A major turning point in the play. Just as the Three Witches prophesied Macbeth's ascendancy to become King in Act I,
Scene III, here they prophesies his downfall with the Three Apparitions (visions / ghosts). The first Apparition tells Macbeth
that he should fear Macduff, saying "beware Macduff; / Beware the Thane of Fife." The Second Apparition reassures Macbeth
that "none of women born / Shall harm Macbeth" and the Third Apparition tells Macbeth he has nothing to fear until "Great
Birnam wood" moves to "high Dunsinane hill" near his castle.
Macbeth decides to kill Macduff to protect himself
from him and takes the Apparition's words to mean he is safe from all men since they are all born naturally and that only
the moving of a nearby forest to his castle, an unlikely event will spell his doom.
Next Macbeth demands to
know about Banquo's descendants, learning to his anger that they will still rule Scotland rather than Macbeth's descendants.
Macbeth learns that he cannot kill Macduff so instead has his entire family murdered...
Lady Macduff is greeted
by Ross. Lady Macduff expresses her anger at being abandoned by Macduff for little reason when in her eyes, Macduff has done
nothing requiring him to flee.
Ross leaves and after Lady Macduff tells her son that his father is dead and
was a traitor, a Messenger warns Lady Macduff to flee but Macbeth's Murderers succeed in killing Lady Macduff's son. The scene
ends with Lady Macduff fleeing for her life...
Malcolm and Macduff discuss how Scotland under Macbeth's rule
has been plunged into despair. Malcolm tests Macduff's loyalty by describing himself as unfit to rule.
Malcolm disgusts Macduff with increasingly sordid descriptions of his lust and greed, Macduff tells Malcolm that like Macbeth,
he too is not fit to rule Scotland. This delights Malcolm who explains that he was lying; he described himself so negatively
to test Macduff's integrity. We learn that a large army is gathering to defeat Macbeth.