ISC Class 12 Macbeth Act 4 Summary
Macbeth Act 4 Scene 1 Summary
The scene occurs on the morrow of the banquet. The banquet scene concludes with Macbeth’s resolution to meet the witches “I will tomorrow, and betimes I will the Weird Sisters”.
This is the third and last witch-scene in the play. It is laid in a dark cave on a desolate heath and the weather is foul and Marky as usual. In the beginning of the scene three witches are seen dancing round a cauldron, and casting their magic spells. They throw all sorts of loathsome ingredients into the cauldron and the refrain of their wicked song is :
Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubbles
Soon their Queen Hecate also joined them. They wait for Macbeth who soon arrives to consult them and seek guidance as to his future course of action. They now his thoughts, and conjure up apparitions who are to tell him what he wants to know. The first apparition which rises out of the cauldron has an armed head. It warns Macbeth that he must fear Macduff, the thane of Fife. The apparition then goes down. It does not yell anything further.
The next apparition is a bloody child. The strange direction which Macbeth gers from this apparition is that he should be “Bloody, bold and resolute” and that, “none of the women born shall harm Macbeth”. The third apparition is a child wearing a crown. It bears a tree in its hand, just as Macduff’s soldiers will do towards the end of the play.
It tells Macbeth that he will not be defeated until Birnam wood moves to Dunsinane Hill. Then arises before him a procession of eight apparitions (all of them Scottish Kings) followed by the ghost of Banquo. This means that Banquo’s sons would be the future kings of Scotland.
The witches deal with vulgar things; they are vulgar and ugly, so their activities and methods are vulgar. They reveal in gross things because their values are opposite to those cherished by men. Macbeth is further tempted and trapped by the witches and prepares him for his damnation. Macbeth walks easily into their tap; he is taken in by their juggling with words.
Macbeth Act 4 Scene 2 Summary
This is a scene of relief from tension and horrors of murder and supernatural manifestations. It is a sweet domestic scene. Macduff has fled to England to join Malcolm there and plan out the strategy for the overthrow of Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is alone with her child in the castle. Lady Macbeth is angry with her husband for his rash action and complains that he lacks the natural touch.
Ross knows the purpose of Macbeth’s flight, but he cannot divulge it for fear of spies of Macbeth. He tries to assuage the wronged feelings of Lady Macbeth by saying that her husband is wise, and knows well. Lady Macbeth is not assured.
Ross leaves lest he will give out his mind. Lady Macduff tells her little son that he has lost his father. The son who is precocious says that he will live as birds do. He asks his mother about the meaning of traitor and says wisely that there are few honest men in the world, and so traitors are not hanged. A messenger comes and asks Lady Macduff to fly away.
Lady Macduff is puzzled because she has done no wrong. Murderers come to ask her about her husband. She says boldly that he cannot be found in any place made unholy by their presence. The son reacts sharply when they call his father traitor. The murderers kill her son, and chase Lady Macduff to slay her. The child’s prattle before the murder, and Lady Macduff’s sense of loneliness caused by her husband’s desertion of her offer a pathetic impression of innocence and helplessness.
Macbeth Act 4 Scene 3 Summary
Macduff has arrived in England, and in this scene we have an interview between him and Malcolm, Duncan’s eldest son. In England, Malcolm and Macduff discuss the horror of Macbeth’s despotic reign in Scotland. To test Macduff’s political integrity and patriotism, Malcolm tells him that if he is ever made the king, he will prove far more tyrannical than Macbeth.
Malcolm is at first suspicious and does not trust Macduff, he wants to be satisfied that Macduff is not the enemy’s spy. He wants to test the sincerity of Macduff’s patriotism and loyalty to the throne. He attributes all kinds of vices to himself-lecherous, greed and cruelties.
He tells Macduff that he has no ‘king-becoming graces’. Thus, Macduff feels despondent and completely frustrated. He makes an outburst of his passionate grief. Macduff’s holy anger disarms all suspicions and withdraws all his allegations against himself and places himself unreservedly in Macduff ‘s hands for his country’s service.
Convinced of his honesty and patriotism, Malcolm accepts him and declares his intention to lead an attack on Macbeth. This happy hour is further enhanced by the news that Old Siward with ten thousand English soldiers was already setting forth for Scotland. This leads to the contrast between England holy king with his power of healing and the tyrant of Scotland with his mistake and outrages.
When public affairs for Scotland seem propitious, there comes a private grievance for a man who is to play a leading role in public life. Rosser comes and after initial hesitations breaks the news of the slaughter of the Macduff family by the tyrant. Macduff is at first overwhelmed with grief but gradually grief is turned to anger and resolve to avenge the killing of his wife and his sons. Thus Macduff, who is to play the keynote in the retribution, is inspired by a personal motive for revenge.
Macduff becomes the agent not only of the grand Nemesis which constitutes the whole plot, but also a nemesis upon a private wrong which occupies the latter half of the play. Macduff’s expected reaction to the news of the brutal slaughter of his family creates the right emotional intensity and a sense of urgency for retaliation necessary for advancing the action of the play to the climax.