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In Act 4, Scene 3 of the play, Macduff, rival of the usurper seeks the support of Malcolm, elder son of the murdered king Duncan for war against Macbeth. At the same time, Malcolm sounds out Macduff's true intentions. To grasp the full import of the scene, the audience must remember that this conversation takes place in the context of Macbeth's 'police state' where paid informants report on the nobility and where assassination is an instrument of government. For the sake of suffering Scotland, Malcolm is extremely cautious in his dealings with Macduff. To test Macduff's worthiness as an ally in the reconquest of Scotland, Malcolm deliberately magnfies his own shortcomings:
First, in lines 61-64, he describes himself as a beast of lust. Once on the throne, no woman of Scotland would be safe:
In Act IV, scene three, Malcolm uses his wit to trick MacDuff into believing that he is unsuitable for the crown. Making himself seem the vilest type of villain, Malcolm really wants to test MacDuff's allegiance. Is he faithful to Macbeth and the conspirators who murdered his father? Even though MacDuff asserts that he is not allied with Macbeth, Malcolm uses his clever ploy to ascertain MacDuff's true feelings on what is best for Scotland. Malcolm alledges this of his own terrible traits:
That, when they shall be open'd, black Macbeth
Will seem as pure as snow, and the poor state(60)
Esteem him as a lamb, being compared
With my confineless harms. (59-62).
Malcolm makes up the worst possible characteristics for himself and then gauges MacDuff's reaction. When MacDuff is completely reviled by the horrors recounted by Malcolm, then the would-be king knows that MacDuff's heart is honest, true, and loyal to Scotland. Malcolm quickly reveals his test of faith, and the two become loyal allies.
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