Macbeth – Act 4 Summary

Scene 1

Characters: First Witch, Second Witch, Third Witch, Hecate, Macbeth

Location: A dark Carven

Events: The witches appear around a bubbling cauldron, chanting a spell as they drop ingredients into the cauldron🔮. Macbeth enters (just as the witches had predicted) and asks the witches the truth behind their previous prophecies. In response to this 3 apparitions appear with a different message for Macbeth. The first is a floating head with 20 gashes on its face – This warns Macbeth to beware of Macduff. To this Macbeth says ‘he is already’. The second is a bloody child – telling Macbeth that no person woman born could ever harm him. And the third is a crowned child holding a tree – telling Macbeth that he is safe until Birnam Wood moves to Dunsinane Hill. Macbeth is happy to hear all of this because it makes him feel superior and powerful. Finally, the witches create a line up of 8 kings. The last king holding a mirror, Banquo’s ghost appears and moves to the end of the line. Macbeth is angered by this 😡 and demands to know the meaning behind it. Instead, the witches dance around and finally vanish leaving Macbeth to wonder what that all meant.

Quotes:

“Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! Beware Macduff.
Beware the thane of Fife. Dismiss me. Enough.”
(First Apparition)
The first apparition says this passage as a warning to Macbeth. The head is saying he must beware of Macduff. Macbeth’s response to this is simply thank you for your advice you have said exactly what I fear. So, in other words, he was already wary of Macduff.
“Be bloody, bold, and resolute. Laugh to scorn
The power of man, for none of woman born
Shall harm Macbeth.”
(2nd Apparition)
The second apparition reassures Macbeth that he is powerful beyond measure. This bloody child says that no man woman born shall harm Macbeth. Meaning that no human born of woman can stand up to Macbeth because he is too POWERFUL. I feel like this apparition really follows what the witches previously said about giving Macbeth to much security. If he thinks that no man woman born can harm him them he has no reason to fear Macduff or any other person who might be suspicious or dislike him.
“Be lion-mettled, proud, and take no care
Who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are.
Macbeth shall never vanquished be until
Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill
Shall come against him.”
(Third Apparition)
The third apparition tells Macbeth not to worry about who doesn’t like him, who fears him, or who is suspicious towards him because he will never be defeated until the woods move to a different hill.  We all know that trees don’t have legs and therefore can’t move so when Macbeth hears this news he is confident that he has A LOT of security.

Scene 2

Characters: Lady Macduff,  Ross, Son, Messenger, First Murderer

Location: Macduff’s castle

Events: Lady Macduff meets Ross and asks why her husband fled. She feels betrayed 😔. Ross says that she must trust her husband’s judgment and not worry about him leaving. Ross leaves (he knows that the murderer is about to come but doesn’t warn or help Lady Macduff or her son…… Interesting?!). Lady Macduff tells her son that his father is dead (she thought it was better to tell her son that Macduff has died rather than he had left and didn’t care about them anymore). Her son doesn’t believe her and says that he is not dead. A messenger hurries into the castle and warns Lady Macduff that something dangerous is coming her way and they must both flee as soon as possible. Lady Macduff argues and claims nothing bad could happen because she had done nothing wrong. but as she says that a murderer appears, he talks badly of Macduff and the son calls the murderer a lier! The murderer stabs the boy and he dies ☠. In shock, Lady Macduff runs out of the castle and the murderer chases after her.

Quotes:

“My father is not dead, for all your saying.” (son)

The son denying that his father is dead, saying that his mother is wrong!

Scene 3

Characters: Malcolm, Macduff, doctor, Ross,

Location: England; A room in the king’s palace.

Events: Malcolm and Macduff talk, and at first Malcolm isn’t sure he can trust Macduff, as he fled from Scottland and could have easily sided with Macbeth. Malcolm lyes and says he doesn’t think he is a fit king – to see what MacDuff’s reaction is. When he finally agree’s that Malcolm isn’t a fit king of Scottland, he has passed Malcolm’s loyalty test. The two become allies. Ross enters from Scottland and tells Macduff that his family is well (not wanting to break the news) and urges Malcolm that he must come back to Scottland and help save his country from Macbeth. Malcolm says that he will return but with ten thousand English soldiers lent to him by the king to help battle. Eventually, Ross breaks the news to Macduff that his wife and son had recently been killed. Macduff is grief-stricken by this, but Malcolm’s advice is to turn that grief into and anger and they both promise to fight against Macbeth and pay revenge.

Quotes:

“Alas, poor country!
Almost afraid to know itself. It cannot
Be called 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 marked; where violent sorrow seems
A modern ecstasy. The dead man’s knell
Is there scarce asked for who, and good men’s lives
Expire before the flowers in their caps,
Dying or ere they sicken.”
(Ross)
Ross is saying that Scottland – their home country is not the place it used to be. It is no longer the beautiful place they were born but the horrifying place they will die in. He says that only the fools smile because they aren’t aware of the despair the country is in. He says that ‘good’ men die before they have even fallen sick. This is referring to the fact that there is no reason for all of these deaths anymore. No one can explain why it’s just happening. It’s also a reflection on Macbeth’s mind because there is no sane reasoning behind that anymore either.

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