Act 1 Scene 6 is a key scene in Macbeth, even though the tragic hero isn’t in it himself! King Duncan arrives at Inverness Castle with Banquo and a few other lords; he’s greeted by Lady Macbeth. He thinks that the castle is ‘pleasant’, and has no awareness of the fact that the Macbeths are plotting to kill him. Below, you’ll find the scene itself, plus a breakdown of key vocabulary and comprehension questions.
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This course includes:
- A full set of video lessons on each key element of the text: summary, themes, setting, characters, context, attitudes, analysis of key quotes, essay questions, essay examples
- Downloadable documents for each video lesson
- A range of example B-A* / L7-L9 grade essays, both at GCSE (ages 14-16) and A-Level (age 16+) with teacher comments and mark scheme feedback
- A bonus Macbeth workbook designed to guide you through each scene of the play!
Mansionry – the state of the castle / mansion
Wooingly – in a sweet way, as if to entice or lovingly encourage someone
Martlet – a bird
Nor – neither / not
Coign of vantage – an advantage or high position
Hermits – people who live shut off from the rest of the world
Dignities – things that bring
Dignity – honour and greatness, strength of character
Frieze – a painting that’s directly painted on a wall
Jutty – something that sticks out
THE SCENE (1.6)
SCENE VI. Before Macbeth’s castle.
Hautboys and torches. Enter DUNCAN, MALCOLM, DONALBAIN, BANQUO, LENNOX, MACDUFF, ROSS, ANGUS, and Attendants
This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle senses.
This guest of summer,
The temple-haunting martlet, does approve,
By his loved mansionry, that the heaven’s breath
Smells wooingly here: no jutty, frieze,
Buttress, nor coign of vantage, but this bird
Hath made his pendent bed and procreant cradle:
Where they most breed and haunt, I have observed,
The air is delicate.
Enter LADY MACBETH
See, see, our honour’d hostess!
The love that follows us sometime is our trouble,
Which still we thank as love. Herein I teach you
How you shall bid God ‘ild us for your pains,
And thank us for your trouble.
All our service
In every point twice done and then done double
Were poor and single business to contend
Against those honours deep and broad wherewith
Your majesty loads our house: for those of old,
And the late dignities heap’d up to them,
We rest your hermits.
Where’s the thane of Cawdor?
We coursed him at the heels, and had a purpose
To be his purveyor: but he rides well;
And his great love, sharp as his spur, hath holp him
To his home before us. Fair and noble hostess,
We are your guest to-night.
Your servants ever
Have theirs, themselves and what is theirs, in compt,
To make their audit at your highness’ pleasure,
Still to return your own.
Give me your hand;
Conduct me to mine host: we love him highly,
And shall continue our graces towards him.
By your leave, hostess.
What kind of mood does Duncan seem to be in when he arrives at Castle Inverness?
King Duncan arrives at the castle. Macbeth is not there to meet him. Why do you think he can’t face Duncan at this moment in the play?
Lady Macbeth is there to meet him. How does she behave towards Duncan? Why is she acting like this?
Dramatic irony is when the audience knows something that the characters in the story don’t. What is ironic about this scene?
Context: High Treason
Treason is the crime of betraying a person’s own country, especially by plotting to kill the sovereign or overthrow the government. Research the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Who was plotting to kill the king? Why? Did they succeed in killing him? What happened to them? Shakespeare wrote the play in 1606, for King James himself. What kind of message do you think Shakespeare is trying to send to people who consider plotting against and overthrowing the king?
Form, Structure + Language
The juxtaposition of mood and tone – Duncan’s positive mood about the castle is disrupted by a darker undertone because we’re aware of the plotting to murder him.
The verb ‘haunt’ may also be foreshadowing Banquo’s ghost, he is talking about how the ‘temple-haunting martlet’ hangs around the castle.
First person plural pronouns: ‘our’ / ‘we‘ – Duncan uses the royal ‘we’ to show his status as monarch.
Dramatic tension: Macbeth isn’t there to greet the king and lords as they arrive, perhaps he’s plotting or perhaps he can’t bring himself to face Duncan when he’s going to kill him – he’s not good at politics and pretending to be one thing while actually being another.