In Macbeth, what do Malcolm and Donalbain decide at the end of Act 2 Scene 3? Quote lines to support your response.



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cetaylorplfd's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #1)

At the end of Act 2 Scene 3 in Macbeth, Malcolm and Donalbain decide to flee Scotland--Malcolm to England and Donalbain to Ireland.  The brothers fear that the murderer is still among them, and they do not want to risk their lives by staying around.  Donalbain says that there are "daggers in men's smiles," and they do not trust anyone around them.  King Duncan has just proclaimed that Malcolm shall take the throne after him, and they fear that someone is out to murder the entire family.  They decide to go to separate places so that if one is followed, the other will survive.  Their decision is one of familial preservation.

gpane's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #2)

Malcolm and Donalbain, sons of the newly-slain king Duncan, decide to leave the country at once.  Malcolm says he'll flee to England and Donalbain will go to Ireland.

In this way the brothers hope to avoid the same fate that has befallen their father, for they know that as the king's sons and heirs, they too are likely to be targets: 'This murderous shaft that's shot/hath not yet lighted; and our safest way is to avoid the aim'. Malcolm says here that they had better not increase their risk by staying in the same place where their father was murdered. He says that whoever killed the king will now be aiming for them, but the blow has not yet fallen: 'the murderous shaft ... hath not yet lighted', and they shouldn't wait until it does; the 'safest' course for them is to 'avoid the aim', to get out of the murderer's reach altogether. They also think that it's better for them to leave separately: 'Our separated fortune/shall keep us both the safer.' It will be harder for anyone to track them both down if they are not together.

The exchange between the two brothers here is brief and tense, as might be expected given the sudden, dangerous circumstances they find themselves in. They prove themselves to be quite quick-thinking and resourceful however. 


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