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Macbeth Act IV Notes

Scene 1

Yes! We have the witches again! Only this time we see them really as instruments of darkness. Right at the beginning of the scene they are concocting an interesting brew. Look at all the nasty stuff they put in there. We also see the Elizabethan prejudices. Remember the old “garbage in, garbage out” saying? Well it’s the same for the brew. Evil in, evil out

Macbeth comes in demanding this time

Let’s take a look at the lovely apparitions. The first one tells him to beware Macduff. The second tells him that “none of woman born shall harm Macbeth.” Interesting - weren’t we all born of a woman? The third apparition tells him he will never be defeated until “Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come against him.” Well, of course, Macbeth is happy about this one. How can the forest pick up its root and march up a hill. Macbeth is rather pleased with two of these. He seems to be invincible, but what of the first? He has to worry about Macduff. Oh, well, he’ll “make assurance double sure,” and probably kill Macduff just to be on the safe side. Oh - now the fourth apparition comes. It doesn’t speak; it just shows him a line of kings all resembling Banquo. That means that Banquo’s offspring will rule. He doesn’t like that one so much.

After the fun is done and the witches disappear, Macbeth finds out that Macduff has fled to England. Now Macbeth becomes angry and says no more mister nice guy. He decides that he will have Fife (Macduff’s castle) attacked and kill any one in it - wife, children, servants, all.

Remember what Hecate said in the last act - she will make Macbeth be overconfident. Has she accomplished this with the apparitions?

Scene 2

We see here the second type of comic relief. Even though it isn’t funny it serves a similar service. We see a tender scene (Lady Macduff bantering with her son) just before a brutal scene (the murder of Lady Macduff and her sons). This juxtaposition of the tender and brutal scenes is to make the brutal scene seem that much more brutal.

Check out lines 70 - 73 - Fair is foul line again

Scene 3

This scene is long partially to give the actor playing Macbeth a break. He’s been on the stage most of the time until now except for a couple of short murder scenes.

Notice that Malcolm has to test Macduff’s loyalty.

Why does Ross first lie to Macduff? When does he tell Macduff the truth? How does Macduff react? How does Malcolm react?