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Jeremiah Torres
Jeremiah Torres

The Witches' Prophecies and Macbeth's Actions in Act 4: A Literary Analysis


The Tragedy of Macbeth Act 4 Literary Analysis Answers




Act 4 of The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare is one of the most dramatic and pivotal sections of the play. In this act, Macbeth becomes more obsessed with securing his power and eliminating his enemies, while his opponents gather strength and plot against him. The act also features some of the most memorable scenes and speeches in the play, such as the witches' cauldron, the apparitions, and the murder of Macduff's family. In this article, we will analyze how Act 4 explores some of the major themes and literary devices of the play, such as ambition, guilt, fate, appearance vs. reality, symbolism, irony, and foreshadowing.




The Tragedy Of Macbeth Act 4 Literary Analysis Answers



Introduction




Act 4 begins with a scene in a dark cavern, where the three witches are brewing a magic potion. They are joined by Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft, who praises their work and instructs them to show Macbeth some visions that will deceive him and lead him to his doom. Macbeth arrives and demands to know his future from the witches. They summon four apparitions that tell him to beware of Macduff, that none of woman born shall harm him, that he will not be defeated until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Hill, and that Banquo's descendants will be kings. Macbeth is reassured by these prophecies, but he is also disturbed by the sight of a line of kings that resemble Banquo. He decides to kill Macduff's family as a precautionary measure.


In the next scene, we see Lady Macduff in her castle, angry and fearful that her husband has fled to England without her. She is visited by Ross, who tries to comfort her but also warns her of danger. After Ross leaves, a messenger arrives and urges Lady Macduff to escape with her children. However, before she can do so, a group of murderers sent by Macbeth break into the castle and slaughter her and her son.


In the final scene of Act 4, we see Malcolm and Macduff in England, where they are seeking support from King Edward to overthrow Macbeth. Malcolm tests Macduff's loyalty by pretending to be a worse tyrant than Macbeth, but Macduff proves his integrity by rejecting Malcolm's claims. Malcolm then reveals his true nature as a virtuous and rightful heir to the throne. He also tells Macduff that he has an army of ten thousand men led by Siward, a general from Northumberland. A doctor informs them that King Edward has a miraculous power to heal people with his touch. Ross arrives and brings the news of Macduff's family's murder. Macduff is devastated and vows to avenge them. Malcolm urges him to turn his grief into anger and to fight against Macbeth.


The main themes and literary devices that are explored in Act 4 are:


  • Ambition: Macbeth's ambition drives him to seek more security and power by killing his enemies and potential rivals. He is willing to sacrifice his humanity and morality for his goals. He also becomes more isolated and paranoid as he loses the support and trust of his allies.



  • Guilt: Macbeth's guilt haunts him throughout the act, as he sees visions of Banquo's ghost and hears voices that accuse him of murder. He also feels remorse for killing Macduff's family, as he admits that they were innocent and harmless. He realizes that he has gone too far in his crimes and that he cannot return to his former self.



  • Fate: The witches and their apparitions play a major role in influencing Macbeth's fate. They manipulate him with their prophecies, which are both true and false. They tell him what he wants to hear, but they also hide the truth from him. They make him overconfident and careless, but they also foreshadow his downfall.



  • Appearance vs. reality: The act shows how appearances can be deceiving and misleading in the play. The witches and their apparitions appear to be helpful and honest, but they are actually evil and deceptive. Malcolm appears to be a wicked and unfit king, but he is actually a noble and worthy one. Macbeth appears to be invincible and secure, but he is actually vulnerable and doomed.



  • Symbolism: The act uses various symbols to convey its themes and messages. The cauldron, the ingredients, and the apparitions symbolize the witches' dark magic and Macbeth's corruption. The bloody child symbolizes Macduff, who was born by a cesarean section, and who will eventually kill Macbeth. The crowned child with a tree symbolizes Malcolm, who will use the branches of Birnam Wood as camouflage, and who will restore order to Scotland. The line of kings symbolizes Banquo's legacy, which will outlast Macbeth's.



  • Irony: The act contains several examples of irony, which create contrast and tension in the play. The witches' prophecies are ironic, as they seem to promise Macbeth's success, but they actually lead to his failure. Macbeth's actions are ironic, as he tries to prevent the prophecies from coming true, but he actually makes them come true. Macduff's reaction is ironic, as he laments the loss of his family, but he also rejoices at the prospect of killing Macbeth.



  • Foreshadowing: The act foreshadows the events and outcomes of the final act of the play. The apparitions foreshadow how Macbeth will be defeated by Macduff and Malcolm, who will fulfill the conditions of the prophecies. The murder of Macduff's family foreshadows how Macbeth will lose his own wife and his throne. The alliance of Malcolm and Macduff foreshadows how they will restore peace and justice to Scotland.



The Witches and Their Apparitions




One of the most important scenes in Act 4 is the first one, where Macbeth meets the witches again and sees their apparitions. This scene shows how the witches manipulate Macbeth with their prophecies, how the apparitions foreshadow Macbeth's downfall, and how the apparitions reveal Macbeth's character flaws and moral corruption.


How the witches manipulate Macbeth with their prophecies




The witches use their prophecies to deceive and control Macbeth, who is eager to know his future from them. They tell him three things that seem to assure him of his safety and success: that he should beware of Macduff, that none of woman born shall harm him, and that he will not be vanquished until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Hill. However, these prophecies are not as straightforward as they appear. They have hidden meanings and loopholes that will eventually prove Macbeth wrong.


The Murder of Macduff's Family




Another important scene in Act 4 is the second one, where Macbeth orders the murder of Macduff's family. This scene shows how Macbeth's tyranny and paranoia lead him to commit a heinous crime, how Lady Macduff and her son contrast with Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, and how the murder of Macduff's family motivates Macduff to seek revenge.


How Macbeth's tyranny and paranoia lead him to commit a heinous crime




Macbeth's decision to kill Macduff's family is a result of his tyranny and paranoia. He is afraid that Macduff, who has fled to England, will join forces with Malcolm and overthrow him. He also remembers the witches' warning to beware of Macduff. He decides to act on his impulse and strike at Macduff's castle, even though he knows that Macduff's family is innocent and harmless. He says: "The castle of Macduff I will surprise; / Seize upon Fife; give to the edge o' the sword / His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls / That trace him in his line" (4.1.165-168). This shows that Macbeth has become a ruthless and cruel tyrant, who does not care about justice or mercy. He is willing to kill anyone who stands in his way or threatens his power.


How Lady Macduff and her son contrast with Lady Macbeth and Macbeth




Lady Macduff and her son provide a contrast to Lady Macbeth and Macbeth in this scene. They represent the innocent victims of Macbeth's tyranny, who suffer because of his ambition. They also show a different kind of relationship than the one between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth. Lady Macduff is angry and fearful that her husband has left her without explanation. She says: "He loves us not; / He wants the natural touch: for the poor wren, / The most diminutive of birds, will fight, / Her young ones in her nest, against the owl" (4.2.8-11). She feels betrayed and abandoned by her husband, who has not protected her or their children. Her son, however, defends his father and shows wisdom beyond his years. He says: "He has killed me, mother: / Run away, I pray you!" (4.2.81-82). He is loyal and brave, even in the face of death.


Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, on the other hand, have a relationship that is based on ambition and guilt. They are both consumed by their desire for power and their remorse for their crimes. They do not show any affection or concern for each other or for anyone else. Lady Macbeth says: "Nought's had, all's spent, / Where our desire is got without content: / 'Tis safer to be that which we destroy / Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy" (3.2.6-9). She realizes that their ambition has brought them nothing but misery and fear. Macbeth says: "I am in blood / Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more, / Returning were as tedious as go o'er" (3.4.168-170). He admits that he has gone too far in his bloodshed and that he cannot go back to his former self.


How the murder of Macduff's family motivates Macduff to seek revenge




The murder of Macduff's family also serves as a turning point in the plot, as it motivates Macduff to seek revenge against Macbeth. When Macduff hears the news of his family's death from Ross, he is overcome with grief and anger. He says: "All my pretty ones? / Did you say all? O hell-kite! All? / What, all my pretty chickens and their dam / At one fell swoop?" (4.3.224-227). He blames himself for leaving them unprotected and vulnerable to Macbeth's wrath. He also curses himself for being too gentle and compassionate towards Macbeth before. He says: "I could play the woman with mine eyes / And braggart with my tongue! But, gentle heavens, / Cut short all intermission; front to front / Bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself; / Within my sword's length set him; if he 'scape, / Heaven forgive him too!" (4.3.235-240). He vows to face Macbeth in a final battle and to kill him or die trying. He also asks for God's forgiveness if he fails to do so.


Malcolm and Macduff's Alliance




The last scene of Act 4 shows the alliance between Malcolm and Macduff, who are preparing to overthrow Macbeth with the help of England. This scene shows how Malcolm tests Macduff's loyalty and integrity, how Malcolm represents a virtuous and rightful king, and how Malcolm and Macduff prepare to restore peace and justice to Scotland.


How Malcolm tests Macduff's loyalty and integrity




Malcolm tests Macduff's loyalty and integrity by pretending to be a worse tyrant than Macbeth. He claims that he is lustful, greedy, and sinful, and that he would make Scotland a hell on earth if he became king. He says: "But I have none: the king-becoming graces, / As justice, verity, temperance, stableness, / Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness, / Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude, / I have no relish of them" (4.3.92-96). He also says: "And I will put that business in your bosoms, / Whose execution takes your enemy off, / Grapples you to the heart and love of us, / Who wear our health but sickly in his life, / Which in his death were perfect" (4.3.118-122). He tries to persuade Macduff to join him in killing Macbeth, but also implies that he would kill Macduff afterwards.


Macduff is shocked and dismayed by Malcolm's words. He says: "Fit to govern! / No, not to live" (4.3.103-104). He also says: "O nation miserable, / With an untitled tyrant bloody-scepter'd, / When shalt thou see thy wholesome days again" (4.3.105-107). He laments the fate of Scotland under Macbeth's rule and under Malcolm's potential rule. He decides to leave Scotland forever and to seek refuge elsewhere. He says: "This tyrant, whose sole name blisters our tongues, / Was once thought honest: you have loved him well; / He hath not touch'd you yet. I am young; but something / You may deserve of him through me, and wisdom / To offer up a weak poor innocent lamb / To appease an angry god" (4.3.12-17). He suggests that Malcolm may spare him or use him as a sacrifice to appease Macbeth.


Malcolm is impressed and moved by Macduff's reaction. He reveals that he was only testing Macduff's loyalty and integrity, and that he has none of the vices that he confessed. He says: "Macduff, this noble passion, / Child of integrity, hath from my soul / Wiped the black scruples" (4.3.125-127). He also says: "Why in that rawness left you wife and child, / Those precious motives, those strong knots of love, / Without leave-taking? I pray you, / Let not my jealousies be your dishonors" (4.3.136-139). He asks Macduff why he left his family behind without saying goodbye, and admits that he was suspicious of him at first.


How Malcolm represents a virtuous and rightful king




Malcolm and Macduff's Alliance




The last scene of Act 4 shows the alliance between Malcolm and Macduff, who are preparing to overthrow Macbeth with the help of England. This scene shows how Malcolm tests Macduff's loyalty and integrity, how Malcolm represents a virtuous and rightful king, and how Malcolm and Macduff prepare to restore peace and justice to Scotland.


How Malcolm tests Macduff's loyalty and integrity




Malcolm tests Macduff's loyalty and integrity by pretending to be a worse tyrant than Macbeth. He claims that he is lustful, greedy, and sinful, and that he would make Scotland a hell on earth if he became king. He says: "But I have none: the king-becoming graces, / As justice, verity, temperance, stableness, / Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness, / Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude, / I have no relish of them" (4.3.92-96). He also says: "And I will put that business in your bosoms, / Whose execution takes your enemy off, / Grapples you to the heart and love of us, / Who wear our health but sickly in his life, / Which in his death were perfect" (4.3.118-122). He tries to persuade Macduff to join him in killing Macbeth, but also implies that he would kill Macduff afterwards.


Macduff is shocked and dismayed by Malcolm's words. He says: "Fit to govern! / No, not to live" (4.3.103-104). He also says: "O nation miserable, / With an untitled tyrant bloody-scepter'd, / When shalt thou see thy wholesome days again" (4.3.105-107). He laments the fate of Scotland under Macbeth's rule and under Malcolm's potential rule. He decides to leave Scotland forever and to seek refuge elsewhere. He says: "This tyrant, whose sole name blisters our tongues, / Was once thought honest: you have loved him well; / He hath not touch'd you yet. I am young; but something / You may deserve of him through me, and wisdom / To offer up a weak poor innocent lamb / To appease an angry god" (4.3.12-17). He suggests that Malcolm may spare him or use him as a sacrifice to appease Macbeth.


Malcolm is impressed and moved by Macduff's reaction. He reveals that he was only testing Macduff's loyalty and integrity, and that he has none of the vices that he confessed. He says: "Macduff, this noble passion, / Child of integrity, hath from my soul / Wiped the black scruples" (4.3.125-127). He also says: "Why in that rawness left you wife and child, / Those precious motives, those strong knots of love, / Without leave-taking? I pray you, / Let not my jealousies be your dishonors" (4.3.136-139). He asks Macduff why he left his family behind without saying goodbye, and admits that he was suspicious of him at first.


How Malcolm represents a virtuous and rightful king




Malcolm represents a virtuous and rightful king in this scene. He shows that he has the qualities that Macbeth lacks: justice, verity, temperance, stability, bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness, devotion, patience, courage, fortitude. He also shows that he is humble and honest, as he admits that he lied to Macduff as a test, and that he is grateful for his support. He says: "Such welcome and unwelcome things at once / 'Tis hard to reconcile" (4.3.141-142). He acknowledges the mixed feelings that Macduff must have after hearing the news of his family's murder and his alliance with Malcolm.


Malcolm also shows that he is a rightful king by his lineage and by his support from England. He is the son of Duncan, the former king who was murdered by Macbeth. He has a legitimate claim to the throne, unlike Macbeth who usurped it by treachery. He also has the backing of King Edward of England, who is portrayed as a saintly and benevolent ruler. He has a power to heal people with his touch, a sign of his divine right and grace. He also provides Malcolm and Macduff with an army of ten thousand men, led by Siward, a brave and loyal general.


How Malcolm and Macduff prepare to restore peace and justice to Scotland




Malcolm and Macduff prepare to restore peace and justice to Scotland by planning to invade Macbeth's territory and to overthrow him. They are joined by Ross, who brings them the news of Macduff's family's murder. Ross also tells them that Macbeth is preparing for war, and that many people in Scotland are suffering under his tyranny. He says: "Alas, poor country! / Almost afraid to know itself. It cannot / Be call'd our mother, but our grave; where nothing, / But who knows nothing, is once seen to smile; / Where sighs and groans and shrieks that rend the air / Are made, not mark'd; where violent sorrow seems / A modern ecstasy; the dead man's knell / Is there scarce ask'd for who; and good men's lives / Expire before the flowers in their caps, / Dying or ere they sicken" (4.3.166-175). He paints a bleak picture of Scotland under Macbeth's rule, where death, sorrow, and fear are rampant.


Malcolm and Macduff are moved by Ross's words, and they resolve to fight for their country's freedom and honor. Malcolm says: "Be this the whetstone of your sword: let grief / Convert to anger; blunt not the heart, enrage it" (4.3.228-229). He encourages Macduff to turn his grief into anger, and to use it as a motivation to kill Macbeth. Macduff says: "O, I could play the woman with mine eyes / And braggart with my tongue! But, gentle heavens, / Cut short all intermission; front to front / Bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself; / Within my sword's length set him; if he 'scape, / Heaven forgive him too!" (4.3.235-240). He expresses his desire to face Macbeth in a final confrontation, and to kill him or die trying. He also asks for God's forgiveness if he fails to do so.


The scene ends with Malcolm leading Macduff and the rest of the army towards Birnam Wood, where they will meet with Siward and his troops. They are confident and hopeful that they will defeat Macbeth and restore peace and justice to Scotland.


Conclusion




In conclusion, Act 4 of The Tragedy of Macbeth is a crucial part of the play that explores some of the major themes and literary devices of the play. The act shows how Macbeth becomes more obsessed with securing his power and eliminating his enemies, while his opponents gather strength and plot against him. The act also features some of the most memorable scenes and speeches in the play, such as the witches' cauldron, the apparitions, and the murder of Macduff's family. The act also foreshadows the events and outcomes of the final act of the play, where Macbeth will be defeated by Macduff and Malcolm, who will fulfill the conditions of the prophecies.


The main themes and literary devices that are explored in Act 4 are: ambition, guilt, fate, appearance vs. reality, symbolism, irony, and foreshadowing. The act shows how these themes


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