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Act 4 / 1. In this scene M visits the witches. Note that earlier they sought him out…now he seeks them out! This indicates how desparate he is. This marks another step in M’s moral and rational decline – he actively seeks out the involvement of the instruments of evil!

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act 4 1
Act 4 / 1
  • In this scene M visits the witches.
    • Note that earlier they sought him out…now he seeks them out! This indicates how desparate he is.
    • This marks another step in M’s moral and rational decline – he actively seeks out the involvement of the instruments of evil!
    • As M approaches, the witches themselves regard him as “something wicked”. What a change from “brave Macbeth…valliant cousin…worthy gentleman…peerless kinsman” as seen in act 1.
  • Macbeth is presented with 3 apparitions
    • The first, a bloody baby, warns him of Macduff, confirming his suspicions.
    • The second tells M to do pretty much as he pleases….because “none of woman born shall harm Macbeth”. This sounds promising and fills M with false confidence because, after all, everyone is born of a woman! This will be of enormous significance at the conclusion of the drama.
    • The third apparition tells him that he will never be defeated until Birnam forest uproots itself and marches up high Dunsinane hill against him.
      • Once more, he is filled with false confidence. After all, such things aren’t possible…are they?
    • He never questions these apparitions, never reflects on what they might actually mean but accepts them blindly as assurances of his invincibility.
act 4 11
Act 4 / 1
  • So, instead of questioning these impossible prophecies, he takes them as signs that he cannot be defeated and this in turn gives him ‘permission’ so to speak, to become even more murderous in his behaviour…after all…he’s invincible…isn’t he?
  • Consider exactly how the witches tell him to behave…”be bold, bloody and resolute..”.
  • The effect is dramatic! Macbeth takes their words to heart and indeed becomes even more bloody, more resolute than before. For no reason other than bloodthirsty retaliation, he decides to have Macduff’s entire houshold slaughtered.
    • What’s doubly significant is that this is the first of his atrocities committed broad daylight. Duncan and Banquo were murdered under cover of darkness…with Macbeth hiding his involvement in their deaths.
    • This is different. Bolstered by the witches assurances he openly has the innocent Macduff family butchered. There is no attempt to distance himself from the deed, no pretence of innocence.
    • This is another step in Macbeth’s moral decline.
act 4 12
Act 4 / 1
  • Macbeth’s reveals that he will no longer ponder such deeds before carrying them out but will execute them immediately….”from this moment the very firstling of my heart shall be the firstlings of my hand”,
act 4 2
Act 4 / 2
  • This scene shifts away from Macbeth himself and onto the victims of his crimes…the Macduffs.
    • Note that the clever banter between Lady Macduff and her son about Macduff’s absence gives the audience an intimate view of their family life. This only makes the horror of what is about to come even worse.
  • Shakespeare makes sure to highlight the victims’ innocence as Lady Macduff protests “I have done no harm”. Although given the cruelty of Macbeth’s reign, innocence is no guarantee of anyone’s safety.
  • Note too that Duncan and Banquo were both murdered offstage – and although brutal, their deaths had a sort of criminal logic to them. But Macduff’s young son, is stabbed to death onstage, in full view of the entire audience.
act 4 3
Act 4 / 3
  • This scene is longer than most others and marks a pivotal turning point in the course of events. Macduff meets with Malcolm in England and seeks his help against Macbeth. But, cleverly, Macbeth has already sent others to Malcolm, pretending loyalty, seeming to enlist his help in order to betray him.
    • However, young Malcolm shows himself to be less trusting than his father was. He tests Macduffs sincerity by attributing to himself every possible vice. Further, he claims to have no virtues at all…none of
    • “the king-becoming graces, / As justice, verity, temperance, stableness, / Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness, / Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude, / I have no relish of them, but abound / In the division of each several crime, / Acting it many ways”
    • After prudently testing Macduff’s loyalty and being satisfied, Malcolm agrees, revealing that he already has 10,000 men promised by king Edward.
  • Malcolm speaks of king Edward, a man deeply prayerful, holy and pious. Heaven, it seems, has blessed him with gifts of prophecy and healing. This is in stark contrast to Macbeth who seeks prophecy from satanic powers, is unable to pray at all and can only bring suffering and death.
  • Ross arrives outlining the suffering state of Scotland and informs Macduff of his familys’ awful fate. Macduff grieves and the men are resolved to march on Scotland
act 4 31
Act 4 / 3
  • This scene, then, functions on a number of levels
    • It brings to the fore those characters whose places in the narrative have been in the background. We’ve seen relatively little of Malcolm or Macduff up to ths point. The significance of their roles will increase now, as the plot progresses to its inevitable end.
    • There is also an enormous contrast between both countries and their kings
      • England is at peace under Edward Scotland is in chaos.
      • Edward is associated with heaven Macbeth is associated with hell.
      • Edward brings healing Macbeth brings suffering and death
      • Edward has a heavenly gift of prophecy Macbeth’s prophecies come from witches
      • Edward is deeply prayerful Macbeth has been unable to pray since the murder of Duncan
    • We note also, a sense of the inevitable regarding the outcome of events. Thngs are so bad that Scotland is ready to shake off Macbeth’s rule. As Macduff reports “each new morn / New widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows / Strike heaven on the face, that it resounds / As if it felt with Scotland and yell\'d out / Like syllable of dolour.”
important quotations act 4 1
Important quotations Act 4 / 1
  • Double, double toil and trouble; / Fire burn and cauldron bubble(witches chanting their spell)
  • By the pricking of my thumbs, / Something wicked this way comes(witches on Macbeth)
  • I conjure you, by that which you profess, / Howe\'er you come to know it, answer me: / ……….answer me / To what I ask you.(M to witches)
  • Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! beware Macduff; / Beware the thane of Fife(first apparition)
  • Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn / The power of man, for none of woman born / Shall harm Macbeth(second apparition)
  • Macbeth shall never vanquish\'d be until / Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill / Shall come against him.(3rd apparition)
  • Yet my heart / Throbs to know one thing: tell me, if your art / Can tell so much: shall Banquo\'s issue ever / Reign in this kingdom?(M to witches)
  • [ A show of Eight Kings, the last with a glass in his hand; GHOST OF BANQUO following ]stage dirtections showing the witches response to M’s previous question.
  • from this moment / The very firstlings of my heart shall be / The firstlings of my hand(Macbeth’s final comments – his new resolve to act immediately, without reflection)
quotes act 4 2
Quotes act 4 / 2
  • when our actions do not, / Our fears do make us traitors. (Lady Macduff commenting on the ever present fear in Scotland now)
  • But cruel are the times, when we are traitors / And do not know ourselves(Ross to Lady Macduff)
  • I doubt some danger does approach you nearly: / If you will take a homely man\'s advice, / Be not found here; hence, with your little ones(messenger to Lady Macduff)
  • I have done no harm. But I remember now / I am in this earthly world; where to do harm / Is often laudable, to do good sometime / Accounted dangerous folly:(Lady MD)
quotes act 4 3
Quotes act 4 / 3
  • Each new morn / New widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows / Strike heaven on the face (Macduff describing the state of Scotland to Malcolm)
  • I am young;but something / You may deserve of him through me, and wisdom / To offer up a weak poor innocent lamb / To appease an angry god.(Malcolm to Macduff)
  • Though all things foul would wear the brows of grace, / Yet grace must still look so.(Malcolm to Macduff)
  • I would not be the villain that thou think\'st / For the whole space that\'s in the tyrant\'s grasp, / And the rich East to boot.(Macduff to Malcolm)
  • It is myself I mean: in whom I know / All the particulars of vice so grafted… (Malcolm to MD)
  • Not in the legions / Of horrid hell can come a devil more damn‘d / In evils to top Macbeth(MD to Mal)
  • but there\'s no bottom, none, / In my voluptuousness(Mal to MD)
  • With this there grows / In my most ill-composed affection such / A stanchless avarice(Mal to MD)
  • But I have none: the king-becoming graces, / As justice, verity, temperance, stableness, / Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness, / Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude, (Mal to MD, describing the qualities he ‘doesn’t have’)
quotes act 4 31
Quotes act 4 / 3
  • These evils thou repeat\'st upon thyself / Have banish\'d me from Scotland. O my breast, / Thy hope ends here(MD to Mal)
  • Macduff, this noble passion, / Child of integrity, hath from my soul / Wiped the black scruples, reconciled my thoughts / To thy good truth and honour. Devilish Macbeth / By many of these trains hath sought to win me / Into his power, and modest wisdom plucks me / From over-credulous haste:(Mal to MD revealing that it was all just a test of loyalty!)
  • (Take note also to lines 115 – 135…Malcolm’s true assessment of himself)
  • Such sanctity hath heaven given his hand / They presently amend.(Doctor to Mal describing Edward’s gift of healing the sick)
  • A most miraculous work in this good king;(Mal to MD on Edward)
  • He hath a heavenly gift of prophecy, / And sundry blessings hang about his throne, / That speak him full of grace(Mal to MD on Edward)
quotes act 4 32
Quotes Act 4 / 3
  • Alas, poor country! / Almost afraid to know itself. It cannot / Be call\'d our mother, but our grave; where nothing, / But who knows nothing, is once seen to smile; / Where sighs and groans and shrieks that rend the air / Are made, not mark\'d; where violent sorrow seems / A modern ecstasy; the dead man\'s knell / Is there scarce ask\'d for who (Ross to Mal on the state of Scotland)
  • Your castle is surprised; your wife and babes / Savagely slaughter\'d(Ross to MD)
  • MACDUFFMy children too?
  • ROSSWife, children, servants, all / That could be found.
  • He has no children. All my pretty ones? / Did you say all? O hell-kite! All? / What, all my pretty chickens and their dam / At one fell swoop?(MD grieving at the news)
  • Be this the whetstone of your sword: let grief / Convert to anger; blunt not the heart, enrage it(Mal to MD)
  • Come, go we to the king; our power is ready; / Our lack is nothing but our leave; Macbeth / Is ripe for shaking,(Malcolm to MD and Ross)
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