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William Shakespeare


Act 4, Scene 3:
Some questions to test you!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 23 January 2014
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The story moves to England -- to the palace of King Edward the Confessor. The forces against Macbeth are mounting, to be led by Macduff and Malcolm.

Yet Malcolm feels he cannot trust anyone. As a result, a bitter suspicion develops which Macduff does his best to conquer. Word then arrives that Macduff's wife and children have been murdered by Macbeth.


For the first time, the audience is transported from Scotland and away from Macbeth. We journey to England and the court of Edward the Confessor -- a king known for his sanctity and powers of healing.

Macduff has arrived. He meets up with Malcolm -- the late King Duncan's son and appointed heir to the Scottish throne. Macduff wishes to spur on Malcolm to lead an army against the tyrant.

Malcolm, however, is suspicious. Macbeth has so many men in his pay that it is possible Macduff is simply another of them -- come to England to assassinate him.

Macduff understandably becomes deeply frustrated at Malcolm's negative comments until he loses his temper. Only then does Malcolm accept Macduff's loyalty.

In the meantime, Ross brings news of the murder of Macduff's wife and children. After an initial outburst of guilt and sorrow, Macduff uses the tidings to steel his own will against Macbeth.

The scene, although a slow-moving one, is nevertheless necessary to allow us to witness the growing opposition to Macbeth.

The liberation of Scotland, when it happens, will of course be led by Macduff -- about whom the witches have already warned Macbeth in their usual equivocal way.

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

The opening lines of this scene contrasts the attitudes of Malcolm and Macduff.
  • Explain this contrast. (6)

[Need help?]

  • Why does Malcolm present such a negative image of himself to Macduff? (4)

[Need help?]

"Each new morn
New widows howl, new orphans cry."
  • Comment on the irony of these words. (3)

[Need help?]

"You have loved him well.
He hath not touch'd you yet."
  • Explain the dramatic irony in Malcolm's words. (6)

[Need help?]

The king of England is presented as the absolute opposite of Macbeth.
  • In what way is this indicated? (4)

[Need help?]

When Ross breaks the news to Macduff that his wife and children have been murdered, how does Macduff receive the news? (4)

[Need help?]

What is the purpose of this scene? (6)

[Need help?]

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