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In Macbeth, how does Macduff respond when asked to take the news about his family like...

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ilovejosephqu... | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 20, 2010 at 2:46 AM via web

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In Macbeth, how does Macduff respond when asked to take the news about his family like a man?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 20, 2010 at 2:53 AM (Answer #1)

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Basically, Macduff responds in two ways when Malcolm tells him to take it like a man.  First, he says that it is his own fault that his wife and kids got killed.  Second, he says he will get revenge and that he wants his revenge as soon as possible.

First, he says that even men feel sad.  He says that he knows that his family was innocent and so that means they were only killed because of him.

Sinful Macduff,

They were all struck for thee! Naught that I am, Not for their own demerits, but for mine,

Fell slaughter on their souls.

Second, he says that he is not going to just be sad and he is not just going to talk about getting back at Macbeth.  Instead, he wants to fight him right away.

But, gentle heavens,

Cut short all intermission. Front to front Bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself.

Within my sword’s length set him

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

Posted March 20, 2010 at 3:21 AM (Answer #2)

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Specifically, in Shakespeare's, Macbeth, Malcolm tells Macduff to "Dispute it [the murder of his family] like a man" in Act 4:3.223.  Macduff responds the very next line with:

I shall do so.

But I must also feel it as a man.

Macduff's initial response is a response that one normally associates with females.  As is repeatedly done throughout the play, gender roles are reversed here.  Macduff says that he must first feel the loss before he handles the situation in the macho, masculine way Malcolm suggests.  Macduff will take care of Macbeth, to be sure, but first he must mourn.

His second response concerns memory and a questioning of his faith, or his God.  He says:

I cannot but remember such things were

That were most precious to me.  Did heaven look on

And would not take their part?

He must first take a moment and remember those who were so precious to him.  Then he wonders why heaven did not intervene.  How could heaven let something like this happen and not stop it? 

Macduff does blame himself for his family's murders, and he does dedicate himself to revenge, but he will not "play the woman with mine eyes/And braggart with my tongue."  He will just do the deed.  But first, he must mourn and remember.

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