The Murder of Lady Macduff

In the murder scene, Macbeth’s tyranny went to extreme limits of vindictiveness. Through the massage of the apparituons, he had begun to feel secure and decided ‘to crown (his) throughts with acts’.

To prove that this decision was not a vain boost the decided to storm Macduff’s castle and to ‘give to the edge o’ the sword his wife, his babes , and all unfortunate souls that trace him inhis line’ for Macduff was his strongest opponent.

Macduff inspired by patriotism had fled to England to meet Malcolm,erroneously ignoring the danger to which his family was exposed on that account.

The massacre in the murscene is significant for reviving the terror of tradedy, deepening pathos and providing Macduff with an emotional cause to kill Macbeth.

Furthermore, the scene serves to highlight the brutality of Macbeth. Which is contrasted with the innocence of young son of Macduff. The boy had won over the affection of the audience through his childish prattle and his brutal murder intensifies the feeling of revulsion for Macbeth.

The scene opens with Lady Macduff upbraiding her husband for his sudden flight from Fife saying ‘his flight was madness’; for he lacked the natural feelings of love and concern for his family which are found even in most diminutive of birds like wren. Macduff had left ‘his wife, his babes, his mansions and his titles in a place from whence himself does fly’ and hence Lady Macduff rightly felt betrayed by this action.

Ross though at loss for words, tried to present an honourable profile of Macduff as a man who was ‘noble, wise, judicious and best knows the fits o’ the season’. He comments on the condition of Scotland and says that they were passing through cruel times when people call themselves traitors without knowing the reason for it. They had to cling to every rumour owing to their fears while the nation was lossed on a violent sea of uncertainity. Such was his overwhelming grief that he decided to leave lest he should disgrace his manhood.

The tension of is the scene is now relieved by an interlude of dramatic relief. A homely and domestic atmosphere is set to potray the feminity of Lady Macduff and innocence of her child.

Lady Macduff perhaps to keep her mind off the situation begins to indulge in small talks with her son. She told the child that his father was dead and asked him how he would live . The child replied ‘as birds do’ meaning to survive on what he got. With Macbeth’s orders of murder lurking in the background, the child’s confidence that ‘poors birds they are not set for’ carries high dramatic irony. The child was further convinced that his father was not dead as his mother was not weeping. Even if her father was dead and his mother was not weeping, ‘It were a good sign that (he) should quickly have a new father’.

The child’s remark regarding traitors that ‘liers and swearers are fools; for there are lier and swearers enow to beat honest men to hang them up’, is another demostration of his quick wit. It is to be noted that Lady Macduff calls her husband a traitor for he had sworn to protect her and broken his oath by fleeing to England.

The mood of cheerfulness was suddenly broken by the arrival of a messenger who warned her : ‘Some danger does approach you nearly’. Lady Macduff thought that she had ‘done no harm’ but at the same time realised the vanity of the thought.

On the entry of the murderers and their enquiry regading Macduff she hopes that her husband is in ‘no place so unsanctified /where such as thou mayst find him’. It is a subtle reminaer that Macduff is in the court of king Edward. The son also defends the honour of his father when the murder calls Macduff traitor : ‘Thou liest,thou shag hair’d villian’.

The scene ends with the murder of the child and Lady Macduff being chased by the murders. The brutality of the murder acts as a catalyst and instigates people to revolt against Macbeth. It marks the begining of the end of Macbeth’s tyrannical rule.


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  2. This is partially correct.
    Though the details are in fact there, two major points are missing.
    The scene stresses on the change in the nature of domestic life and normality in the kingdom of Scotland under Macbeth's rule. The conversation between mother and son represents harmony in the household which is broken down into chaos by murder.
    Also, the anonymous messenger represents a ray of hope, showing that even though Scotland is being terrorized by Macbeth, it's people are prepared to face the punishments offered by treason to do the righteous thing by trying to prevent the murder of an innocent woman and her children.