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What is Macduff taking about in this quote and how does this relate to the...

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hassan12 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 11, 2010 at 8:46 AM via web

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What is Macduff taking about in this quote and how does this relate to the plot?

Confusion now hath made his masterpiece. Most sacrilegious murder hath broke ope The Lord’s anointed temple, and stole thence The life o' th' building!

 

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kc4u | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted July 11, 2010 at 2:14 PM (Answer #1)

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This is Macduff's reaction to Duncan's murder in Shakespeare's tragedy. Look at the rhetorical structure of the speech. He is speaking by way of abstractions and personifications. 'confusion creating its masterpiece' refers to the sudden and shocking death of Duncan, which has created apart from all the sorrows, a genuine sense of disbelief and confusion too thereby. The metaphor is that of writing or composition. Then in the next line, he calls the concrete by way of the abstract, calling the 'murderer', 'murder'. The comparison between Duncan's body and the holy temple of the Lord reflects his loyalities for the king. Stealth of the life of the building refers to the act of murder and the the way Macduff adds a relegious heretic dimension to the murder of Duncan evokes the divine right theory of kingship.

The rhetorics of Macduff's speech is made to contrast with the false-rhetorical hollowness of Macbeth's reaction to the murder. This is the contrast between real shock and a pretence of a shock.

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shaketeach | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted July 13, 2010 at 3:34 AM (Answer #2)

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This is a wonderful metaphor and example of Shakespeare giving a character the language necessary to express the unexpressable.  Just how affective would it be for MacDuff to enter saying something like "somebody just killed the king"?   Not very. 

Here MacDuff compares Duncan to a temple but not just any temple, ""the Lord's anointed temple ".  In other words, Duncan was choosen by God to be king and that king has been murdered.

The murder of a king is an unnatural action, thus the "confusion".  Look at the unnatual things that get reported about the night of the murder.  Until the murderer has been brought to justice, the world will continue to be out of order, "unnatural".

This is important to the plot for that reason.  The rest of the play shows us what happenes under these circumstances.  People don't trust one another and begin to behave unnatually.  When MacDuff goes to Malcolm, the young prince does not know if he is a spy sent by Macbeth, which is why he says the things he said.  He is testing MacDuff.

Only when Macbeth is killed is order restored.

Don't forget, the Gunpowder Plot had only recently been discovered.  There were always plots being hatched to kill the current ruler, so historically this was also relevent.   

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 11, 2010 at 8:53 AM (Answer #3)

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This quote comes from Act II, Scene 3 of Macbeth.  In this quote, Macduff is talking about the fact that King Duncan has been killed.  This is, of course, a very important point in the plot.  By killing Duncan, Macbeth has made it so that he can be the next king.

This is very important to the plot for a couple of reasons.  First, it shows what lengths Macbeth is willing to go to in order to become king.  Second, it allows him to become king, which will show us more about his character.  Once he is king, Macbeth will act in a number of ways that reveal just how evil he has become.

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