In Act 4, Scene 3 in Macbeth, Malcolm deliberately lies to Macduff. What does this behavior and the reason for it, reveal about his character?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is a rather curious scene in this play where Malcolm shows his own character and ability to manipulate and test his subjects. In response to Macduff's claims that Macbeth must be deposed, Malcolm presents himself as an even worse king than Macbeth, saying, for example, that:

But I have none: the king-becoming graces,

As Justice, Verity, Temp'rance, Stableness,

Bounty, Perseverance, Mercy, Lowliness,

Devotion, Patience, Courage, Fortitude,

I have no relish of them; but abound

In the division of each several crime,

Acting it many ways.

He clearly exaggerates his own "evil deeds," lying to Macduff deliberately to test his loyalty to Scotland rather than to a specific person. When Macduff says that such a king should not be given power, Malcolm says:

Macduff, this noble passion,

Child of integrity, hath from my soul

Wip'd the black scruples, reconcil'd my thoughts

To thy good truth and honour.

Malcolm therefore quite coldly has tested Macduff to work out where he stands and if he can be trusted. The main function of this scene appears to be to assess the moral forces present in the drama that are opposed against the evil of Macbeth, however, rather worryingly perhaps, Malcolm shows himself able to manipulate others and test them for his own motives and reasons, which could either be shown as a sign of political maturity or a sign of potential evil to come.

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