The Presentation Of Lady Macduff In Act

Four Scene Two Essay, Research Paper

Introduction William Shakespeare wrote “Macbeth” in 1605 to be performed in front of King James the 5th. It is the story of Macbeth, a thane of Scotland who after meeting three witches who predict that one day he will be king, develops a fatal ambition to rule Scotland. He, along with his even more ambitious wife, decides he will have to do whatever possible to achieve the position of King of Scotland and embarks on a life of treachery, deceit and evil in order to achieve his ambition.

Shakespeare wrote the play to be performed to King James 5th of England (& 6th of Scotland) who was very interested in witchcraft (he wrote a book about it) and also in kingship & the divine right of kings. King James was also a direct descendant of Banquo and therefore the play would have interested him greatly. Knowing the history of King James is very important in understanding some of the subplots in the play, which were written with the intention of interesting King James.

The particular scene we are looking at lies towards the end of the play where Macbeth is at his most evil. The scene comes at the end of a particularly uninteresting part of the play as it is likely that Shakespeare put it in to bring the play back to life and regain the audience´s attention before Macbeth´s final showdown. Act 4, scene 2 tells the story of Lady Macduff´s death and her feeling of betrayal by her husband who has fled to England, she thinks to protect himself, but he thinks it will protect his family from Macbeth´s reign of terror. In the scene a total stranger warns Lady Macduff that she must flee her home to escape murder from Macbeth´s murderers, which he has sent to kill Macduff. She ignores these warnings and acts as if she is helpless to defend herself thanks to her husband´s cowardly betrayal of his wife and family. The scene ends when Macduff´s castle is raided by murderers sent by Macbeth to kill Macduff finding Macduff has left and killing his wife and children instead. This scene plays an important role in the play as it shows just how evil Macbeth has become and also provides a clear contrast between Lady Macduff and Lady Macbeth who is questionably more evil than Macbeth. The scene follows the clear theme of life, death, treachery and evil, which follows through the whole of the play When the play would have been preformed it would have frightened the audience as it covered everything, which they were scared of, and all that they feared.

The presentation of Lady Macduff in act four scene two We are first introduced to Lady Macduff at the start of act four scene two where she is having a conversation with Ross and is unknowingly about to be savagely murdered by Macbeth´s gang of murderers. Ross is there to try and calm Lady Macduff down after she receives the news that her husband has fled the country and left her and his children unprotected. She believes that he has done this in an attempt to save himself with no regard for her. We the audience know however that he has fled to try and protect them and help in an effort to overthrow Macbeth and bring order back to Scotland. The scene opens with Ross and Lady Macduff having a conversation about why her husband has suddenly decided to flee to England. Lady Macduff is confused as to why her husband has done this to them and what he may have done to necessitate fleeing the country. “What has he done, to make him fly the land.” This clearly shows that she is confused as to his motive. It could also show she is suspicious about what he may have been getting himself into that would cause him to need to flee from a danger that awaited him in Scotland. Ross then sets out exactly where he stands on the matter by defending Macduff and telling Lady Macduff not to jump to conclusions and make a mistake. He also tries to calm her down and help her come to terms with what has happened. “Have patience madam.” Lady Macduff is not interested in what Ross has to say as she sees him as a friend of Macduff who is only interested in helping his friend and making him out as someone doing the best for his family. The only logical reason she can find for Macduff´s decision to flee is that he does not care about them any more and has selfishly decided to try and protect himself. Lady Macduff feels totally betrayed by her husband and feels that she is being made to pay for his wrongdoings. She feels that life is unfair and that she who despite being innocent is being ridiculed by her husband´s folly. “When our factions do not, our fears do make us traitors.” This is showing how she is feeling betrayed not only by her husband but also by the justices of the world in which they live. This also shows how she is feeling helpless in her plight. Ross continues to defend Macduff by saying how he thought that what he was doing was the right thing to do for his family. “He is noble, wise, judicious and knows best.” Lady Macduff continues to express her disgust for her husband for leaving her and his children alone and unprotected. She considers Macduff a traitor to his family and an unworthy father to his children. She says, in front of her son that Macduff is no longer a worthy father to his son. “Fathered he is and yet he´s fatherless.” This shows how she feels betrayed and how she feels he has betrayed his son. It also shows the resentment she has towards her husband by saying it in front of his son to inform his son that his father is a traitor to him. At this point in the scene Ross leaves, leaving Lady Macduff and her son alone. During this opening part of the scene we learn much about Lady Macduff. We learn how she is very open-minded and likes to express how she feels about what is going on. This is vital in the play as if she did not the audience would find it hard to understand why she felt angry and betrayed by her husband. We also learn that she is a very strong character who refuses to be manipulated by other characters´ points of view. Despite this she also feels very weak and helpless when it comes down to what she must do to protect herself from the evils, which her husband once protected her from. This display is similar to Lady Macbeth who was also strong until they were faced with the consequences of what they had done when she became ill and helpless to protect herself, which eventually led to her suicide. After Ross´s departure Lady Macduff is left alone with her son who has just been told that his father is a traitor, which he finds hard to understand. He responds to his mother´s allegations by asking her what a traitor is. This shows his young age and/or ill education. This is brought into question though when we look at what he said prior to this when he had an intelligent and intellectual conversation with his mother. The conversation included many puns and plays on words which Elizabethan audiences would have loved. This conversation throws some doubt on the son´s age, which we cannot fully explain. In this conversation Lady Macduff continues her abuse of her husband by telling her son how he is an evil man. She even says how he is dead and tries to bring her son to terms with the fact that he will now have to look after himself. “Sirrah, your father´s dead…How will you live now.” This either shows that she is trying to get her son to face facts or she is trying to express her anger by saying how bad her husband has been and trying to lay guilt on him as if he was watching them.

“Now god help Thee, poor monkey.

But how wilt thou do for a father?” She is expressing sympathy to her son as she tries to make him feel as if he has no chance of survival without a father to protect him. At the same time she is laying guilt on his father for leaving him in this hopeless situation. In the next part of the scene a complete stranger comes to warn Lady Macduff of the king´s murderers who are coming to kill them. “Bless you fair dame. … danger does approach you

… heaven preserve you, I dare abide no longer.” This shows that Lady Macduff is a truly innocent victim as a total stranger has risked his life to warn her of the danger that faces her. He also expresses how he respects her and sees her as an important person, who he feels it is his duty to help. At first she asks what she should do, but then decides to go back to her old defense of being innocent. “I put up that womanly defense

to say I have done no harm” The messenger then leaves and Lady Macduff is left to face the murders with her only defense being her innocence. The murderers then enter and upon realizing that Macduff is not there proceed to kill her son, followed by the rest of her household. After her son has been stabbed, he shows his bravery by giving up to his mother and telling her to try and escape with her life. “Run away I pray you.” This shows him trying to be more of a man than his father was by helping his mother to safety.


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