In Macbeth [5.8.35-53], how does Siward react to the death of his son?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Siward learns of his son's death in battle, he first asks about his wounds: "Had he his hurts before?" Ross assures him that Young Siward's wounds were located on the front of his body. This gives Siward great comfort for he knows his son died bravel fighting in battle, not running away in fear. Siward responds:

Why then, God's soldier be he!

Had I as many sons as I have hairs,

I would not wish them to a fairer death:

And so his knell is knolled.

Siward sees his son's death as a noble one, no doubt because he died in the service of his country. When Malcolm suggests that Young Siward's death is a cause of sorrow, Siward takes exception to that idea. He finds no sorrow in his son's death, since he had died as an honorable soldier:

They say he parted well and paid his score:

And so God be with him! 

Siward does not react to the news of his son's death with a public display of deep grief, but this should not be interpreted as suggesting a lack of love for his son. He believes that his son has gone to God ("God's soldier be he!), and he seeks God's blessing and comfort for his son's soul. Siward's spiritual faith is a comfort to him, but "newer comfort" comes to him when Macduff enters carrying Macbeth's severed head.