Macbeth | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Macbeth | Act 2, Scene 4 | Summary

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Summary

Ross talks to an old man about bad omens and a seeming impenetrable darkness since the king's murder. Ross addresses the man as "father," although this could be a term of respect for the man's age. Ross says the king's horses ran wild and escaped their stable after their master's death. The old man says the horses ate each other. Macduff arrives, and Ross asks him if anything new has been discovered about the culprits. Macduff says Duncan's sons are suspects in the murder, as they have fled the country. He adds that Macbeth has left for Scone, where he will be crowned king, and that Duncan's body is on its way to burial. Macduff will return to his home in Fife rather than attend the coronation, but Ross sets out for the ceremony.

Analysis

While the witches are not present in the scenes surrounding Duncan's murder, their sinister nature is echoed in the many references to strange events and weather; the portents refer not only to the witches, but also to regicide as a disturbance of order. Ross makes an observation about the eerie mood enveloping the country, which Banquo and Lennox observed previously. When Macduff arrives with the news that Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, have left Scotland, he says suspicion has been put upon them. This choice of words is telling because it implies that Macduff himself does not necessarily see them as suspects . His choice not to attend Macbeth's coronation reveals his distaste for the new king and also hints toward his suspicions.

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