Scene by Scene – Macbeth Act 4

Act 4 Scene 1 – Chanting “Double, double, toil and trouble,” the three Witches stir the cauldron.The witches call up apparitions which give Macbeth warnings, promises, and prophecies: beware Macduff, fear “none of woman born,” fear nothing until Birnam wood come to Dunsinane, Banquo’s issue shall be kings. The Witches vanish and Macbeth calls in Lennox, who tells him that Macduff has fled to England, whereupon Macbeth orders the murder of Macduff’s wife and children. “Double double toil and trouble” “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes” “Though you untie the winds and let the fight against the churches” “Even till destruction sicken” “Macbeth” Repeated continuously, self-obsession “Give to the edge of the sword his wife, his babies” Analysis – – Furthers theme of deception and equivocation – Hideous imagery of cauldron reflective of special feast and Banquo – Macbeth has become overconfident – Hecate predicts how this brings his downfall – Apparitions are deceptive but give him confidence – Signposting important details for structure of play – Apparitions hint at his death but Macbeth sees them as reassurance- So obsessed with ambition that he sees what he wants – He asks for too much (greed) and last apparition throws him- Macbeth ruthlessly and purposelessly orders murder of Macduff’s family – almost dehumanises him – unravelling sanity
Act 4 Scene 2 – Ross brings Lady Macduff the news that her husband has fled Scotland. Lady Macduff and her son joke about Macduff being a traitor. A messenger rushes in to tell Lady Macduff to run for her life, but right after him come the murderers who kill the boy and his mother. Analysis — Structure – we know that they will die, uncomfortable and tense – In depth conversation about treason is interesting, representing the innocent Vs the cynical – Scene shows Macbeth as a complete villain, but not involved in the murder (there must be some sympathy in him)
Act 4 Scene 3 – Macduff seeks Malcolm’s support for a war against Macbeth, and Malcolm tests Macduff’s intentions. A doctor tells of the English King’s miraculous ability to heal the sick. Speaking to Malcolm and Macduff, Ross tells of Scotland’s suffering under Macbeth and of the slaughter of Macduff’s wife and children. Everyone is now ready to make war against Macbeth. “I should pour the sweet milk of concord into hell, uproar the universal peace, confound all unity on earth” “He hath a heavenly gift of prophecy””It cannot be called our mother but our grave” “Sighs, and groans, and shrieks that rent the air” Religious imagery Analysis – – Play sets up a real alternative to Macbeth – Macduff’s rise crosses Macbeth’s downfall- Malcolm shows a contrast to his father, extremely suspicious and deceitful (more viable king) – Scene is a commentary on all that is wrong with Scotland and what a king should be like – Malcolm’s lies reflect Macbeth’s rule – Malcolm also describes what a good king should be like (King Edward) – divinity, healing, sacred – Contrast between England and Scotland – Dramatic irony and tension built up as we know Macduff’s family is dead – gives more weight to sorrow – Incentive for Macduff

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