Macbeth: Act 2, Scene 4 Full Summary {Step by Step Guide}

Macbeth: Act 2, Scene 4 Full Summary {Step by Step Guide}

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Macbeth: Act 2, Scene 4 Full Summary | Macbeth: Act 2, Scene 4 Summary

Ross, one of the two men who had met Macbeth and Banquo just after the three witches had told Macbeth that he would someday be king, is talking to an old man. They are near Macbeth’s home.

The Old Man says that he can remember the last seventy years well and he had seen terrible things before, but in all that time he had never seen anything like the last “sore night.” He says that what he had seen last night has made everything he had experienced before seem unimportant.

Ross says, “Ah, good father, thou seest, the heavens, as troubled with man’s act, Threaten his bloody stage.” (Ross is telling the Old Man that he is seeing dark, stormy skies because God is unhappy about humans’ actions, including King Duncan’s murder, which occurred on Earth – “the bloody stage.”)

Ross continues to speak to the Old Man. He says that even though the clock says it should be the day, the night is strangling “the traveling lamp” (the sun). Ross wonders aloud if it is dark because the night is stronger or because the day is ashamed (of the actions of humans).

Note: Shakespeare uses Ross to create a picture of good fighting evil. The picture shows God carrying the sun through the sky, trying to bring light and g0odness.

The devil, in the form of night, fights against God. Ross is wondering if evil is stronger than good or if God is ashamed of humans and tired of fighting for them.

Ross questions why night “does the face of Earth entomb” and not allow “living light” to “kiss it.”

Note: Ross wonders why night is allowed to cover the Earth like a grave covers a body. He wonders why the Earth is separated from the light. He is asking a question people have always asked: Why does darkness (evil) exist?

The Old Man says the darkness is “unnatural” just like “the deed that’s done” (King Duncan’s murder). He tells Ross about another unusual event: last Tuesday an ordinary mouse-hunting owl actually attacked and killed a falcon.

Ross says that another strange thing happened. He says King Duncan’s beautiful and fast horses, his “minions” (favorite horses) turned wild and broke out of where they had been kept.

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Ross says instead of being obedient, the horses acted as if they were at “war with mankind.” The Old Man says he heard that the horses
ate each other. Ross says he saw the horses eat each other with his own eyes.

Ross sees Macduff and says, “Here comes the good Macduff.” Ross asks Macduff, “How goes the world, sir, now?” Ross wants to know the latest news.

Macduff asks Ross if he truly does not know; all Ross needs to do is to open his eyes.

Ross asks Macduff if anything more is known about who did the “more than the bloody deed” (who killed King Duncan).

Note: It is interesting that Ross asks this question because he was there when Macbeth explained that he had killed the guards because they had been the ones to kill Duncan. It seems that Ross may not believe Macbeth.

Macduff says the guards that Macbeth killed apparently killed King Duncan. Ross says it was a bad day when Macbeth killed the guards. Ross asks what good things could the guards have expected to happen after they killed their king.

Macduff says that it looks like Malcolm and Donalbain, King Duncan‘s sons, paid the guards to kill their father. Since both of them have run away, it looks like they are guilty.

Ross says the killing of King Duncan, arranged by his own sons, is “Gainst nature still!” (The murder was an unnatural act -like the bad weather, the owl killing a falcon, the king’s horses eating each other, and dark skies during the day.)

Ross says that it looks like Macbeth will be the next king. Macduff says the king’s body has been carried to Colmekill to be buried with his ancestors, so his bones will be kept safe.

Ross asks Macduff if he is going to go to the scone. Macduff says he will not go to Scone; he’s going to Fife. Ross says he will go to Scone.

Macduff tells Ross that he hopes that everything will go well in Scone. He says goodbye and says he hopes that they will not find their “old robes” more comfortable than their new ones.

Macduff means he hopes they will not find out that they had better lives when Duncan was king.) Ross says goodbye to the Old Man.

The Old Man asks for God’s blessings to be with them and with all people who make good things come from bad things and who make friends out of foes (enemies).

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