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Macbeth

Summary 4

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Act IV

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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.



After 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.



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*Prentice Hall Literature