Macbeth: Act 4

What happens in Act 4, Scene 1? Macbeth visits the Witches and they summon three apparitions. Each apparition makes a prophecy about Macbeth’s future. One of them tells Macbeth to be careful of Macduff, so Macbeth decides to have him killed.
What happens in Act 4, Scene 2? Rosse has come to see Lady Macduff and they talk about why Macduff has left his family to go to England. After Rosse leaves, murderers break in and kill Lady Macduff and all her children.
What happens in Act 4, Scene 3? Macduff is in England to see Malcolm and to persuade him to come back to Scotland. Malcolm thinks that Macduff might be a spy, so he tests Macduff’s loyalty by telling him terrible things about himself. Rosse enters and tells Macduff that his family has been murdered
How does Shakespeare make the Witches seem evil in Scene 1? They enter with Thunder.’Double, double toil and trouble’ reminds the audience of their evil intentions and the word ‘double’ implies double meanings.They are creating a vile potion, which reminds the audience that they are a force for evil in the play. The horrible list of ingredients of their potion such as ‘liver of blaspheming Jew’, ‘gall of goat’ and ‘finger of birth-strangled babe’ create a dark and menacing tone.Each apparition ‘descends’ after they’ve spoken, which suggests that they are returning to hell, which is an evil place.
Compare the character of Macbeth in Act 1 and at the end of Act 4, Scene 1. Do you think he has changed? Give reasons for your answer. Yes, he’s changed. The Witches say ‘something wicked this way comes’ when they see Macbeth approaching, which shows that he is no longer an honourable hero of Act 1. In Act 4, Macbeth decides that he’ll act without hesitating – ‘From this moment, the very firstlings of my heart shall be the firstlings of my hand’. This contrasts with how he worries about killing Duncan in Act 1.
Describe Lady Macduff’s feelings about her husband in Scene 2. She feels angry, scared and betrayed because Macduff has abandoned his family to go to England. This suggests that he may be more loyal to his country than his wife (the opposite of Macbeth).The scene starts mid-dialogue, which highlights her confusion at her husband’s leave.Her fear shows how afraid people are under Macbeth’s rule. She says ‘to do harm is often laudable (something to be praised)’, which shows how the morals of Scotland have been upturned by Macbeth’s tyranny (against natural order).
Why do you think Shakespeare includes a long diaologue between Lady Macduff and her son in Scene 2? They share some jokes, which makes their relationship seem loving and close, and makes the scene moving. This contrasts how Lady Macbeth claims that she would have ‘dashed the brains out’ of her own child – another example of how the Macduffs are quite opposite to the Macbeths.Their long dialogue also makes their murder seem even more treacherous, and so emphasises Macbeth’s evil.
Why does Malcolm not trust Macduff at first? Malcolm says ‘you have loved him well (you were good friends), he hath not touched you yet (he hasn’t hurt you yet)’, which would give Macduff reason to be a spy and so why Malcolm thinks Macduff might be rewarded for betraying him. This is dramatic irony because the audience knows that Macduff’s family have been murdered. Malcolm not trusting Macduff also shows the fear and suspicion Macbeth has created.
Does Shakespeare suggest that Malcolm has the characteristics of a good king? Yes, because Malcolm’s testing of Macduff shows that he could be a better king that Duncan, who was too trusting of those around him. Malcolm tells Macbeth that he’s honest, grateful and god-fearing – good qualities for a king. Malcolm’s loyalty to his country contrasts with Macbeth’s tyranny and betrayal.
Why do you think Shakespeare chose to include the Macduffs’ murder in the play? The murderer calling Lady Macduff’s son ‘egg’ and ‘fry’ shows how young he is and therefore makes Macbeth’s decision to have them murdered more shocking because he is willing to kill defenceless children, emphasising his evil. However, because he sends murderers, it’s also obvious that he’s too cowardly to commit the murders himself. The murder of Lady Macduff’s son happens on stage, showing how Macbeth no longer cares if people see/know about his terrible crimes. It is also a crucial part of the plot because it motivates Macduff to go kill Macbeth and end his cruel reign.
What do the Witches’ apparitions say and what do they represent? An armoured head warns Macbeth about Macduff. It could foreshadow Macbeth’s decapitation. It could also symbolise treachery and the violence of battle.A bloody child tells Macbeth that no one born from a woman can harm him. This could represent Macduff because he was born by Caesarean section. It could also refer to Macbeth himself because his own ambition leads to his downfall, and he has changed so much that he is no longer considered human. A child wearing a crown and carrying a branch tells Macbeth that he can’t be defeated until Birnham Wood moves to Dunsinane Hill. This could represent Malcolm, the rightful heir. The branch could represent Birnham Wood and also the hope that Scotland might grow and flourish under Malcolm’s rule.Macbeth wants to know if the Witche’s prohecy about Banquo’s sons becoming kings is true, so they show him another vision of Banquo’s ghost and a line of his descendants. Macbeth is angry and says ‘thy crown does sear mine eyeballs’. Some of Banquo’s descendants carry orbs and sceptres to show that they will be rulers of England was well as Scotland, like King James.
How do the apparitions’ predictions affect Macbeth and what does this show about his character? Macbeth takes the predictions at face value, even though he knows that people who trust the Witches are ‘damned’ because he’s desperate for them to give him good news to make him feel secure. The apparitions give Macbeth confidence because he thinks he’ll never be defeated because the predictions are impossible (although the Witches haven’t lied, they’ve deliberately misled Macbeth – another example of their deception).Macbeth wants to kill Macduff’s family just to be safe, which shows how evil and paranoid he’s become because he’s willing to kill anyone associated with his enemy even if they don’t pose a threat. Macbeth doesn’t discuss the murders with Lady Macbeth any more because he’s driven by his own ambition and trusts no one.
How is bird imagery used in Scene 2? Lady Macduff compares herself to a wren, a tiny powerless bird, protecting her nest from an owl (Macbeth). This reminds the audience of the imagery used of the owl killing the falcon in Act 2, and shows how Macbeth is now killing defencless ‘prey’.
How does Macduff prove his loyalty in Scene 3? Macduff shows his loyalty to Scotland by going to England to support Malcolm even though his family is in danger. Malcolm tests Macduff’s loyalty by pretending to be more evil than Macbeth. Macduff passes the test, saying that he won’t support another tyrant.
How does Shakespeare contrast the Macbeths in Act 4? Lady Macduff has a close and loving relationship with her son, which contrasts Lady Macbeth when she claims she would have ‘dashed the brains out’ of her own child. She is also upset by Macduff’s abandon, which suggests that he may be more loyal to his country than his wife (the opposite of Macbeth).King Edward of England is shown as a saintly king, whose touch can heal the sick, which contrasts Macbeth’s evil (whose touch can kill the living! lol :p). Edward had divine gifts, which also contrasts the evil, supernatural Witches.Like Macbeth, Malcolm tries to disguise his true nature, but to protect Scotland, not for his own gain.Like the Macbeths, Malcolm thinks masculinity means being aggressive. He tells Macduff to ‘dispute it like a man’. Macduff contrasts this by saying he will ‘feel it as man’ – he thinks men are also sensitive. In this way, Macduff teaches Malcolm how to be a good man/king.
How does Shakespeare reuse the metaphor a ship and a sailor? Macbeth says ‘though the yeasty waves confound and swallow navigation up’, which extends the metaphor that Macbeth is a sailor and Scotland is a ship. The Witches entering with Thunder could represent how they destroy Macbeth like a strom wrecks a ship.

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