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Free Study Guide-Macbeth by William Shakespeare-Booknotes Summary
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Act I, Scene 6

Summary

This short scene opens outside of Inverness Castle where King Duncan has arrived with his sons, Banquo, and other noblemen and attendants. The king admires the castle, and Banquo agrees that it is truly "heavenly". As they discuss the merits of the place, Lady Macbeth comes out to greet them, and pleasantries are traded between them. He then takes Lady Macbeth's hand and asks her to lead him to his host.

Notes

This scene is another one filled with irony, symbolism, and flashback. Duncan, in his praise of Macbeth's castle, ironically says that the air "nimbly and sweetly recommends itself," which is a sharp contrast to the foul and filthy air surrounding the witches in Scene 1. The irony lies in the fact that the air of Inverness is really more foul than any surrounding the three ugly creatures, for the plans of Macbeth and his wife are totally vile. Banquo adds further irony by pointing out the gentle bird (marlet) upon its nest and stating that the castle has "heaven's breath". This image of Inverness is in total contrast to the previous scene where Lady Macbeth calls upon a black raven and evil spirits and asks the "smoke of hell" to hide her evil deeds.


The castle then takes on symbolic meaning to reinforce the conflict between good and evil in the play. Outside is light, bright, and pure, and inside the castle walls lurk darkness, doom, and evil.

The reality of Duncan's pleasant entry to Inverness is also in sharp contrast to Lady Macbeth's imagined fatal arrival of the king through "her battlements." Duncan, instead of in the image she painted, comes in peace and high spirits to arrive at a death scene that he does not suspect, much like he could not see the traitor in Cawdor. Things are not as they appear! This theme is further reinforced by Lady Macbeths's total hypocrisy in the scene. She greets Duncan with graciousness and praise while plotting his murder. She is the great pretender in a play of pretense and hypocrisy!

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