PHASE 5 = Battle with Malcolm’s army →Death
With ten thousand English troops Malcolm, Macduff and Siward go to fight Macbeth. Many Scottish nobles, thanes and soldiers abandon the tyrant Macbeth and switch sides. Meanwhile Lady Macbeth, driven insane with guilt and grief, sleepwalks and obsessively washes imaginary blood from her hands. When Macbeth receives news of her death he sinks into despair at the brevity and futility of life (Act 5, scene 5 soliloquy “Life’s but a walking shadow…”)
However, he vows to fight on as the other options – killing himself or surrendering would be dishonourable in his eyes. He remains over-confident until he learns that the troops have camouflaged themselves with wood from the Birnam forest and are moving toward Dunsinane. When Macbeth comes face to face with Macduff he learns that Macduff was removed from his mother’s womb, and was, thus, never born. Macduff kills Macbeth and Malcolm is returned to the throne. The forces of good regard Macbeth and his wife as a “dead butcher and his fiendlike Queen” but despite ourselves the audience feel a sense of loss at his death.
PHASE 5 – Defeat and Death
Once the truth of their prophecies is revealed it is already too late – Macbeth has already committed himself to fighting “they have tied me to the stake I cannot fly but bearlike I must fight the course”. They thus achieve their aim – to bring evil and turmoil to Scotland, to corrupt an essentially good man and to disrupt the Great Chain of Being as ordained by God. However, ultimately good triumphs over evil and order is restored.
Lady Macbeth no longer influences events. When Macbeth receives news of her death he reflects sadly on the brevity and pointlessness of human existence :
“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
This does not however stop him from fighting: “Blow, wind! Come, wrack! At least we’ll die with harness on our back”.
Macbeth has nothing left to live for. His wife is dead, he finally accepts that the witches have played him for a fool, it’s too late for him to flee and so his soldierly instincts kick in and he id determined to die fighting – the old Macbeth would have viewed this as more honourable than committing suicide.
He finally accepts the inevitable. He will not live, he will not sire children to inherit the throne (his wife is dead), he should not have trusted the witches and now the only thing left that feels right for him to do is to fight to the death. He has nothing driving him on anymore – no ambition, no hope, no honour left to defend, no future left to look forward to “My way of life Is fall’n into the sere…And that which should accompany old age, As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends, I must not look to have, but, in their stead, Curses, not loud but deep” but he has fought so hard for so long and has been so well trained as a soldier never to give up that he fights on, indifferent to his impending death.