William Shakespeare
Contributed by Sharon Fleming
Act 4 Scene 2

In the Macduff’s castle, his family learns he has become a traitor and fled the country. Lady Macduff’s eldest son comforts her with courage beyond his age. When the Thane of Ross informs Lady Macduff that she might be the target of an attack and that she ought to flee, Macbeth’s supports dissuade her by telling her not to worry.


Macduff has abandoned his wife. She has been left on her own to fend for her children. She has not engaged in any political activities, and she does not threaten King Macbeth’s reign. She argues that Macduff should have remained behind to defend his family. She sees her husband as lacking human kindness, and his actions are cowardly. Amid her anger, the Thane of Ross comforts her. She finds him a noble, wise, and judicious man prepared to defend his beliefs. It is surprising, though, that Lady Macduff can trust the Thane of Ross at a time “when we are traitors, / And do not know ourselves; when we hold rumor / From what we fear, yet know not what we fear” (18-20).

When Lady Macduff remains alone with her son, the two converse about loyalty. Lady Macduff is unapologetic in her assertion that her husband has acted in blatant disregard for the rules of friendship. He has refused to be a loyal friend and servant of the king. However, her son counters by describing the world as full of dishonest people, not just Macduff. Lady Macduff is left agonizing over the fact that in the present society, “to harm” is the norm of while doing good may result in destruction.

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