Macbeth: Act 1, Scene 6 – Summary & Analysis

Macbeth: Act 1, Scene 6 – Summary & Analysis

Duncan and his party arrive at Macbeth’s castle and the king speaks of the castle’s pleasant surroundings while thanking Lady Macbeth for her hospitality; he then asks to see Macbeth, who he admits to loving greatly. Macbeth’s wife responds that it is her duty to be hospitable as she and her husband owe much to the king.

Analysis:

We see how deceptive the world is becoming as Duncan is deceived by the atmosphere at Iverness. He remarks that ‘the air/ nimbly and sweet/ recommends itself/ onto our gentle senses’, which shows how even the weather, the most natural of elements, is now also deceptive.

Points of note

The idea of the duty of the host dates back to classical/ mythological times. The host had a duty (xenia) to be as hospitable as possible to any who visited him/ her. This reference serves to emphasize how inhospitable, deceptive and immoral Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are in welcoming Duncan to their home, as this is done to kill him.

Duncan mentions that ‘the love that follows us sometime is our trouble’, which can be applicable to several things here. For Macbeth it might be his love of power and/ or ambition that he cannot escape, or on a more literal level it might be his love for Lady Macbeth, who will not allow him to forget these ambitions. It can also be linked to Duncan, whose love for Macbeth had led him to the place where he will be killed.

Like later when Lady Macbeth becomes affected by the act of murder, this is one of the few moments in the play when Macbeth and his wife can be compared. Macbeth was deceptive to Duncan earlier, proclaiming his loyalty while considering his plan to kill him, and now Lady Macbeth does the same. She deceives the king into thinking the will repay him with the utmost hospitality while having underhanded intentions: ‘were poor and single business to contend/ Against those honours deep and broad wherewith/ Your majesty loads our house’.

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About the Author

John Ryan

John has a Masters in Modern English Literature and is the founder of RyJoLC, an educational consultancy based in Dublin that provides English language and curriculum resources to educational institutions worldwide.
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