In Act 4 Scene 3, what dramatic purpose is served by the short scene between Lady Macduff and her son?
In what significant way does the murder of Macduff's family differ from Macbeth's previous crimes?
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This scene has a few purposes. First, it shows us that Macbeth is a cold-blooded and desperate man because he has sent murderers to kill an innocent family. The scene also shows us how Lady Macduff feels about her husband being in England. The scene is full of irony, of course, because she is right to be afraid for her life. The scene also shows us the loving, intimate relationship that exists between Lady Macduff and her son. Their relationship is so close that the two of them can have a flippant conversation, each knowing that everything is spoken with love and tenderness despite the words.
The scene serves several purposes. As your question suggests, it provides a way for the audience to see how Macbeth's evil has grown from when he first kills Duncan to this moment now, when he orders the murder of a defenseless woman and her children in order to terrorize Macduff, his enemy. His other crimes served his "vaulting ambition," but this one does not serve such a purpose for Lady Macduff and her children are not his adversaries. The scene also serves the dramatic purpose of providing a domestic scene, a woman with her family, that provides a stark contrast to Lady Macbeth, who lacks all qualities of a mother, which we see when she says to the evil spirits "Come to my woman's breasts / And take my mild for gall" (1.5.54-55).
The short scene, in which Lady Macduff and her son share a tender, butintimate conversation serves several purposes.
Firstly, it gives us an insight about the kind of understanding the mother-son duo shared. They talked to each other frankly, letting the other in on their innermost feelings. Secondly, we understand Lady Macduff's feelings regarding her husband's unannounced exit. Macduff did not tell his wife everything, unlike Macbeth, whose wife was his 'partner in crime' and whose advice he took in everything. Macduff fleed giving his wife no prior explaination. This gave her full right to feel sorry for herself and her son's future. She was extremely upset and felt cheated by a husband, who at their wedding, had promised to be by her side at all time (marraige vows). This was the promise, she said he had broken while referring to her sons' 'traitor' question. What is important to note down though, is that eventhough she said thigns like he was a traitor, who had broken his promise and had lied and was not good a father or a husband, she said it out of anger. However, when the murderers sent my Macbeth arrive to kill her and her son, she immediately satdn up to the defence of her husbnad. Her son does as well. This shows the love they had for him. We also get a clear understanding of her son's wit and wisdom beyond his years.
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