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Published by Bastab Dey

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Published by: Bastab Dey on Aug 03, 2012
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 To understand the first part of this scene, we mustremember that Macbeth pays spies to keep tabs on hisnobles, and that he sends assassins after his enemies. Withsuch a king on the throne of Scotland, it's not safe to trustanyone from Scotland, so Malcolm is extremely cautious inhis dealings with Macduff.Malcolm and Macduff are at the English court, and as thescene opens, Macduff has already been telling Malcolm of the terrible things that have been happening in Scotland. The first words of the scene are Malcolm's response:"Let usseek out some desolate shade, and there / Weep our sadbosoms empty" (4.3.1-2). This is Malcolm's way of expressing sympathy without committing himself toanything. Of course, this isn't the response that Macduff wants. Macduff replies,"Let us rather / Hold fast the mortalsword, and like good men / Bestride our down-fall'nbirthdom" (4.3.2-4). There is a great sense of urgency inMacduff's words. When a soldier bestrides a fallen comrade,he protects him by standing with one foot on each side of hiscomrade's body, and fighting from there. Macduff believesthat his "birthdom," his native land and Malcolm's, is indesperate trouble, and he wants protect it at all costs.Macduff goes on to describe Scotland's agony, but Malcolmremains very wary. First of all he tells Macduff,"What Ibelieve I'll wail, / What know believe, and what I can redress,/ As I shall find the time to friend, I will. / What you havespoke, it may be so perchance" (4.3.8-11). This is quite a lotof cold water. Malcolm has said that he will shed tears only if he believes what Macduff is saying, and he will believe itonly if he knows it to be true (presumably from othersources). Also, he says "what I can redress . . . I will," whichimplies that there may be problems that he can not redress.In addition, he will take action only when he "shall find thetime to friend," that is, when all the circumstances show thata particular time is friendly to his cause. Finally, everythingthat Macduff has been saying "may be so perchance," whichmeans that it very well
be true. Malcolm then makes
things even worse for Macduff by expressing doubts aboutMacduff's own motivations. He points out that Macduff couldstill go back over to to the side of Macbeth, who"Was oncethought honest: you have loved him well. / He hath nottouch'd you yet" (4.3.13-14). Malcolm goes on to say thateven though he is young (and therefore not worth much),Macduff may"deserve of him through me,"by betraying himto Macbeth, using him as"a weak poor innocent lamb / Toappease an angry god" (4.3.15-17).Macduff protests that he is not treacherous, but Malcolmanswers that a forceful king (such as Macbeth) may make agood man turn bad, because"A good and virtuous naturemay recoil / In an imperial charge" (4.3.20). Then Malcolmapologizes, in a way. He says,"That which you are mythoughts cannot transpose" (4.3.21). In other words,whatever Macduff is, he is, and that can't be changed bywhat Malcolm thinks. Thus, if Macduff is a good man, hewon't be made into a bad man just because Malcolm isthinking bad thoughts about him. And although Malcolmcan't tell that Macduff is a good man just by looking athim,"Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell; / Though all things foul would wear the brows of grace, / Yetgrace must still look so" (4.3.22-24). The "brightest" angelwas Lucifer, who fell and became Satan. But angels are"bright still"; they look good and they are good. So, although"all things foul" want to look good, looking good doesn'tmean that you are really evil, because "grace must still lookso." In sum, Macduff may be a good man who is telling thetruth. Still, Malcolm isn't ready to put complete trust in him.Because it appears that there is no way that he can win overMalcolm, Macduff cries out,I have lost my hopes" (4.3.24).Malcolm replies,"Perchance even there where I did find mydoubts" (4.3.25). Literally, this means that Macduff lost hishopes in the same place that Malcom found his doubts aboutMacduff's loyalty. He's suggesting that Macduff needs to dosome more explaining. He asks Macduff:"Why in thatrawness[unprotected state]left you wife and child, / Those
precious motives, those strong knots of love, / Without leave-taking?" (4.3.26-28). (In the previous scene Lady Macduff raised this same question, but it's never answered.)Apparently this question stuns Macduff, because Malcolmseems to regret asking it. He says,"Let not my jealousies[suspicions]be your dishonours, / But mine ownsafeties" (4.3.29-30). He means that the source of hissuspicion is only his fear for his own safety, not anythingdishonorable in Macduff.If this is supposed to make Macduff feel better, it doesn'twork. Macduff exclaims that goodness is afraid of tyranny, sothere's no hope for Scotland. He's also angry that his honorhas been questioned, and he's ready to give up on Malcolm.He says,"Fare thee well, lord: / I would not be the villain thatthou think'st / For the whole space that's in the tyrant'sgrasp" (4.3.34-36). Malcolm, however, is not ready to give upon Macduff. He asks him drop his anger, and tells him thathe knows that he has been telling the truth about thesuffering of Scotland. Malcolm adds that there are those thatwill fight for his right to the throne, and that England hasalready offered troops. All of this is the sort of thing thatMacduff wanted to hear in the first place, but then Malcolmbegins a new test of Macbeth's honor.Malcolm begins his test by saying that Scotland will suffereven more after Macbeth is crushed. The reason: Malcolmwill be more evil than Macbeth. (Malcolm's plan is to find outif Macduff wants what is best for Scotland, or just wants todefeat Macbeth.) First, Malcolm says that he will be so lustfulthat"your wives, your daughters, / Your matrons and yourmaids, could not fill up / The cistern of my lust" (4.3.61-63).Macduff's response is more than a little wimpy. He says thatuncontrolled lust is bad, but he's sure that Scotland canprovide Malcolm with enough willing women to satisfy him.But Malcolm goes on to declare that he's also so avariciousthat"were I king, / I should cut off the nobles for theirlands, / Desire his jewels and this other's house: / And mymore-having would be as a sauce / To make me hunger

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