macbeth's ambitions and Malcolm. The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step which I must fall down, or else o'erleap, For my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires, Let not light see my deep and dark desires; The wink at the hand; yet let that be which the eye fears, when it is done, to see. The question at hand is what Macbeth should do, is he determined on evil intent or is divine intervention the answer? He contemplates this, and decides that it is not worthwhile to throw everything away for one guilty...