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William Shakespeare


Act 2, Scene 4:
Some questions to test you!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 23 January 2014
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It is possibly a couple of days after Duncan's murder. Ross and an old man meet somewhere in the country beyond Macbeth's castle.

They speak about the abnormal activities in nature which they have personally witnessed. Macduff joins them and speaks about Duncan's murder, as well as which way the suspicion lies.

We are informed that Macbeth is about to be crowned King of Scotland and of Macduff's decision not to attend the coronation.


In Shakespearian times, nature was considered to be God's playground, a place of peace and holiness.

Within this holiness lies human nature itself. A holy king -- like Duncan or Edward of England -- was seen to have had the gift of healing in his hands.

Evil, however, can destroy all of this -- and evil comes into human nature through the devil. Once corrupted, human nature will then wreak havoc in nature itself.

Shakespeare uses a clever counterbalance of good and evil in these scenes. While Act 1, Scene 6 presents the holiness of nature, Act 1, Scene 7 reveals the exact opposite: the triumph of evil in the person of Lady Macbeth.

Macbeth has thought out the logic of his loyalty to Duncan and how he should be defending the king and not murdering him. He is then confronted with a bullying wife who humiliates him into submission.

Lady Macbeth takes the perfect example of woman's nature -- a mother's natural instinct while suckling her baby -- and overturns it: "I would, while it was smiling in my face, have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums, and dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this."

The audience is left aghast at this barefaced barbarity -- and then one witnesses Macbeth crumble to become Lady Macbeth's lapdog once again.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

"Threescore and ten I can remember well:
Within the volume of which time I have seen
Hours dreadful and things strange; but this sore night
Hath trifled former knowings."
  • How old is the Old Man? How do you know? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Name some of the dreadful things that the Old Man and Ross have witnessed. (4)

[Need help?]

"They were suborn'd:
Malcolm and Donalbain, the king's two sons,
Are stol'n away and fled; which puts upon them
Suspicion of the deed."
  • Macduff says that there were two groups of people who were officially suspected of murdering Duncan. Who are they? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Macduff says that the chamberlains were "suborned". What does he mean by this? (4)

[Need help?]

"He is already named, and gone to Scone
To be invested."
  • What does Macduff mean when he says Macbeth has "gone to Scone to be invested"? (2)

[Need help?]


The scene begins with a comment on the upheavals in nature, and points out how the murder of Duncan was unnatural. Comment. (10)

[Need help?]

Why will Macduff not be going to attend Macbeth's coronation at Scone? (4)

[Need help?]

Macduff tells Ross, "Lest our old robes sit easier than our new."
  • Comment on the image of clothing that is used here. (5)

[Need help?]

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