Act 4

Act 4, scene i Summary:

A boiling cauldron is seen bubbling in the middle of a cavern. The three witches enter. They dance around the cauldron throwing in their "special" ingredients chanting, "Double, double toil and trouble,/Fire burn, and cauldron bubble" (lines 10-11). Hecate appears with three more witches and admires their work. Macbeth soon enters asking the witches what they are doing. He insists they answer his questions and tells him what he wants to know about his future. The first apparition appears looking like a head with an armored helmet and warns Macbeth about Macduff. The second apparition appears looking like a bloody child. It tells Macbeth that nobody born from a woman will ever harm him. (which one assumes everyone is born from a woman, right?) The third apparition appears in the form of a child with a crown on his head and a tree in his hand. This one says that Macbeth can never be defeated until Birnam Wood marches to fight him at Dunsinane Hill. Macbeth feels fairly confident about these predictions but still demands to know if Banquo's sons will ever reign in his kingdom. In response, eight kings march by, the last one with a mirror in his hand followed by the ghost of Banquo. Macbeth demands to know what this means but the witches dance around and then vanish without answering. Lennox enters and tells Macbeth that Macduff has fled to England. Macbeth decides he will send murderers to Macduff's castle to kill his wife, children and anyone else that gets in his way.

Act 4, scene ii Summary:

At Macduff's castle, Lady Macduff, her son and Ross enter. Lady Macduff demand to know why her husband has fled and thinks he was crazy to do that because he will look guilty even if he's not. She's upset he left her and the children altough Ross insists he is wise and doing the right thing and explains she doesn't know everything that is going on. When Ross leaves Lady Macduff tells her son he is fatherless but her son argues against that. Suddenly a messenger appears warning Lady Macduff that she and her children are not safe and they must go away. Lady Macduff is confused and claims she has done nothing wrong. The murderers enter calling Macduff a traitor. The son defends his father and the murderer stabs and kills him. Lady Macduff tries to escape and the murderers follow her.

Act 4, scene iii Summary:

Outside King Edward's palace, Malcolm questions Macduff's loyalty to him since he was once one of Macbeth's favorites and he doesn't understand why Macduff left his wife and children alone. Macduff claims he would never be the villian Malcolm thinks he is even if he were offered Macbeth's kingdom and all the riches of the East too. Malcolm decides to play a trick on Macduff in order to determine if he indeed is trustworthy. He rambles on and on about his own vices and says that he questions his own ability to be king since he can't control his sexual desires, he's greedy and would steal from everyone and he's violent. He claims he has no good qualities needed to be king such as justice, truth, moderation, mercy, devotion and courage. Macduff politely disagrees with Malcolm but eventually cries out for Scotland. His loyalty to his country has made him realize that Malcolm is not fit to be king either. Malcolm is pleased with Macduff's outburst and realizes he can trust him. He explains he just said those things to test Macduff's loyalty. A doctor appears and states that a crowd of sick people is waiting for King Edward to come heal them. The doctor leaves and Malcolm explains to Macduff that King Edward has the power to heal people by placing a gold coin around their necks and saying a prayer over them. Ross enters and tells Macduff that Scotland is in bad shape but his wife and children are well. He urges Macduff to return to Scotland as he lists all the things that have changed since Macbeth has become king. He can't control himself any longer and breaks down, confessing the truth to Macduff - that Macbeth had Macduff's wife and children killed. Macduff is devastated. Malcolm tells him to fight it like a man and turn his grief into anger. Macduff assures him he will get revenge on Macbeth.