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Interpret the following quote from Act 4 Scene 3.: " Angels are bright still, though...

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ilusm | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 1, 2010 at 1:51 AM via web

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Interpret the following quote from Act 4 Scene 3.

:

" Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell./ though all things foul would wear the brows of grace,/ yet grace must still look so."

what larger theme might this passage support?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 1, 2010 at 1:57 AM (Answer #1)

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These lines are spoken by Malcolm, the son of King Duncan.  He is in England when he speaks these lines.  Macduff has come to talk to him about what is going wrong in Scotland under Macbeth's rule.

The first sentence means that angels are still good even though the angel who was best (Lucifer) fell and became evil -- it doesn't mean all angels are evil.  The second sentence means that good things still must look good even if bad ones sometimes look good too.

In terms of larger themes, I think this one has to do with ambition.  The lines imply that all leaders must be ambitious and even if ambition is sometimes bad, it is also present in good people.

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 1, 2010 at 2:21 AM (Answer #2)

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This passage in Shakespeare's Macbeth comes at a point in Act 4.3 in which Malcolm is trying to determine if Macduff is truly on his side against Macbeth, or if Macduff is an agent of Macbeth.  The passage follows:

But Macbeth is [treacherous].

A good and virtuous nature may recoil

In an imperial charge.  But I shall crave your pardon.

That which you are, my thoughts cannot transpose.

Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell [angels still look like angels, though the brightest of them (Lucifer) fell].

Though all things foul would wear the brows of grace [though all nasty things would like to look like grace],

Yet grace must still look so [grace still has to look like grace]. 

The idea here is that Malcolm can't determine whether Macduff is friend or foe by looking at him.  Malcolm cannot assume Macduff is a traitor because he looks and seems so much like a good guy that he must be a traitor!  The good still look good, even though bad is trying to look good for the sake of treachery.

This supports the themes of illusion and reality.  For instance, in Act I when Malcolm tells Duncan that Cawdor died nobly, Duncan replies that there is no way of determining what is on a man's mind by looking at his face.  Lady Macbeth twice tells her husband to put on a normal, false face, so no one will know something is amiss.  The witches make predictions that appear to concretely guarentee Macbeth success and safety, but in reality do not.

 

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