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Shakespeare: Macbeth

13. Act 3, Scenes 5-6 and Act 4, Scene 1

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About this Lecture


In this module, we provide a commentary on Act 3, Scenes 5-6, and the first half of Act 4, Scene 1, focusing in particular on the figure of Hecate and the popularity of witches more generally on the early modern stage, the description of Macbeth as a “tyrant”, and the famous scene of the witches cooking up their magic potion (“Double, double, toil and trouble | Fire burn, and cauldron bubble”) – up to the entrance of Macbeth (“By the pricking of my thumbs, | Something wicked this way comes”).


In this nineteen-part course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Shakespeare’s Macbeth. We begin with a broad introduction to historical, political, and intellectual context of early 17th-century England. After that, we go through the play scene by scene, providing close reading and detailed analysis, with commentary on character, plot, themes and motifs, language, symbolism – and more.

Note: We use the Arden edition of the play. Students using a different version of the play may encounter slight differences in both the text and line numbers.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2018, August 28). Shakespeare: Macbeth - Act 3, Scenes 5-6 and Act 4, Scene 1 [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Shakespeare: Macbeth – Act 3, Scenes 5-6 and Act 4, Scene 1." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 28 Aug 2018,