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

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

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

Lady Macduff (wife of a Scottish nobleman) is at home in Fife, Scotland. She is talking to Ross (another Scottish nobleman). Her young son watches and listens.

Ross has told Lady Macduff that her husband has left Scotland. Lady Macduff asks, “What had he done, to make him fly the land?”

Ross tells Lady Macduff that she must be patient, but she answers angrily. She says her husband had no patience (with King Macbeth’s bad behavior). She says her husband’s running away was “madness.

Lady Macduff says that even when people’s actions do not make them traitors, their fears can make them look like traitors.

Note: Lady Macduff is saying that since her husband ran away from Scotland, people will think he wants to fight against King Macbeth.

Ross tells Lady Macduff that she doesn’t know if it was wisdom or fear that caused her husband to leave Scotland. Ross is saying that perhaps it was intelligent for Macduff to leave Scotland because Macduff knew Macbeth did not like him.

If Macduff knew Macbeth wanted to kill him, it was smart for Macduff to run away from his powerful and evil king.

Lady Macduff angrily asks if it was wisdom that made her husband leave his wife, children, home, and titles of nobility in an unsafe country that he was afraid to stay in.

She says her husband must not love them if he does not have a natural feeling that he should protect his family.

Lady Macduff says that even a wren, the smallest of birds, will fight an owl to protect her young ones.

Lady Macduff says her husband left Scotland because of fear. He showed no love, nor any wisdom because his leaving was unreasonable.

Ross calls Lady Macduff his “dearest coz” (cousin) and tells her to “school” herself (teach herself to be reasonable and to believe that her husband is good).

Ross tells Lady Macduff that her husband is “noble, wise, judicious, and best knows The fits o’ th’ season.” (Ross wants Lady Macduff to know that her husband knows the actions that are needed in the current troubled times.)

Ross says he must not say more because at the current time people are being accused of being traitors and they do not know that such accusations have been made.

Ross says that in these times, people have only rumors and fear. (People don’t know what is really happening and they don’t know what to be afraid of.)

Ross says people feel like they are floating on violent seas and move in every direction but get nowhere.

Note: Ross is saying that fear shakes people up just like bad weather shakes a boat. Fearful people cannot control their lives just like a boat has trouble in big waves.

Ross says he is going to leave. He says that when things are going badly, they finally stop, or they improve and life gets back to normal.

Ross starts to leave and sees Macduff’s son. Ross says, “Blessing upon you.” Lady Macduff does not think her son is blessed (that he has been given safety and happiness).

She says, “Fathered he is, and yet he’s fatherless.” (She means that her son has a father, but his father has left him.)

Ross says he is a fool, and he must leave before he cries, loses his respect for himself, and makes her uncomfortable. Ross leaves.

Lady Macduff turns to her son and says, “Sirrah [little man], your father’s dead; And what will you do now? How will you live?”

The boy tells his mother he will live the same way birds live. Lady Macduff asks her son if he plans to eat worms and flies.

Lady Macduff’s son says he will live whatever he can get, just like birds do. Lady Macduff tells her son he would be a poor bird because he would not be afraid of nets, can get, just like birds do. lime (a sticky substance used to catch birds), pitfalls (traps), or gins (snares).

The boy asks his mother why, if he is a poor little bird, he should be afraid of traps. He says hunters do not set traps for little birds. He tells his mother that it does not matter what she says; he knows his father is not dead.

Lady Macduff again tells her son that his father is dead. She asks what he will do for a father. The boy asks his mother what she will do for a husband.

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Lady Macduff says she can buy twenty husbands at any market (at any place where buyers and sellers meet). The boy tells her that she would just sell them again. (He is saying that she would not be happy with any husband other than his father.)

Lady Macduff tells her son that he is speaking with all of his childish wit (with all of his understanding and intelligence), and his wit is enough to make her see his truth.

The boy asks, “Was my father a traitor, Mother?” Lady Macduff says, “Ay yes], that he was.” The boy asks what a traitor is. His mother says a traitor is someone who swears (makes a promise) but is telling a lie because he doesn’t keep his promise.

The boy asks if everyone who swears a promise and lies is a traitor. Lady Macduff says that everyone who makes promises but lies is a traitor and must be hanged.

The boy asks if everyone who makes promises but doesn’t keep them must be hanged. Lady Macduff answers, “Everyone.”

The boy asks, “Who must hang them?” His mother says the honest men should hang the traitors. The boy says that “liars and swearers are fools,” because there are enough of them to beat up the honest men and hang them.

Lady Macduff laughs, calls her son a little monkey, and says God should help him. She again asks what he will do for a father.

The boy says if his father were really dead, then his mother would be crying. If she were not the type of wife who would cry for her dead husband, then he would soon have a new father Lady Macduff says her son is funny.

A messenger enters. He tells Lady Macduff that she doesn’t know who he is, but he knows who she is. He says he thinks that danger is near.

He tells her to take her children and leave. He apologizes for scaring her, but he says that much worse than being scared could happen at any time. The messenger asks heaven to protect her, says he is scared to stay longer and runs away.

Lady Macduff asks herself where she can go. She says she has done nothing bad, has hurt nobody. then she says her innocence may not help her.
She says on Earth sometimes bad people are praised and given honors while good actions are said to be mistakes. Lady Macduff asks herself why she gives a womanly defense by saying to an evil world that she has done nothing wrong.
Men enter and Lady Macduff asks who they are. First Murderer asks, “Where is your husband?” Lady Macduff says she hopes her husband is not in any unholy place where people like the murderer can find him.
First Murderer tells lady Macduff that her husband is a traitor. Lady Macduff’s son tells First Murderer that he’s a lying, shaggy-haired villain.
First Murderer says, “What you egg [undeveloped child]” the First Murderer stabs the boy. The first murderer says, “Young fry of treachery[young son of a traitor]” The boy says, “He has killed me, mother: Runaway, I pray you”.
The boy dies. Lady Macduff runs. The murderers run after her.

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