Macbeth

by: William Shakespeare

What Does the Ending Mean?

At the end of the play, Macbeth’s severed head is brought to Malcolm by Macduff, proof that Macbeth has been overthrown, and that Scotland is now Malcom’s to rule. Malcolm promises rewards to all who have fought for him, and names them all earls, the first in Scotland. He announces that they will now work to welcome back all the people of Scotland who fled under Macbeth’s tyranny, and invites all present to watch him be crowned at Scone Castle, the traditional coronation site of Scottish kings. In his final speech, Malcolm also mentions that Lady Macbeth is said to have committed suicide. Thus, the play ends with very little ambiguity: the good side has won, and the evil side has been vanquished. Yet there is one remaining thread that is not resolved: that of Fleance, Banquo’s son, who was able to flee his father’s murderers. The Witches predicted that Banquo would “get” kings, that is, be the patriarch in a line of rulers, although not becoming a ruler himself. Whether this will happen or not is unclear. Malcolm is the direct descendent of King Duncan (and, in historical fact, took the throne from Macbeth). There was a real Banquo, and King James I was thought to be descended from his line, so perhaps Shakespeare left the status of Banquo’s descendants ambiguous in order to please his patron.