"I am in this earthly world; where to do harm is often laudable, to do good sometime accounted dangerous folly." Can you please explain the quote by referring to the world we live in today?

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pirateteacher's profile pic

pirateteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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In Act 4 Lady MacDuff is warned by a messenger that she should leave in order to be safe.  Lady MacDuff questions why she should leave when she has done nothing wrong, so why should she be the one to leave?  She points out that here on earth, evil things are often laudable or praised, while doing good things is often dangerous.

Clearly this issue is not  limited to just MacBeth.  How many times have we seen on the news a famous actor or athlete do something wrong or break a law just to praised for it.  How many times has your favorite rapper been in jail?  How many times has 50 cent been shot?  Things that should not be praised, often are while at the same people who return stolen wallets or help old ladies cross the street are thought of as week.

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dule05 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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In Act 4, Scene 2, Lady Macduff is warned that she and her children are in danger, so she is advised to flee with her children so that no one can harm them. Lady Macduff should indeed run away because we know that Macbeth has ordered the assassination of the whole Macduff family. When the messenger warns her and leaves her, Lady Macduff is left to think about what she has been told, and she feels confused. The reason for her confusion stems from the knowledge that she has done no harm, so she does not understand why anybody would want to hurt her. However, she is aware of one disturbing fact:

But I remember now
I am in this earthly world; where to do harm
Is often laudable, to do good sometime
Accounted dangerous folly.

She realizes that she lives in a world in which bad deeds are often unpunished and praised. On the other hand, good deeds often go unappreciated. However, her realization comes too late because the murderers, hired by Macbeth, arrive and kill her and her children.

In our everyday life, we are aware that people often do bad things and sometimes end up unpunished. We are also aware that doing a good deed won't necessarily be praised and appreciated. We live in a world which is unfair and, unfortunately, people who do unlawful and bad things can sometimes get away with it.


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