William Shakespeare
Contributed by Sharon Fleming
Act 5 Scene 8

Macbeth and Macduff come face to face on the battlefield, where they exchange words before clashing swords. Macbeth, the bloody usurper of the throne, finally meets his end. Macbeth meets his predetermined end, bringing all the witches’ prophecies to fruition.


Macbeth contemplates suicide, thinking it may be his best course of action. Just then, a furious Macduff appears. “Turn, hell-hound, turn!” shouts Macduff. Macduff's use of the word “Hell” does not come as a surprise. In Act IV Scene III, Macduff referred to Macbeth as a hell-kite. Macduff's position that Macbeth is evil has been vindicated. In return, Macbeth responds to Macduff and informs him that he is invincible, comparing himself to air. In this statement, Macbeth misinterprets the prophecies of the apparitions that he cannot be killed by a man born of a woman.

During his exchange with Macbeth, Macduff appears less emotional than his opponent. He indicates that revenge is best served by actions rather than words. In addition, Macduff reveals to Macbeth that he was not born of a woman but, instead, was “untimely ripp'd” from the womb of his mother. With this revelation, the prophecy is fulfilled, and Macbeth ought to be aware that the battle is over.

Macbeth has been striving to understand the witches’ prophecies. Initially, he said that the witches were “imperfect speakers” due to their failure to tell him what he wanted to hear. However, now Macbeth realizes that he is the one who is imperfect, while the witches were accurate in their predictions. Every aspect of every prophecy has been fulfilled. Macbeth says, “these juggling fiends no more believed / That palter with us in a double sense” meaning that he no longer doubts the prophecies. Macduff belittles and mocks Macbeth, calling him a coward. Macduff promises to lift Macbeth publicly so that everyone can see him “baited with the rabble's curse.”

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