In Act 4, Scene 3 of "Macbeth," what dramatic elements emerge at the beginning of the scene?

Expert Answers
luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The dramatic element at the beginning of Act 4, sc. 3 is subtle.  Malcolm and Macduff are in England.  Malcolm is there because he fled Scotland after his father, King Duncan, was killed and Macduff is there to help Malcolm drum up support from the English to go to Scotland and unseat Macbeth from the throne. Malcolm is uncertain of Macduff's loyalty though and so Malcolm's words are chosen carefully as he closely watches Macduff's reaction to his words.  He tells Macduff that he'll avenge whatever wrongs have been committed against him or Scotland, but he's careful not to say what those wrongs are.  Then to further test Macduff's loyalty to make sure that Macduff is honest and trustworthy, he tells Macduff that he will be far more terrible than Macbeth.  He says he'll be lustful, greedy, unjust, dishonest and full of every other vice he can think of.  When Macduff says that possessing those qualities makes Malcolm unfit to live, let alone govern Scotland, Malcolm tells him he was just testing Macduff.  Until the reader gets to Malcolm's confession of his "test", the reader doesn't know this is a test, so surprise is another literary element.