Act three scene two starts out with Ross and Lady Macduff entering the scene. They’re both at the Macduff castle, and Lady Macduff asks Ross why her husband just suddenly picked up and left, fleeing to England. She feels betrayed, but then Ross reassures her that he left with good reason. Ross then leaves regretfully, and Lady Macduff starts a conversation with her son.
She tells him that Macduff is dead, was a traitor, and left because he didn’t love them anymore. Suddenly a messenger then comes charging in, warning Lady Macduff and her son to both escape Scotland while they still can. Lady Macduff argues that she has done no wrong, and is questioning why she’s being told to leave…
Shortly after this, the murderers enter. They criticize Macduff severely, calling him a traitor, and then they stab the son after he calls them liars. The scene ends with Lady Macduff running away, trying to escape the murderers.
Macbeth: He is easily persuaded into murder to fulfill his ambitions to the throne, and ones he commits his first crime and is crowned king of Scotland, he embarks on further slaughter with increasing ease. His response to every problem is violence and murder.
The murderer(s) : They are a group of hooligans called up by Macbeth to murder Banquo, Fleance, and Macduff’s wife and children. It is unknown if these murderer’s are the same as those who killed Banquo and Fleance.
Lady Macduff: She is Macduff’s spouse. Lady Macduff played a small role in the play, yet her character can be contrasted to Lady Macbeth’s as more innocent and less violent.
There are several conflicts in Scene II, Act IV of Macbeth . One of the conflicts is an internal struggle with Lady Macduff. She is torn on the inside with the question if Macduff really loved her and her son, and if he had, why did he flee? The conflict of love, and leaving someone to supposedly save them is thus made evident. (Pg 133, lines 8-10)
A verbal conflict exists with Lady Macduff and her son, Sirrah, regarding Macduffs’ departure. Lady Macduff tries to convince her son that Macduff was a traitor, but young Sirrah argues with his mother, defending his fathers humble family position. This just goes to show how strong a father and son bond can be. So strong that Sirrah conflicts with his mother, a figure of authority, because he believes himself to be valid in his statements.
The final conflict is a physical encounter between a Murderer, Lady Macduff, and her son. The Murderer wishes to kill the two, as a result of following orders of tyrant Macbeth.
Theme: Betrayal of a loved one, Killing due to blind ambition
One of the themes in act 4 scene 2 is the supposed betrayal of a loved one. This is proven by the actions and dialogue of Lady Macduff, who believes that her husband has betrayed her. In reality, Macduff went to England to ask for assistance of overthrowing Macbeth, but Lady Macbeth is clueless of this matter.
When Lady Macduff talked to Ross , she had explained her feelings and in reply received that it is best to trust Macbeth’s judgment. Pg 133 (18-23)
Ross stated that Macbeth is not a traitor to Lady Macduff, and even if she does account her husband as one, it’s a faulty accusation.
Another theme in this scene is killing due to blind ambition. Macbeth begins to order killings of people for the sole pleasure of killing and spilling blood.
The imagery in Act 4 sc.2 was mostly about how the Macduff family were like birds. When Lady Macduff, in despair, asks her son how they will live without a father (and husband) with Macduff presumably dead, the son does not seem frightened.
Sirrah shows wisdom beyond his years, saying that living without a father will be like living as a bird. Of course the mother skeptical of this idea, making a joke "What, with worms and flies?"(page 135, line 38).
The imagery this of the Macduff family being birds, the father left the 'nest' and left the mother with her baby birds. Lady Macduff feels betrayed by her husbands departure, similar to how a mother bird feels when she is alone defending her nest. Sometimes, having just a mother bird isn’t enough though, for a small bird cannot stop an eagle, just as Lady Macduff could not stop the murderers.
Lady Macduff is very tense over the fact that Macduff fled their household and left herself and her son vulnerable to attack.
The setting is likely a cold Scottish castle. This adds to the coldness and despair of the scene. The scene becomes even more tense when a messenger comes to warn Lady Macduff that she is about to be murdered. This adds suspense.
The climax of tenseness is reached when the murder comes in and kills the son as Lady Macduff runs away screaming “Murder!”
Motifs: The motif of death is present in Act IV, Scene 2. We are presented with two character deaths, that of Sirrah and Lady Macduff.
The death motif is tied in with the motif of violence. As the play progresses, we see Macbeth becoming more and more evil, bloodthirsty and power hungry.
Symbols: Line 42-43
“ Why should I, mother? Poor birds, they are not set for.”
When Sirrah says the above statement, it can be connected to how in the beginning of the play, Macbeth wishes to get rid of the powerful “birds”, and leave the “poor” ones alone. At first Macbeth wishes to rid any possible heirs to the throne, but then goes on a paranoid killing rampage. As time progresses, even “poor birds” become fair game to Macbeth.
Aim: How does the action become increasingly violent?
In scene 2, Macbeth wished to have Lady Macduff and her son murdered due to the words of the first apparition and also because he found out that Macduff had fled to England. In a fit of rage, Macbeth wished to get revenge upon Macduff’s family. Now, Macbeth doesn’t wish to kill for the sake of keeping his crown, but because of blood thirst.
As a result, Macbeth hired murderers to get the deed done. Concurrently, Lady Macduff is left for herself and her son as her husband flees and leaves them practically abandoned.
The murderers obviously wanted to get the job done and went forward with attempting the murder of Macduff. However, when reaching his home, they stumbled upon only his wife and son since he had fled prior to that.
Since Macduff’s son put up a great defense against the murderers, calling them liars and shag-haired villains, Macbeth’s hired killers got angry and stabbed him while Lady Macduff escaped. The violence in this scene is yet again caused by Macbeth and his own greed and bloodthirsty attitude. He wished for the murder of Macduff’s family for no apparent reason, and proceeded to kill not only his servant and wife, but a child as well.