MACBETH AND THE THREE WEIRD SISTERS
After King Kenneth III. died, several other kings reigned
of whom there is not much to tell. At last a king called
Duncan came to the throne. He was so kind and gentle
that he was called Duncan the Gracious.
He was too kind and gentle for those rough times.
The beginning of Duncan‘s reign was quiet and peaceful,
but when the people saw how kind he was, and how little
he punished evil-doers, they grew unruly and rebellious,
thinking they might do as they wished, because of the
weak rule of this mild King.
Some of the people rose in rebellion under a leader
called Macdowald, and Duncan, who did not like fight
ing, hardly knew what to do. But he had a cousin called
Macbeth who was a great and powerful man, very fierce
and stern, and a splendid soldier.
Macbeth was impatient of the King‘s softness. He
was eager to fight, so Duncan gave the command of
his army to this cousin and to another noble called
When the rebels heard that Macbeth was coming
against them, they were so afraid that many of them left
their leader Macdowald. Some of them stole away to
hide. Others joined Macbeth. Macdowald was left with
very few soldiers, but he was obliged to fight, for he could
not escape from Macbeth. In the battle which followed.
34 SCOTLAND’S STORY
the rebels were utterly defeated and their leader was
No sooner had Macbeth put down this rebellion than
the Danes once more invaded Scotland. But he defeated
them too, and they fled away, promising never again to
One day, soon after the war with the Danes, Macbeth
was walking over a lonely moor with Banquo, when they
were met by three old women. These three old women
were very ugly and dreadful to look upon. They were
called the Weird Sisters and were supposed to be witches.
Nowadays no one believes in witches, but in those far-off
times every one did.
These three old women stopped in front of Macbeth,
and pointing at him with their skinny fingers, spoke.
‘ Hail, Macbeth ! hail to thee ! Thane of Glamis,’ said
‘ Hail, Macbeth ! hail to thee ! Thane of Cawdor,’ said
‘ Hail, Macbeth I hail to thee I King of Scotland,’ said
Both Macbeth and Banquo were very much astonished,
and wondered what this might mean, for Macbeth was
certainly not King of Scotland, nor was he either Thane
of Glamis or Cawdor.
Thane was an old Scottish title meaning very much
the same as the Saxon title earl which came to be used
‘ You say fine things to Macbeth,’ said Banquo, when
the old women had ceased speaking ; ‘ have you nothing
to say to me ? ’
‘ Yes,’ said the first witch, ‘ we promise greater things
to you than to him. He indeed shall be King of Scot
land, but his end shall be unhappy. His children shall
MACBETH AND THE WEIRD SISTERS 85
not follow him on the throne You shall never reign, but
your children shall sit upon the throne of Scotland for
Then the old women vanished, leaving Macbeth and
Banquo full of astonishment.
They were still wondering what it all might mean
when a horseman came spurring towards them. When
he came near he threw himself from his horse and kneel
ing at Macbeth‘s feet, ‘ Hail, Macbeth,’ he cried, ‘ thy
father Sinell is dead, and thou art Thane of Glamis.’
What the first Weird Sister had said had come true.
More full of astonishment than ever, Macbeth went on
his way. But he had gone very little farther when a
second messenger came hurrying towards him.
‘ Hail, Thane of Cawdor,’ cried this second messenger,
kneeling at his feet.
‘ Why do you call me that ? ‘ asked Macbeth. ‘ The
Thane of Cawdor is alive. I have no right to the title.’
‘ He who was the Thane of Cawdor is alive,’ said
the messenger, ‘ but because he has rebelled against the
King his thaneship has been taken from him. The King
has made you Thane in his place as a reward for all your
What the second Weird Sister had said had come true.
Now that two things had come true, Macbeth began
to think more and more of what the Weird Sisters had
said, and he longed for the third thing to come true too.
But unless Duncan should die there seemed no hope of
that. Macbeth despised Duncan because of his gentle
ness, and he wished he would die. Sometimes the wicked
thought came to him that he would kill Duncan. Yet
he could not quite make up his mind to do the evil deed.
Macbeth had a wife, who was a very proud and
beautiful lady. She longed to be queen, and when she
heard of what the Weird Sisters had said she kept urging
Macbeth to murder Duncan and make himself King.
But Macbeth could not so easily forget that King
Duncan was his cousin, that he had always loved and
trusted him, that he had made him general of his army
and Thane of Cawdor and had heaped upon him many
honours and rewards. So when Lady Macbeth tried to
make her husband murder the King, he reminded her of
But Lady Macbeth cared for none of these things.
She hated Duncan and all his family, because his grand
father had killed her brother. She longed to avenge his
death, and she longed to be queen. She kept on telling
Macbeth that he was weak and cowardly not to murder
Duncan. So at last Macbeth listened to his wife, and
giving way to his own evil wishes and to her persuasions,
he killed the good King Duncan.
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