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How does Malcolm describe himself to Macduff in Act IV of "Macbeth", and what...

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zubiya | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 24, 2008 at 5:56 PM via web

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How does Malcolm describe himself to Macduff in Act IV of "Macbeth", and what is Macduff's response?

ACT 4 SCENE

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luannw | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted November 24, 2008 at 8:10 PM (Answer #1)

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In Act 4, sc. 3, which takes place in England, Malcolm wants to test Macduff's loyalty.  Malcolm wants to overthrow Macbeth and Macduff says he wants the same.  Malcolm, however, wants to be sure that Macduff is not tricking him and is not simply being a sycophant.  Malcolm figures that if he tells Macduff that he would be a worse person than Macbeth and a worse king than Macbeth and Macduff says that it is OK if Malcolm is like that, then Macduff doesn't really care about Scotland.  On the other hand, if Macduff is upset and no longer wants Malcolm to be king, then Malcolm will know that Macduff's loyalty is with the country.  In Malcolm's "test" he tells Macduff that he'd have every character flaw and vile trait possible; he'd be lustful, greedy, selfish, dishonest, cowardly, etc.  Macduff's response is that not only does Malcolm not deserve to be king, he does not deserve to live having such horrible faults.  With those words, Malcolm confesses his "trick" to Macduff and tells him that the only lie he's ever told is the one he just told to Macduff about having terrible faults.  He says that now he is sure where Macduff's loyalty rests and he is pleased and contented.

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