Macbeth: Act 4, Scene 3 Full Summary {Step by Step Guide}

Macbeth: Act 4, Scene 3 Full Summary {Step by Step Guide}

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Macbeth: Act 4, Scene 3 Full Summary | Macbeth: Act 4, Scene 3 Summary

Malcolm (son of the dead King Duncan) and Macduff are in front of King Edward the Confessor’s palace in England. Macduff has been telling Malcolm how bad life is in Scotland since Macbeth has become king.

Malcolm now says that he and Macduff should go to a shady place and cry (about what is happening in Scotland).

Macduff says that instead of crying they should each be good men and hold their swords over their fallen country and protect it.

Macduff continues to tell Malcolm about the problems in Scotland. Macduff says that every day there are new crying widows (women whose husbands have died) and new crying orphans (children whose parents have died).

Macduff says that there are so many sad things happening in Scotland that heaven is feeling Scotland’s pain and is also crying with “dolor” (sadness).

Malcolm says that he will cry when he believes what Macduff is saying. Malcolm says that he believes only what he knows. When he is sure what the problems in Scotland are, Malcolm says he will try to make things better, if he can. He will need to find the best time to act.

Malcolm says Macduff may be telling the truth, but even the evil Macbeth (whose name now is uncomfortable even to say) had been an honest man in the past.

Malcolm says that in the past Macduff had loved Macbeth. He says Macbeth has not yet hurt Macduff.

Note: The audience knows that Macbeth has hurt Macduff by killing his son and perhaps more members of Macduff’s family.

Malcolm and Macduff do not yet know that they both are victims of Macbeth’s evil. Malcolm knows that his father, King Duncan, was murdered by Macbeth, but Macduff does not know that his own family has been attacked.

Malcolm thinks that Macduff might be pretending he does not like Macbeth. Malcolm is worried that Macduff is really working for Macbeth.

Malcolm says that he is young (and inexperienced), but he knows that Macduff might be hoping to trick him. Malcolm says that Macduff might be planning to give Malcolm to Macbeth.

Malcolm would be like a lamb given to an angry god to make the god happier. Macduff says, “I am not treacherous [untrustworthy].” Malcolm says, “But Macbeth is.”

Malcolm says that even a “good and virtuous” person (a person who does the right thing) might do something bad if a king ordered him to do it. Malcolm says he wants Macduff’s pardon (his forgiveness), but Malcolm says his thoughts cannot make Macduff good or bad.

Malcolm says angels are “bright” (good) even though the “brightest” of them fell. Malcolm says that even if “foul” (bad) people try to look like good people, good people still look like good people. (He is saying that he cannot know if Macduff is good or bad.)

Note: In the Bible, Lucifer was the brightest angel. When Lucifer thought he was better than God and tried to take power, God sent him out of heaven and Lucifer became the devil Satan.

Macduff says he has lost his hopes of getting Malcolm to fight for Scotland. Malcolm says that maybe Macduff lost his hopes (his trust) in Malcolm in the same place where Malcolm lost his hopes  (his trust) in Macduff.

(That place was in Scotland, a place that Malcolm had had to run away from after Macbeth had killed King Duncan and had accused Malcolm and his brother Donalbain of killing their own father.)

Malcolm asks Macduff why, if Macduff truly is afraid of Macbeth’s evil, he has left his wife and children “in that rawness” (unprotected place).

Malcolm says a man’s wife and children are his “motives” (his reasons to take action) and they are “strong knots of love.” (Clearly, Malcolm is suspicious of Macduff and does not trust him.)

Malcolm says that his “jealousies” (suspicions) are because of fears for his own safety, not because he wants to dishonor Macduff. (Malcolm believes that only a man whom Macbeth liked and trusted would leave his family under Macbeth’s power.)

Malcolm says that Macduff might be “just (honorable) even if Malcolm does not think so. Macduff does not speak to Malcolm. Instead, he cries out to Scotland. He says, “Bleed, bleed, poor country!

Macduff then speaks as if he were talking to Macbeth. He says that the tyrant (all-powerful and unfair ruler) Macbeth has won because good people will not stop him.

He says Macbeth should “wear [his] wrongs” (wear his crown and robes) because his title of King of Scotland is safe.

Macduff says good-bye to Malcolm, and Macduff says he will not become a “villain” (bad person) even if Macbeth gave him all of Scotland and the East.

Malcolm tells Macduff to not be offended. Malcolm says he does not completely fear or distrust Macduff. Malcolm says he knows Scotland is suffering under Macbeth’s rule.

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Malcolm says, ” I think our country sinks beneath the yoke;/ It weeps, it bleeds, and each new day a gash/ Is added to her wounds.”

Note: By using the word “yoke” (a wooden device that controls the head of an animal), Malcolm is comparing Macbeth to the owner of an animal that pulls a cart. Scotland is like an animal that is being hurt by a bad owner.

Malcolm says that he thinks there are many hands (people) who would help him fight to get control of Scotland. He says England has said it would send thousands of fighters.

Malcolm says that if he were to fight Macbeth and have Macbeth’s head under his foot or on his sword, Scotland would have more trouble
and suffering under its new king than it had under Macbeth.

Macduff asks what new king Malcolm is talking about. Malcolm says that he is talking about himself. He says he has so many “vices” (bad behaviors) that when people see them, they will think “black Macbeth” was as “pure as snow.”  Scotland will think Macbeth was an innocent lamb when compared to Malcolm’s many evils.

Note: Malcolm is testing Macduff to see what kind of man Macduff is.

Macduff says that people could not find a worse devil than Macbeth even if they looked in hell.

Malcolm says that Macbeth is “bloody,/ Luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful, /Sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin/ That has a name…”

Malcolm is saying that Macbeth is murderous, wants a lot of sex, wants a lot of money, lies, is tricky, acts without thinking, enjoys hurting others, and likes to do every bad thing that has a name.

But, says Malcolm, there is no end to his own “voluptuousness” (his own sexual desires). Malcolm says that all of Scotland’s wives, daughters, married women, and unmarried women would not be enough to take care of his “cistern of lust” (his sexual needs that are so strong that they are like an empty well that needs to be filled.)

Malcolm says to satisfy his needs, he would get over any barriers and hurt anyone who got in his way. He says it would be better for Macbeth to be king than for him to be king.

Macduff tells Malcolm that when men don’t control their desires, their desires control them. Macduff says many thrones have been emptied and many kings have lost their power because they could not control their desires.

Macduff tells Malcolm to not be afraid; Malcolm can be king and do what he wants in secret. Macduff says many women would be willing to make Malcolm happy.

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Macduff says the “vulture” inside Malcolm (Malcolm’s desire for sex) could not want more than the number of women who would want to make their king happy.

After Malcolm learns that Macduff would accept him as king even if he ran after women, Malcolm tests Macduff more. Malcolm says he is so greedy (wants so much money) that he will attack nobles to steal their lands.

He would attack one to steal jewels and another to steal his house. Malcolm says that the more money he would have, the more he would want.

He says money is like a sauce on food. It makes a person’s appetite (desire for food) grow. Money is like sauce.

Malcolm says he would fight good men to take their wealth (everything worth money) from them. Macduff tells Malcolm that avarice (wanting more money than you need) is worse than lust (wanting sex).

Macduff says avarice has been like swords that have killed kings. Macduff tells Malcolm he does not need to be afraid because Scotland has more money than Malcolm could want. Macduff says the good things about Malcolm are more important than the bad things: avarice and lust.

Malcolm says he has no good in him. He says that he does not have what kings should have “justice, verity [truthfulness], temperance, stableness, Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness, Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude..”

Malcolm says he has all bad things inside him. He says, no, he has no good. If he had power, Malcolm says, he would pour all “concord” (peace) down into hell. Macduff cries out, “O Scotland, Scotland!

Malcolm asks if someone like him has the goodness to lead Scotland. Malcolm says he has described himself well.

Macduff answers and says Malcolm does not have the goodness to lead Scotland or even to live. Macduff says his nation (his country) is miserable (having a very bad time).

Scotland has a “bloody-sceptered” leader (Macbeth who is king only because he murdered King Duncan and others).

Macduff asks when Scotland will have “wholesome days” (good days) again because the person who should have the throne (Malcolm) has himself said he would not be a good leader.

Macduff says Malcolm’s father was a “sainted king” (a good king) and his mother was a good woman who was on her knees praying more
then she stood on her feet.

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Macduff cannot understand how Malcolm could be such a bad example of his breed. (How could Malcolm be so bad when his parents were so good?)

Macduff says goodbye to Malcolm. Macduff says the badness inside of Malcolm means that Macduff can never go back to Scotland.

Macduff’s hope of a new, better leader for Scotland has gone. (With Macbeth as king, Macduff cannot go home because he knows Macbeth would kill him.)

Malcolm tells Macduff that Macduff’s words have taken away Malcolm’s worry about Macduff’s truthfulness and honor. Malcolm says that the devil Macbeth had tried many times to trick him to get him into his power, and Malcolm was wise to not believe people too quickly.

Now, though, says Malcolm, God will work with him and Macduff. Malcolm says he will let Macduff lead him.

Malcolm says he takes back all the bad things he said about himself. Malcolm says all of the bad things he said about himself are “strangers” to him. (Malcolm does not have badness inside.)

Malcolm says he has never had sex with a woman, has never told a lie, and does not want things that belong to others because he does not even care about his own things. Malcolm says he has never broken a promise. He would not even break a promise made to the devil.

Malcolm says he loves truth as much as he loves life. Malcolm says the lies he told about the badness inside himself are actually the first false words he has spoken. Malcolm says he is truly the person who wants to help Macduff and his p0or country.

Malcolm gives proof that he is ready to help Scotland. He tells Macduff that before Macduff came to talk to him, he had already spoken to Old Siward, the leader of the English army.

Malcolm says Siward, with 10,000 men, is already coming to join Malcolm in fighting against Macbeth. Malcolm says they will now all work together, and their chance of winning should be as good as the reason they are fighting (to save Scotland from Macbeth).

Malcolm asks Macduff why he is not talking. Macduff says it is hard to understand Malcolm saying such welcome and unwelcome things at the same meeting.

A doctor comes to them. Malcolm tells Macduff he will talk more soon. Then he asks the doctor if King Edward (of England) is coming out.

The doctor says, yes, because many sick people are waiting for the king to cure them. Their illness cannot be understood by doctors, but heaven has put healing power into the king’s hand. When the king touches the sick, they are made well.

Malcolm says, “I thank you, doctor.” The doctor leaves. Macduff asks what disease (illness) the doctor was talking about.

Malcolm says the illness is called “the evil.” Malcolm says that, while staying in England, he often has seen King Edward work miracles.

Only King Edward knows how he asks heaven to make people well, but the king helps many people who are swollen or who have strange sores and whose looks make others feel sad.

Malcolm says King Edward heals the sick by placing a gold coin around their necks and praying.

Malcolm says that it is said that King Edward gives his ability to heal to his descendants (his children, their children, and so on). Malcolm says heaven also has given King Edward the ability to tell the future. The king’s abilities show that he is a man blessed by God.

Macduff sees someone coming and asks Malcolm who it is. Malcolm says that he can tell by what the man is wearing that he is a countryman, but he doesn’t know who he is.

Ross walks over, and Macduff welcomes his cousin. Malcolm says, “I know him now.” Malcolm asks God to change the things that have kept them apart.

Ross agrees, saying, “Sir, amen [so be it].” Macduff asks if anything has changed in Scotland. Ross says that Scotland is a poor country that is afraid to know itself. It is no longer the people’s mother; it is their grave.

Ross says that the only people in Scotland who smile are fools that know nothing. The sounds of Scotland are sighs and screams that tear
through the air, but no one gives them any attention because violent sorrow now is normal.

People don’t ask for whom the funeral bell is ringing (because it is ringing to announce the deaths of so many people). Ross says good men die before the flowers in their caps dry out. They die before they get sick.

Macduff says Ross’s story has poetry, but it is true. Malcolm asks what the most recent sad news is. Ross says that sad news an hour old is very old. Every minute brings more sad news.

Malcolm Macduff asks if his wife and children are well. Ross tells Macduff they are well. Macduff asks if the tyrant (evil) Macbeth has attacked the “peace” of Macduff’s wife and children.

Ross says Lady Macduff and the children “were well at peace” when he left them. (Ross means they had the peace of the dead.)

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Macduff tells Ross to not keep any words (any information) to himself. He asks Ross to say all that has been happening.

Ross says that when he left to carry heavy, sad news to Macduff, he had heard that men in Scotland were getting ready to fight Macbeth and
that Macbeth was preparing his own men for war.

Ross says that Macduff and Malcolm should come back to Scotland. Many men, as well as women, would fight with them against Macbeth.

Malcolm says the Scottish people will be comforted to know that he is returning to Scotland with England’s experienced soldier – Siward – and 10,000 men. Malcolm says Siward is the best soldier in the Christian world.

Ross says he wishes he could give Malcolm and Macduff words of comfort like Malcolm had just given him, but Ross says he has words that are so terrible they should only be spoken in a desert (an empty place) where no one could hear them.

Macduff asks if Ross’s bad news affects everyone or only one person. Ross says any honest person would be sad about his news, but his terrible news is for Macduff. Macduff says if the bad news is for him, ross should tell him, and quickly.

Ross says Macduff’s ears should not hate Ross’s tongue forever. Macduff’s ears are going to hear the worst sound they have ever heard. Macduff says he thinks he can guess what Ross’s news is.

Ross says Macduff’s castle had been surprised with an attack and Macduff’s wife and children had been killed. Ross says if he told Macduff how his family had been killed, Macduff would die, too.

Malcolm says, “Merciful heaven!” He tells Macduff to not pull his hat down (to not hide his sadness). Malcolm says Macduff must speak about his sadness, or it will continue whispering into his heart until it breaks. Macduff says, “My children too0?”

Ross says, “Wife, children, servants, all that could be found.” (Ross means they all are dead.) Macduff says, “And I must be from thence? [And I had to be away?] My wife killed too?”

Ross says yes, he had already said Lady Macduff had been killed. Malcolm says they must use revenge like a medicine to cure their grief. (They should attack Macbeth to punish him for killing Macduff’s family, and then they will feel better.)

Macduff says, “He has no children.” (Macduff means that since Macbeth has no children, Macduff cannot kill them to hurt Macbeth in the same way that Macbeth has hurt him.)

Macduff asks, “All my pretty ones?.. all my pretty chickens and their dam…?” (He compares his family to a family of chickens.)

Note: Shakespeare did not write how many children Macduff had.

Malcolm tells Macduff to fight his sadness like a man. Macduff says he will, but he must remember the things that were most important to him. He asks if heaven watched the killing of his wife and children but would not help them.

A Macduff tells himself that his wife and children were killed because of his actions, not because of theirs. He asks heaven to let his family rest now.

Malcolm tells Macduff to change his sadness into Anger. Malcolm says Macduff should use his anger like “the whetstone of your sword” (like a sharpening stone).

Malcolm says Macduff should not block his feelings. He should make them stronger (so Macduff will fight Macbeth better).

Macduff says he could “play the woman with [his] eyes” (could cry) and he could use his tongue to say words (about how he will kill Macbeth), but he does not want an “intermission” (time with no action).

Macduff asks Malcolm to take him now in front of Macbeth, so Macduff can fight Macbeth face to face. Malcolm says he wants to be close enough to use his sword on Macbeth, and if Macbeth escapes, then it will be because of heaven, not because of Macduff.

Malcolm says Macduff is now singing a manly tune (is now sounding like a strong man). Malcolm says that their power (their soldiers) is ready and all they need to do is leave.

Malcolm says Macbeth is now “ripe for shaking” (now in the perfect situation to be attacked). Malcolm tells Macduff to find what happiness he can because no night is so long that day never comes. (There will be better days ahead for Macduff.)

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