Act 4, Scene 1
Character: First Witch, Second Witch, Third Witch, Fourth Witch, Fifth Witch, Sixth Witch, Hecate, Macbeth, First Apparition, Second Apparition, Third Apparition, Kings, Ghost of Banquo, Lennox)
Location: A cavern.
Events: The witches cook up a potion while dancing around a boiling cauldron in a cave. Macbeth enters the cave, demanding apparitions to provide answers and prophecies for his future. An “armed head” appears as the first apparition. Macbeth learns that the apparition can read his thoughts and is instructed by the witches to listen but not speak. The first apparition warns Macbeth about Macduff, telling him that he needs to be aware of him and demands to be dismissed as that’s all the information he had. The armed head vanishes and Macbeth comes to a realisation that his worries and wonders are in fact reality. The second apparition appears as a bloody child, instructing Macbeth to be bold, brave and fearless as no man born of a woman can harm Macbeth and vanishes shortly thereafter. Macbeth thinks that by killing Macduff, he can sleep safely at night, but his motive isn’t strong enough to do so yet. The third apparition comes as a child wearing a crown and holding a tree in its hand. The bloody child advises Macbeth to be proud and have confidence because he will not be defeated until Birnam Wood moves to Dunsinane Hill. Macbeth draws the conclusion that he will not be defeated, how can a forest pack up and move? The king is satisfied with his future but he is hungry for the answer to his final question: will Banquo’s descendants reign in his kingdom? Even though the witches advise him not to seek more information, Macbeth demands to know. A fourth group of apparitions appears as eight kings, one holding a mirror followed by Banquo’s ghost. Macbeth understands that these kings are the sons of Banquo, and his admirable illusion of his future had all of a sudden been devastated, leaving him unsure and confused. The witches dance around in an effort to cheer Macbeth up and shortly after vanish. Lennox enters to inform Macbeth that Macduff has fled to England. In a fury with his thane, Macbeth orders to kill Macduff’s family to eliminate threats to his throne.
Quote: “Now I see ‘tis true, for the blood-bolder’d Banquo smiles upon me, and points at them for his.” (Macbeth) Macbeth has come to the realisation that his fear of Banquo’s descendants taking over the throne is a reality.
Act 4, Scene 2
Characters: Lady Macduff, Lady Macduff’s and Macduff’s son, Rosse, Messenger, First and Second Murderers.
Location: Fife. Macduff’s castle.
Time: Macduff has fled to England.
Events: Lady Macduff questions why Macduff fled to England, she doesn’t believe it was for a good cause but Rosse tries to convince her that it could have been done out of wisdom, without revealing what he really knows. Rosse leaves and Lady Macduff’s son enters. Lady Macduff lies to her son about his father being dead but her son sees through her lie. The audience learns that the son is smart. A messenger enters with the warning that something is coming to harm Lady Macduff and her children. She is advised to flee before danger arrives. Lady Macduff decides to stay as she believes that she shouldn’t avoid harm when people believes she causes it herself, even though she is innocent. She blames this on the society she lives in where evil acts are rewarded and good deeds are foolish. Shortly thereafter, two murderers enter killing the son after he denies the murderers comment of Macduff being a traitor. The son tells his mother to flee whilst on his deathbed, and Lady Macduff does so with a murderer following her and we are left with the assumption that her and her remaining children were killed as well.
Quote: “Whither should I fly? 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 is sometime accounted dangerous folly. Why then, alas, do I put up that womanly defence, to say I have done no harm?” (Lady Macduff) In a world where good is seen to be foolish and evil is looked up to and rewarded, Lady Macduff decides that even though she is innocent, it will only be believed by few. Why should she flee from harm when people believe she causes it herself? We are given the impression that even though Lady Macduff is innocent she starts to believe she is not, solely because of the society she lives in and other people’s assumptions.
Act 4, Scene 3
Characters: Malcolm, Macduff, English Doctor, Rosse.
Location: England. Before the King’s palace.
Events: Malcolm and Macduff gather in England, and while Malcolm wants to grieve over recent events in peace, Macduff plans to start a war against Macbeth and seeks Malcolm’s support. In order to test Macduff’s loyalty and trust, and to ensure that he isn’t working for Macbeth, Malcolm paints a false, dark illusion of himself to see how Macduff reacts and determine if he is a traitor. He confesses to being greedy, lustful and in unfit condition to be king if they were to win the battle, which would lead Malcolm to the throne. Malcolm portrays himself to have the direct opposite qualities that a king should have. This results in Macduff outbursting “Oh Scotland, Scotland!” and stating that Malcolm is not only unfit for governing Scotland but unfit for life. Malcolm takes this as his answer and retracts his false presentation of his character, stating that he would only fight Macbeth with someone with loyalty to their country like Macduff has. A doctor pays a brief visit to tell Malcolm that an ill group of people are waiting for King Edward to heal them. As the doctor exits Malcolm explains to Macduff that the King of England has the power to cure the sick of evil and disease: a miraculous gift he that he has been blessed with by God. At this point in time the audience sees no relevance in this part of the scene, however, this could come to significance later in the play. Rosse enters with the news that Scotland is in desperate need of assistance to fight Macbeth’s oppression. Rosse also delivers the news of Macduff’s family being killed. Now more determined than ever, with the help of Siward and ten thousand soldiers that King Edward has lent them, Malcolm and Macduff decide to defeat Macbeth to serve justice.
Quote: “Be this the whetstone of your sword. Let grief convert to anger. Blunt not the heart, enrage it.” (Malcolm) Malcolm encourages Macduff to use the horrendous murder of his family as a powerful motive to conquer the abhorrent Macbeth.