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Shakespeare: Macbeth

14. Act 4, Scene 1

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About this Lecture


In this module, we provide a commentary on the second half of Act 4, Scene 1, focusing in particular on the series of apparitions presented by the witches, the character of Macbeth as he dismisses two out of three of the witches’ prophecies (“That will never be”), the sophistication of Elizabethan stage machinery and special effects, the theme of time, and the Macbeth’s transformation from a man of thought to a man of action (“From this moment | The very firstlings of my heart shall be | The firstlings of my hand”).


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 4, Scene 1 [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Shakespeare: Macbeth – Act 4, Scene 1." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 28 Aug 2018,

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