In Act 2, Scene 4 of Macbeth what events further the "crime against nature" theme?

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Michael Otis | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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Shortly after the murder of King Duncan, in the fourth scene of the second act, a conversation takes place just outside Dunsinane between Ross, a nobleman of Scotland, and an Old Man. Their remarks to each other are entirely focused on the sudden deviance in the natural world. To Ross the Old Man (whose memories go back seven decades) says he has never seen such "dreadful and things strange" as have transpired in the night hours since the death of Duncan. The slaying of a gentle and honourable king - a grossly unnatural act - has introduced disorder into the world. And while the two speakers do not yet know that Macbeth is guilty of regicide, the aberrations in nature do. It is to these that Ross and the Old Man point. Although the clock indicates the daylight hours, it is still dark, Ross remarks, and wonders if the terrible night is too strong for the day or perhaps the night is loath to reveal the shameful deed to the light of day. The reader recalls that Macbeth had longed for the darkest night to mask his crime; now that darkness lingers into day. The Old Man substantiates this with other examples of deviance: "A falcon, towering in her pride of place,/Was by a mousing owl hawk'd at and kill'd," he reports. It is not too difficult to see in this grim anomaly an analogy to the murder. Macbeth, like the bird of night and death flies up to kill Duncan, like the royal bird of day. Finally, Duncan's "beauteous and swift" horses, "the minions of their race" which "turn'd wild in nature" extends the analogy. A minion is a favourite, a beloved. Macbeth and his wife, like the prized horses of Duncan's stables, were showered with gifts and favours, but they ferociously turned upon him. But this deviance is self-destructive. As the horses devoured each other, so Macbeth and his lady were also consumed, he by despair, she by madness.

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